You'd think that restaurants in Cairo should have no problem when it comes to the cuisines of the region, particularly that of Egypt – but, no.
Naturally, Cairo's most common restaurants are that of Oriental; in addition to there being a diverse range – from Egyptian, to Lebanese and from filling and wholesome, to more high-end – there is also a big chasm in quality in food as well as in other aspects of a restaurant's success. This year's winners in the Oriental Cuisine category sit atop that chasm, boasting their own takes on a cuisine we often take for granted.
Though it doesn't receive as much fanfare as its Garden City kin, the InterContinental Cairo Citystars is home to some more than decent restaurant, none more so than Egyptian restaurant, Al Khal. Boasting heart, wholesome and elevated local classics and an atmosphere befitting the kind of Egyptian grandeur of yesteryear, Al Khal has emerged as one of the best in the city.
At the time of Kazouza's opening, the trend of a superior version of Egyptian basics was experiencing a downturn – partly down to the increasing restaurants that used it as a gimmick, and partly because Cairenes began questioning why they were paying so much for food that they could get at a fraction of the price elsewhere. Somehow, though, this Maadi restaurant has managed to lull diners into charm and is one of the most popular restaurants on Road 9.
Despite having no less than 16 different food & beverage outlets, the Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers' restaurants receive mixed, often very differing reviews from diners across Cairo. In Al Dabke, however, the hotel has one of the best high-end Lebanese restaurants in the city, bringing together the formal and the casual seamlessly in one package and wrapping it up with some excellent food.
One of the most unique venues of its kind, Fairmont Nile City's Bab El Nil underwent a makeover of sorts this year and is shaping up to be one of the most popular spots this Ramadan. Aside from that however, the renovations have only improved what is a magnificent restaurant that is every bit as rich as you'd expect a Fairmont venue to be – great atmosphere, unique features and good food.
Speaking of rich, Caracas is that in every sense. Colourful, inviting and perfect for log, warm summer evenings, diners invariably find themselves spending much more time than a dinner needs. Once you've feasted on the good food, it's very difficult to resist its charm as a casual hangout. Though Caracas has several branches across Cairo, the Maadi branch stands head and shoulders above them.
Everything you've ever heard about El Kebabgy is true. Sat so close to the Nile that you can hear rocking of the soft waves, this Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah restaurant serves up some of the best grilled meats and mezzas anywhere in Cairo and is often top of the list of suggestions for out-of-towners who want to experience a more lavish side of Middle Eastern dining.
Like its neighbouring restaurant El Kebabgy, Sofitel's Moroccan restaurant, La Palmaraie at its very core is unique for the simple reason that it serves Moroccan food – not as many restaurants as you'd think do. It's not just niche for the sake of niche, though; the food is phenomenal and isn't afraid of challenging local palates with its authentic dishes and grand Moroccan, almost royal, atmosphere and aesthetic.
Though it's probably not the first, or even second or third, name that springs to mind when thinking of Zamalek's Le Pacha 1901 boat, Le Tarbouche's Egyptian and Lebanese dishes can challenge any other restaurant's in terms of quality and, surprisingly, value for money. It also takes up the space that was meant for the Pacha – so there's that.
Though less well-received franchised branches in Mohandiseen and Zamalek have tarnished the Taboula name, the Garden City original still stands as a pillar of Lebanese dining in Cairo and, when it comes to 'dining experiences', there's nothing quite like it. Taboula is big on atmosphere, big on flavours and just generally big on atmosphere, with its extravagant decor also feeling authentic and lived-in. Truly one of the best.
It might not be the trendiest area, but Manial is full of restaurants and cafes – and though they vary between ordinary and decent, Tajoury is one of the best on the island. Serving some of the most homely and wholesome Oriental cuisine around, there's a comfort in both the food and the atmosphere befitting an authentic dishes.
Owned by the same food-lovers that have also made Mori Sushi and burger favourite, Mince, a success – and Cairo 360 Editors' Choice Award winners to boot – Tamara made Lebanese cuisine cool again, for lack of a better word. What distinguishes its cuisine, though, is that it's light, delicate and uncomplicated, without losing the complex Levant flavours.
Latched onto sister venue and popular Maadi restaurant, Cuba Cabana, Tanoureen may seem like 'just another Lebanese restaurant', but the sum of its parts is much more. Said parts include a great atmosphere, wholesome, filling and well-executed food, which is big on the Lebanese flavours and big on portions.
Taking a more modern and sophisticated approach to Lebanese cuisine, many gave Zeitouna Lebanese Bistro a year maximum before it succumbed to its rather remote location at the Nile City Towers. Logically, there are three types of people at the mini-mall – Fairmont guests, Nile City Towers office staff and cinema-goers. On paper, a sit-down Lebanese meal isn't going to attract neither three, but Zeitouna's quality keeps foot-traffic steady.
Find out more about the 2016 Cairo 360 Editors' Choice Awards, click here, where you can see all of this year's winners.