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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Darts: Traditional English Pub at Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers
Being named after the traditional pub game, there is of course a couple of dart boards hanging on the walls; the one to play on sits at the back of a small wooden and glass cubicle amongst the tables and chairs – the sides stop any injuries occurring from fly-away darts.
The seating area isn't overly spacious, but it wasn't overly cramped, or busy either. We sat at one of the dark wood tables and listened to some smooth, English, easy-listening tracks before eagerly picking up one of the menus already waiting for us on the table.
We were pleased to see that the menu is vast, boasting a mixture of traditional English and Egyptian dishes. The Egyptian side of things includes hot and cold mezzas, shish tawouk (110LE), chicken shawerma sandwiches (70LE), stuffed vine leaves with lamb chops (190LE) and Oriental delights (120LE), which is a concoction of fried veal liver and brains with tehina. The non-Egyptian dishes include avocado salad (65LE), burgers (80LE-85LE), fish and chips (95LE) and a surf and turf platter (290LE).
Darts also cater for vegetarians and celiacs with their vegan and vegetarian, diet and diabetic, gluten free and macrobiotic, dishes.
Keeping up with the British drinking culture, an abundance of both local and imported alcohols are on offer. Aperitifs, vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, cognac and other liqueurs are available as well as beer, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, fruit juices and sodas.
To ensure a healthy mix of culture in our meal, we ordered one 'Egyptian Princess' cocktail – a blend of almond amaretto, vodka, raspberry puree and apple juice (95LE) – and a non-alcoholic mix of fresh guava, apple juice and vanilla syrup: the 'Pyramid Dream' (45LE). For food we ordered a traditional English shepherd's pie (130LE) and a char-grilled beef cheese burger (85LE).
The 'Egyptian Princess' cocktail was sweet and delicious with a slight vodka kick, despite the ameretto being overpowered and the promised raspberry puree nowhere in sight. The 'Pyramid Dream' was even sweeter; fresh, thick and refreshing.
A small bowls of nuts, tomato bread sticks and salty pretzels kept us nibbling whilst we waited for our food, which took a while. Old English pubs are known for their generous, wholesome meals and when the food did arrive, Darts presented no exception.
The burger was considerably large and juicy, served in a lightly toasted sesame seed bun. The mild cheddar cheese was melted onto the burger which, in turn, was doused in and dripping with sauce. Fresh pickles, golden, delicious french fries and coleslaw were served on the side – the creamy coleslaw didn't taste fresh and the cabbage was rather soggy.
The shepherd's pie was served in a giant bowl, with a thick layer of melted cheese and smooth, buttery mashed potato on top. The beef mince was swimming in a rich, tomato and gravy sauce, but sadly, not much else. Although it was tasty, we almost requested a spoon as the pie turned into a soup, and a rather boring one at that.
Overall, though, Darts does a good job of bringing together English and Egyptian cultures together in one comfortable, traditional pub setting, serving good food and even better cocktails.
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.