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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
The Champagne Bar: Bring on The Bubbly
The Champagne Bar is the latest offering by the Fairmont Nile City to Cairo nightlife, following its short-lived Supper Club that opened and shut down a few months ago. Now back with a small makeover, the champagne bars offers a sophisticated and intimate atmosphere, where drinks will be sipped delicately (not gulped), legs will be crossed in fabulous high heels, and Cuban cigar smoke will float through the air. Let’s say that this is not the place to come to if you've just rolled out of bed and pulled on your torn, dirty jeans.
While some may feel disgruntled with this unspoken but understood dress code, to others this may be a welcome change. Girlfriends can meet for a round of champagne (280LE per glass of Bernard Remy, 350LE per glass of Brut) and delicious canapés (try their heavenly bite-sized morello cherry cheesecake, 42LE), while the bar’s small lounge carries six or so black tables and comfortable white couches that make it an ideal spot for a quick drink or meeting. Furthermore, the Fairmont’s position next to the Nile City Towers could make the Champagne Bar a popular haunt for business executives or shoppers after a long day at the Mall next door.
A South African three-piece band Indabaperforms at the bar every night from 9PM, changing their music genre every day of the week from jazz to disco (check Cairo360's event listing or the bar’s Facebook group for their schedule). While the live music does compliment the classy and relaxed atmosphere, it does teeter dangerously close to typical hotel lounge music.
Aside from the canapés and sushi/sashimi menu (starting at 82LE) expertly prepared by Chef Antonio Lopez, the bar offers an impressive collection of cocktails and aperitifs ranging between 52LE and 75LE. A glass bar table flanks a mirrored display of vintage malts as well luxury scotch whiskey, including Johnny Walker Blue Label (400LE per glass), while you can ash your imported cigar from the bar’s selection into their heavy glass ashtrays. The bar’s adult atmosphere will likely stop the teeny boppers from coming, which will leave more room for quiet, mature conversation over a glass of Hennessy XO (265LE).
This bar is expensive, but then again;it's to be expected from a five-star establishment like the Fairmont. The only shortcoming in this promising location is its size– the bar’s oblong shape is slightly narrow, so although tables are set adequately apart, a larger crowd may have to bump and slide their way through the place. That being said; you should check out this place if you’re firmly attached to your Hermès tie or Louboutins and want a luxurious lounge experience.
On a quiet square, off the busy Mohy El Din Abu El Ezz Street, a mysterious, dark, basement door conceals the loud buzz of excitement from the crowded bar beyond it. The gold walls contrasted with deep reds and blacks exudes a majestic aura and the large mirrors and gargoyle type masks adorning the walls continued to add to the otherworldly atmosphere.
We swiftly headed to the monumental, fully stocked bar and picked up one of the thick, maroon and gold menus. The pages were printed on textured, organic paper and the writing was accompanied by detailed, supernatural illustrations. The first page was dedicated to an introduction, comparing the chef's and barmen to alchemists as they are able to transform standard, raw materials into 'gastronomical gold'.
With the intention of ordering food, we decided to first order a couple of cocktails; one fruity Cinderella (30LE) and a slightly bitter Virgin Mary (30LE). As their hot drink section is almost non-existent, Alchemy is not the place to haunt if you're hoping for a cosy cup of tea – not that we're complaining.
The food menu is full of inventive, avant garde dishes with an assembly of 'brews' (soups), 'sprightly greens' (salads), 'virtuous temptations' (small bites), 'golden fantasies' (mains) and 'heavenly sins' (desserts).
We requested vols-au-vent (30LE) to start, followed by veal chops (140LE) and stuffed chicken breast (75LE). Although a little tepid, the vols-au-vent were superb; crispy, soft and smooth in all the right places. The chicken also arrived slightly cold, but the stuffing exploded with a medley of flavours. This dish was served with a fresh, spicy salad which was indeed, too spicy to consume.
The veal chops didn't materialise for a long time, either because they were forgotten about or because of the kitchen was overwhelmed with orders. However, when the dish did arrive, we were impressed by the colossal, tender veal chop and the tasty dressing but dismayed that its bed of chunky chips was stone cold.
Alchemy is an original, incomparable and bewitching venue which is unquestionably worth visiting. This places encourages a young, vibrant and sophisticated crowd and would be a great place to socialise at the weekends.