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The Bar: Expensive Drinks at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza
There comes a time in your life when you decide to live dangerously for one night, and in Cairo, there are plenty of ways to do just that. Eager to find the most expensive drinks in Cairo, we opted for the Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza in Garden City. The Four Seasons is synonymous with upscale luxury and way-out-of-our-budget prices; so the Bar was an easy choice for a quiet, expensive drink.
Located between Zitouni and Bella on the third floor, the bar talks up a dimly lit corner of the hotel with a killer Nile-front view. Although this reviewer visited on an early evening, the bar filled up pretty quickly and the comfortable Louis XIV chairs and oak tables facing the Nile were always occupied. The plush carpeting and floral art deco lighting make an intimate, refined atmosphere, while a pianist plays away through the evenings, adding to the elegant but still hotel-like atmosphere.
The bar’s menu is extensive and features black-and-white portraits of Samia Gamal and other Egyptian icons next to the drinks list. Why these portraits were chosen remains unclear; neither the menu nor the interior decor is particularly Egyptian-centric. Nonetheless, we were happy to locate a few pricey drinks, including the sake wine at 380LE per glass, champagne cocktails at 240LE per glass, and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label blend for 400LE.
Even cocktail shots are exaggeratedly expensive at 90LE. This reviewer tried the Tahrir Square shot (90LE), which consisted of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Passion. The shot was served in a paltry portion for such a price, and was far too thick and sweet for our liking. You can also opt for a martini (80LE) including the intriguing cigar lovers martini. Our order of spiced watermelon martini, which is served with chilli vodka, was promptly returned to the bar as it lacked any watermelon flavour and was overpowered by the face-punch of the chilli.
Service at the Bar was great, as is expected from a five-star luxury hotel. Our waiter swiftly exchanged our drink without any argument, and apologised profusely when our order of Absolute Vodka (75LE) with cranberry juice (24LE) came with bland and sugary cranberry syrup instead. Additionally, the fact that we were charged for the cocktail's two ingredients irked us.
After munching on their complimentary bowls of pickled olives and nuts, we ordered two dishes off their snack menu for 150LE. Our order of spicy shrimp fritters arrived mild as per our request. The breaded and fried shrimp balls were served on a sea of lettuce with barely a drizzle of an indiscernible sauce. Our companion’s order of foie gras was served on crunchy toast with a side of jam, but its fried texture overpowered its rich flavour, killing the foie gras experience.
Our companion’s order of a glass of merlot wine was sent back to the bar, as the wine tasted like it had been open for a while. Our waiter acknowledged this and served a freshly opened glass of Terre De Soleil Merlot wine (120LE) instead. Our glasses of 12-year Glenfiddich single malt scotch whiskey (300LE) and Chivas Regal 18-year blend (150LE) were accompanied by ice pitchers, and our waiter complied with our request to match the servings, as one was less generous than the other.
Overall, this was an enjoyable though excruciatingly expensive night out, as we relaxed by the Nile view, took in the piano music and fantasized about the cigar collection (a Coheba will cost you 210LE while a Montechristo will set you back 180LE).
Located on Qasr El Nil Street, right next to Qasr El Nil Theatre in Downtown Cairo, VENT offers local culture enthusiasts an alternative to the better established bars and clubs in Cairo by labelling itself as both a bar and cultural space.
Taking over the venue that was once Arabesque, VENT is relatively easy to spot, with the sign of the previous bar remaining in place.
Offering a variety of culture events, from live music, film screenings, to site-specific plays, an entrance fee of 50LE is required on all nights except on Thursday when the fee gets bumped up to 150LE. Having recently celebrated a six-month anniversary, VENT is everything an ‘underground’ space should be.
The interior is characterised by lighting choice, utilising a stark contrast between the dark and intense lights during upbeat DJ performances, and more mellow and relaxing lighting during live musician performances. Contrasting the poster-decorated walls are old tile clad floors, emblematic of Downtown’s rich heritage.
A spacious bar takes up most of the facing wall once you enter, offering a range of drinks, with a Heineken going for 30LE and soft drinks for 15LE. There is also a decent-sized menu that includes a choice of mezza platters (40LE-65LE), nachos (30LE), sandwiches (30LE-50LE) and pastas (45LE).
We opted for a Club Sandwich (40LE) which was thick and juicy, stacked with fresh ingredients and served with deliciously thick-cut French fries.
Their nachos are a good on-the-go choice, though they could do with more generous dressings as we found the dish to be slightly dry as opposed to gooey and luscious.
However, VENT is not particularly about the food, but much rather about the show. A monthly schedule provides information on upcoming events and while VENT promises a range of cultural doings, music has for the most part taken over.
With live musicians such as PanSTARSS, Aya Metwalli and the Invisible Hands taking to the stage, as have quite a few local and international DJs, there have also been the more obscure of music nights such as the one featuring Maxime Denuc; a sound producer from France.
Though the music line-ups and their variety have given music buffs a reason to leave their house in search of new sounds, VENT's hosting of non-music events is somewhat lacking - a stark reality of Cairo's cultural landscape.
All in all, Vent has come as an uplifting change from the monotonous, musically bland nightlife scene in Cairo, securing a safe haven for those uninterested in pretentious attitudes, repetitive crowds and the 'thud, thud, thud' atmosphere of the city's most frequented bars.