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Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
Carnivore: African Barbecue Extravaganza
If Cairo’s usual dining options have you experiencing a bit of ennui, you may want to make your way to the Trianon restaurant boat in Giza , where Carnivore restaurant, advertised as 'Africa 's greatest eating experience', should help. Founded in Kenya in the 1980s, this barbecue specializes in traditionally grilled and roasted meats and is famous for its local game and giant portions.
The restaurant is a good-natured haven of beige and brown patterns, loud animal prints, caricature wooden statues, and a stunning Nile view, where the boat’s glass wall lets diners glimpse passing fishing boats.
Our waiter waltzed up with a winning smile and briefed us on the evening's schedule, whereupon we learned that here, a traditional three course meal is drawn out to several. We were first proffered bowls of creamy chicken soup, along with loaves of freshly baked bread. Next, a two-tiered lazy susan arrived; the lower deck was laden with salads of tahina, houmous, lebna, greens and rice, with sauces for the main courses balanced on top.
Meals are served on a set menu, all-you-can-eat basis. This means that when the waiter arrives bearing a giant skewer (we later discovered this is the traditional Kenyan maasi sword) of meat, wields it over your earthenware plate and proceeds to carve generous portions, you would do well to pace yourself. With each new meat that arrived, we were advised which sauce would best accompany it: cream-based garlic sauce for the flavourful tandoori, fruit salsa for the turkey and ostrich, mint sauce for lamb and barbecue sauce for the beef.
After several rounds of healthy servings, we were lagging. The meat itself was tasty overall, each distinct in flavour with a pleasing hint of barbecue char. The turkey was slightly dry, however and some cuts of beef were either bland or overly-fatty. The ostrich – a first for this reviewer – had a powerful, pungent meaty flavour, rich and complimented well by the sweet salsa.
To say Carnivore offers an exorbitant eating experience is an understatement; the waiters continued to arrive with more racks of lamb, cuts of beef and a platter of sizzling sausages. We finally gave in and waved the white flag, literally: each table is equipped with a small white flag, which is used to signal to waiters that you desire more food, are taking a break, or have reached your limit. Feeling a little sheepish about declaring defeat – the waiters’ disappointed gazes had an effect – we asked about dessert in spite of our over-burdened palates. These arrived in three variations: ice cream, rich chocolate cake, and crème brulé. We'd already eaten piles of barbecue, so why stop now?
The restaurant does not accept reservations, so you'll have to stop by and see for yourself the next time you're craving a heartier-than-hearty meal. The set menu costs 150LE per person, before tax and service; a table for two should tally to around 380LE.