The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Carmen Pub Bar

Carmen Pub Bar: Cosy Drinking in Zamalek

reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Carmen Pub Bar: Cosy Drinking in Zamalek

Like the Flamenco Hotel that it resides in,
Carmen Pub Bar was once considered a Spanish pub, if there ever were such a thing. Nowadays, its faint lighting, calm murmuring
atmosphere and innocuous appearance lend it the qualities of an English pub.
Perfect for a beer and a quiet chat, non-Flamenco Hotel guests rarely venture
to other parts of their drinks repertoire.

The first round of drinks we ordered consisted
of a rodeo rider and a Caribbean punch (both 41LE). They looked almost
identical, and the barman had to assure us that these were indeed the drinks we
had ordered, and that their appearance is merely coincidental. It was hard to
believe, considering that the rodeo rider was made of Jack Daniel’s, apple
juice, lemon juice and honey, while the Caribbean punch contained gold rum,
amaretto, grenadine, lemon juice, pineapple juice and club soda. We’re not
exactly sure how the both sets of ingredients came to the same bright pink
colour, but they were indeed completely different in taste.

They did have something in common, though;
they had little alcohol in them. The rodeo rider in particular tasted like
apple juice and honey with a slight bitterness, which would usually have been satisfying
on a hot summer’s day, but we were thirsty for sharp, hard alcohol.

A whiskey sour (40LE) is probably the
closest thing that fit on the cocktail menu. It fared better, but we already
knew that it was also light on the alcohol by its bright yellow colour. On
impulse, we also gave the hot chocolate (15LE) a go. Served piping hot with a
small cookie, it was far from what you’d get at a decent coffee shop and had an
amateurish homemade taste to it; for better and for worse.

Although there are a few burger options on
the drinks menu, there’s actually a full selection of food available on a
separate menu that you need to ask for. Looking for something more to nibble on
than the complimentary cheese, carrots, bread sticks and mysterious cheese dip
that you are always given, we ordered the oriental mezza (45LE) and the
bookmaker sandwich (46LE).

The former is a feeble collection of two
sambousak and kobeba resting on a bed of lettuce in the middle of a platter
that holds four dips; yoghurt and cucumber, hummus, tehina and baba ghanough.
Although the sambousak and kobeba were hot, crunchy and packed full of meat, it
was a ridiculously stark serving. Luckily, a basket of bread meant we were able
to keep dipping at the tehina, baba ghanough and hummus, which were fresh, but felt
a little watered down in taste. The yoghurt turned out to be a completely
useless dip.

As an old American favourite, the bookmaker
is essentially a steak sandwich. Served in a large, slightly elongated bun, the
pieces of steak were generous but a little closer to being lukewarm than you’d
want. As with a lot of burgers and sandwiches you’ll stumble upon in Cairo, the
quality and freshness of the bread let down what was otherwise a pleasant

This is not the flashiest, classiest,
nicest or even cheapest bar you’ll find in Cairo. But there’s a reason Carmen
Pub Bar has built up such a loyal clientele: it’s comfortable and the staff are very
courteous; two characteristics that many bars in Cairo lack. 

360 Tip

The Flamenco Hotel also hosts café Postres and restaurant Florencia.

Best Bit

The quiet atmosphere is perfect for unwinding after a long day.

Worst Bit

Cocktails are not Carmen Pub Bar’s forte.

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