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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Harry's Pub: A Small Slice of London in Zamalek
Often wrought with guests and expats looking for a no-nonsense night of alcohol-based respite, Harry’s Pub is one of the Marriott's most popular venues. With a welcoming atmosphere and comforting aesthetics, figuring out how to unwind is a decision made easy, especially with the range of cocktails on offer.
The tongue-twisting Lemonade Limoncello (75LE) comes generously in a tall glass, but the ratio of lemonade, limoncello and vodka was a little off. The clear lemonade used was flat and the bitter zest of the limoncello was absent. Served on recommendation without ice, it quickly became warm and the strong vodka kick fizzled to a blunt.
The Negroni (75LE), on the other hand, was quite the treat. Gin, vermouth and Campari were tossed to a perfect blend in a small, neat serving. In an attempt to really test the mettle of the bar staff, we flashed our best puppy eyes as we expressed dismay that the menu featured no whiskey-based cocktails. After some behind-the-scenes whispering, one particularly enthusiastic staff member was more than glad to rustle up a whiskey sour, for which we were charged a very fair 75LE. The cobbler came filled right to the rim and although it tasted more lemony than usual, it was an impressive piece of craft by the bar staff. Although the J&B whiskey used was slightly overshadowed by the lemon, the result – deliberate or otherwise – made for a wonderfully light cocktail.
Offering a distinctly un-British selection of food, we found the Harry’s Sliders (mini burgers) to be one of the more bar-appropriate snacks. For 85LE, the kitchen serves up three burger variations; with egg, with beef bacon and with melted cheddar cheese. Although each was agreeable enough, the patties were dry and, in the blast of the air conditioning, the bread quickly became crunchy and brittle.
The problem with Harry’s Pub is that, in trying to be a quintessential British pub, it’s gone overboard and almost become a parody of itself.
And like so many watering holes in Cairo, Harry’s is stuck in that limbo between simple, classic sophistication and youth-magnet energy. The dark wood and dim lighting contribute to a relaxing mood, but why the overly loud speakers blare out the sort of beat-monotonous club fillers usually reserved for Cairo’s trashier bars is a mystery – how about some nauseating English folk instead?
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.