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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?
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Cairo, located just a few minutes’ walk from the Naguib Metro stop, Happy City rooftop bar – of the Happy City Hotel – offers a chill, relaxed place to spend a night out with friends.
Walking into the lobby of the hotel we were somewhat worried we’d be in for a disappointing night, with fake flower door curtains and the 70s style décor of the rest of the lobby, but stepping out on the seventh floor rooftop bar, we were pleasantly surprised.
Happy City is spacious, with large tables and comfortable chairs scattered around; there were already several groups enjoying the open air, even though we had arrived rather early in the evening. Plastic covers protected patrons from the chill of the night, but a comfortable breeze was still blowing through and the plastic didn’t detract too much from the overall experience. In warmer months the rooftop would have a fantastic view.
Happy City’s décor is nothing particularly special, but it is comfortable and laidback – encouraging patrons to stay for hours and hours. The music mostly consists of Arab pop, but it largely faded into the background, allowing us to concentrate on our conversation. The other patrons were a mixed bag; a collection of tourists and ex-pats to locals. This isn’t really a place to meet new people though, since most people were concentrated on their own group and the tables are widely spaced apart.
On a side note, we found that the bathrooms were not kept in stock or particularly clean.
We settled in and called for the waiter, who explained that there weren’t any menus for us to look at. Deciding to go with Cairo staples, we ordered a round of Stellas (15LE) and Heinekens (20LE). After taking our orders the waiter quickly returned, drinks and complementary table snacks in tow. We found that the snacks at Happy City are a step up from those usually offered in bars, with a selection of chickpeas, tirmis, carrots and cucumbers. We saw other tables with fresh bread and dips, and at our request, our server was happy to provide us with those treats as well.
However, we weren’t as impressed with service; the Stellas weren’t as cold as they could have been and we had to really work to flag down the waiter when we wanted to order another round.
We ordered both the apple and peach flavoured shisha (5LE) to find that the shisha is a definite highlight at Happy City. Though it took quite a while to arrive at our table, it was definitely much better than other shisha we’ve had around Cairo, and the price absolutely can’t be beat. The shisha attendant also did a great job keeping the coals hot all night.
We quite enjoyed our time at Happy City and are planning to make it a constant in our routine. Though the service wasn’t great that night, the prices are good, the atmosphere is relaxing, and the people are chill. Happy City is the perfect place to whittle away the hours with a couple of friends over some good conversation.