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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Red Onion: Maadi Bar Hasn't Changed One Bit, For Better & For Worse
When it comes to Cairo nightlife, there's an increasing variety of bars, clubs and pubs to choose from. There are, however, staples that have become second homes to nocturnal Cairenes; venues that have been there for what feels like forever; ones that you can turn to when experimenting with the newer venues is just too much of a hassle. For Maadi residents, the Red Onion has been one such place.
Looking quite small and demure from the outside, the bar and restaurant is located on one of Maadi's quieter side streets and is almost easy to miss. Stepping inside, you find yourself in a stuffy, dimly-lit space with off-white walls and several small tables occupied by loud crowds.
A rather confusing and loud playlist does nothing to compliment what looks to be a traditional Mediterranean theme that the interior design is trying almost too hard to portray. Ragheb Alama sings his heart out on one of his 2007 tracks followed by Usher's infamous 'Yeah' – you get the picture.
A waiter scurries amongst the clouds of smoke filling the air and is immediately by our side ready to take our order. When asked for menus, he simply said "we offer everything, just shoot" – a rather odd and quite perplexing response. Not actually wanting to order food, we dismissed the waiter's peculiar answer.
Whereas a can of regular soda will set you back 13LE, a Stella beer will cost you 20LE – it doesn't make sense, but little in Cairo ever does. While cocktail prices vary, they do so within reason. We opted for a Tequila Sunrise (30LE) and a whiskey and Coke (69LE).
Our drinks came within a few minutes accompanied by a small bowl of salted popcorn and another of Lupini beans, which were devoured within minutes and were, sadly, not refilled throughout the night.
The Tequila Sunrise was very peachy and refreshing, while the whiskey and Coke had a surprisingly large serving of whiskey – we aren't complaining.
Service wise, the waiters are quite efficient and you can always spot one standing somewhere nearby. The drinks arrived swiftly and were of sufficient quality, as well as comparatively very low prices.
All in all, Red Onion has retained its satisfactory level of service and its interior hasn't changed at all. The loud crowds and even louder, outdated background music can, however, be a tad unsettling especially if you're simply looking to unwind after a long day. To compare the Red Onion with Cairo's more modern bars would be unfair, however; this is one nightlife spot that very much relies on a steady stream of regulars. You can by all means enjoy a night there, just don't expect five-star anything. Or four-star anything for that matter.
We started with a ruccola and mushroom salad (29LE) and grilled halloumi cheese (32LE). The salad was fresh with big chunks of mushroom and the grilled halloumi had a nice consistency, grilled to perfection, with chopped tomatoes on top that worked very well with the saltiness of the cheese. Bread is served before the meal, and it’s a nice to touch to ask it to be heated.
The atmosphere is perfect for Thursday night drinks and a snack, or even a date. The chilled out music makes for a relaxed setting and the overall prices are relatively decent. If you’ve finished your meal and feeling like a little more action, maybe pop up to the upper floor and check out the shiny bar, younger crowds and pumping music. Otherwise, downstairs is the way to go.