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Garden City, Cairo, Egypt.
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).
Jewel of the Zamalek crown, the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino never ceases to dazzle, offering rich oriental vibes with a refined twist, especially this year with the hotel’s fancy Ramadan kheima, Som3a Basha.
A play on Khedive Ismail Pasha, who built the castle for a French Empress, the theme of the kheima is that of a castle setting with all its luxury coupled with the authentic feel of Egyptian street food served from carts and vendors.
As we walked past the Marriott Promenade Garden leading to the tent, we were struck by a surprisingly beautiful cool weather in dry July – a promising start to the night.
As we stepped inside, we were immediately taken by the elegant ambiance, stylish lanterns, beautiful castle inspired décor and smiling waiters.
We picked a table with a good view of the stage, and waited patiently for the Sohour buffet to begin (10.30PM). As we waited, we were offered the drinks Karkade (Hibiscus) and Tamr Hindy (Dates). The Karkade was bold in flavour, and tartness, and despite being slightly warm, it was refreshing. The Tamr Hindy was easy on the sugar and had a pleasing hint of bitterness that complimented it.
The live Takht show began soon after and we were transported – there was just something about the atmosphere, the spirit, the music and the night that made us forget how hungry we were.
When we did remember how hungry we were, and the buffet opened, we headed on over to check it out. All the food, except for the salads and desserts, was served in authentic street-carts with a kitschy, yet classic Egyptian feel to them.
We took a stroll down the aisle where the carts were, and had a good look at everything before we decided what to dive into. The buffet ranged from falafel and eggs, to grilled kofta and chicken. The salad selection consisted of assorted vegetables, dressings and yoghurt and though the selection provided no surprises, the food was quite flavoursome and we went back for seconds – of course.
No Ramadan sohour would be complete without shisha and we opted for Grape and Peach (30LE each). In terms of quality, both were bold and distinct, though the grape was a bit too harsh for our taste. In terms of coal maintenance, however, you’ll need to be patient – on the busier nights, the shisha attendants, are somewhat overwhelmed.
Then, as we started to feel a bit peckish, we went back for dessert and were met with a large selection of fruits and sweet Ramadan delights, our favourite of which was the Zalabya cart. You might have to time your dessert excursions, though, with the desserts quickly getting cold in the breezy weather.
Overall, the aura and the entertainment at Som3a Basha were delightful and, although not faultless, the Marriott has made good use of its space.