2013 has seen the ever increasing contingent of restaurants in Cairo continue to grow and evolve, welcoming more diverse cuisines and unique eateries. With that in mind, it's always difficult to boil down the hundreds of restaurants to a slender best ten; but in these choices, we have the best of fine and casual dining in Cairo, when it comes to quality, service, atmosphere, value for money and that seemingly elusive characteristic of consistency.
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With Chef Vincent Guillou having put together the Smokery's menu, this salmon specialist, located in Katameya Heights, maintains the highest standards in its food. Though other, non-salmon dishes are on the menu, it's the heavenly pink fish that very much takes centre stage in a host of different preparations. Throw in top-notch service, chic and simple surroundings and stunning views, and you have a close to perfect summer dining experience.
The Conrad Cairo is often overshadowed by its hotel neighbours – but misleadingly so. Much more demure in appearance and in its general presence in Cairo's collective conscience, the hotel is home to one of the best steak houses in the city. The space itself is incredibly inviting and the staff are quick as bunnies in catering for your every need; the food, meanwhile, looks as gorgeous and creative as it tastes. The cherry on top is getting to choose your custom, one-of-a-kind steak knife for the evening.
When out-of-towners approach Cairo 360 looking for a quality, quintessential Oriental meal that won't put them in the hospital with a severe case of food-poisoning, we invariably point them in the direction of the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah, where, El Kebabgy serves an outstanding mixed grill. The restaurant benefits a great deal from its almost-water-level, Nile-side location, but it's the fanfare of receiving your meats on a griller and the addictive mezzas that keep diners coming back for more.
In 2012, the Four Seasons Nile Plaza gutted dwindling restaurant, Spice, turning into what is by far the best Chinese restaurant in Cairo. 8 offers Cantonese cuisine, to be precise, and though cynics may roll their eyes at the distinction, the slight variables between it and the traditional understanding of Chinese translate into some of the most unique dishes in the city. 8 keeps things simple and lets the fresh ingredients and immaculately prepared food speak for itself.
It's not been the greatest year for the InterContinental Semiramis, having been caught in the crossfire of the perennial battle-zone that is Tahrir Square. Some very attractive deals, however, had diners flocking back, where Birdcage continues to stand as one of the best restaurants in the city. Thai cuisine is scarce in Cairo, but regardless, Birdcage elevates what are very recognisable dishes to something pretty spectacular – perfect for a date or a business meeting.
In the lead up to Favorito's opening, there was much discussion amongst the foodies of the city as to whether one venue could successfully maintain a gourmet restaurant and gourmet supermarket at the same time. Luckily for all, it can and has. The menu gives you plenty of wiggle room to pick and choose exactly what you want and when compared to other restaurants claiming gourmet status on this list, prices are somewhat reasonable.
It's been a huge year for the Butcher's Burger franchise; months after opening its first branch in Mohandiseen, the steak-and-burger eatery very quickly and bravely set up shop in Zamalek, where competition is high. Whether Butcher's Burger can flourish in Zamalek against already established burger specialists like Mince, Burger Factory and Gourmet Burger Cairo is yet to be seen, but based on the restaurants varied menu and skilled kitchen, don't be surprised if another branch opens in 2014.
The Greek's arrival in Maadi highlighted a peculiarity in Cairo's restaurant scene. Despite Egypt and Greece's proximity, their shared Mediterranean inclinations and similarities in cuisine, very few – if any- restaurants in Cairo offer Greek food. It's a gap that the Greek has filled with gusto, offering a simple and straightforward menu crafted at the hands of a quintessential Greek matriarch – the grandmother of one of the owners. It translates to a very homely and comfortable dining experience with excellent food.
Is there anything more decedent than fondue? The Swiss have gifted the world with a lot of things, but molten cheese and chocolate is pretty high up on the list. Capitalising on the steadily popular Swiss eateries in Cairo, the Fondue Pot in Heliopolis is fun and wholesome – two words that describe fondue to a tee. With other trademark Swiss specialities, this is one restaurant that forgoes the seemingly inherent pretentiousness associated with opening such a specialised restaurant in Cairo and just simply offers great food.
Over the last two years, it has become increasingly difficult to muster up excitement at the prospect of more Lebanese restaurants in Cairo. Behind our own native foods, Levantine food is possibly the most common across the city; be it a modest shawerma place, or a high-end hotel restaurant. While there have been a few contenders to the throne, Taboula still rules the roster. This year has seen the tourist-favourite expand its menu to include even more Lebanese twists on traditional Oriental cuisine, as well as set up another branch in Zamalek.
Restaurant chain, Tamara Lebanese Bistro, continues to impress, as does Zooba, who have added a few touches to its menu this year. Meanwhile, Asia Bar continues to be an overlooked spot for a solid boozy dinner with friends, while fast-food joint, the Streat, has had Heliopolites in frenzy and Nawab continues to be Cairo's favourite Indian restaurant.