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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Carmen Pub: Casual Lounging, Spanish Style
We confess there’s actually nothing particularly Spanish about this pub, except that it’s located in the Spanish-themed Flamenco Hotel, there’s a stained glass scene of a Flamenco dancer at the entrance, and it attracts a more European crowd. Everything else looks standardly ‘pub’-ish, with a dark wood bar and wood chair bar-seating. But it’s still a nice place to spend a few hours.
White leather couches lend an atmosphere of comfort and low tables encourage relaxation. Not much can be said about the food and drink, however, which was consistently underwhelming. A caipirinha (40LE) proved that the bar tender had no real knowledge of drink mixing, as it came in the form of rum and lime on the rocks, minus any hint of mint and no trace of the promised brown sugar. Sending it back for a second attempt proved futile, and when the waiter disclosed that he’d added extra rum to an already too-strong concoction, we gave up and banished it.
We should have learned our lesson, but we went on to try a South American sunrise (41LE) which had gold rum, crème de banane, campari, orange juice, and pineapple, and a mangola mocktail (20LE) with mango, guava, apple, and melon juices – and they ended up looking surprisingly alike. Thankfully, this time the cocktail was drinkable, with a subtle taste of rum, and a sort of spiked punch flavour. The mangola would have been tastier if made with a little less of the thick guava juice.
The gourmet burger (35LE) with mushroom ragout and fries was a surprisingly nice, juicy, big burger, that was slightly crumbly but had a good mix of caramelised onions and peppers to balance out the substantial sesame bun, and a good helping of fries. The salami pizza (28LE) however, was less impressive. Raw on one side and burnt on the other, it looked more like a microwave pizza than something you’d want to order out.
As we visited on the evening of the World Cup Spain vs. Portugal match, we witnessed first hand how packed with Spanish nationals it can get, and the flat screen, large screen, and leather couches were put to their best use. The lively crowd enhanced the atmosphere, although the small space is cosy whether empty or full - just be careful what you order..
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.