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


Ontop: Uninspiring Nile View Dining in Cairo

reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Ontop: Uninspiring Nile View Dining in Cairo

Summer is all but upon Cairo, and that
means you can finally start to enjoy the luxury of outdoor Nile dining without
worrying about your hair being ruffled by the wind. Cairo 360 is no stranger to
restaurants aboard the Le Pacha 1901 boat; Le Steak, L’Asiatique, Il Piccolo
and Johnny’s have graced the pages here, and now the creatively named
top deck restaurant Ontop will cease to be conspicuous by its absence.

To put this visit in context, there was a
large private party of cigar-smoking fat cats and overly done-up housewives. From
minute one, the staff was panicked, hurried, and a little bit overwhelmed. This
of course affected the few other guests in attendance. It’s as unacceptable as
it is understandable.   

The menu is pretty confusing. While the
appetisers range across international cuisine, the mains are predominantly
Japanese. There’s something peculiar about the pricing too. Appetisers start at
50LE, and reach up to 99LE, while main courses start at 79LE, with the most
expensive dish at 185LE. So theoretically, your appetiser may potentially cost
more than your main. This could, however, be attributed to the fact that Ontop
is setup more to be a bar than a restaurant. 

The sense of chaos continued, as both
truffles and the Japanese chef were unavailable. The absence of the latter
meant a calamari salad would have to be prepared in a different way. So, an
order of fresh calamari with a garlic and lemon marinade (45LE) was pleasant
enough, while the tomatoes in a caprese salad (60LE) were disappointingly green
and a little sour.

continued as the mains were brought out long before the appetisers were
finished. The veal teppanyaki was overcooked and a little tough but was
saved by the delicious stir-fry vegetables covered in soy sauce. Similarly, the teriyaki chicken was both dry and much sweeter than anticipated.

You can always rely on a dessert to save
the day, and the crème brûlée and chocolate fondant are reasonably priced at
30LE and 28LE respectively. Needless to say, both desserts disappeared pretty
soon after they’d arrived. The crème brûlée was perfectly creamy and perfectly
crispy on top; and the light vanilla ice cream
was perfect with the thick rich centre of
the chocolate fondant.

Beverages are plentiful, with beers costing
between 17.50LE and 25LE, alcoholic cocktails all at 47LE, and non-alcoholic
cocktails at 20LE. The wine selection is dominated by Gianaclis, and a glass
will set you back at between 30LE and 60LE.

So, like its Le Pacha brethren, Ontop fails
to capture the essence of its surroundings and infuse it in the quality of food
and service. Even the celestial desserts aren’t enough to keep you from feeling
a little cheated as you step back onto dry land.

360 Tip

Portions are smaller than most similarly priced restaurants; so definitely go for an appetiser.

Best Bit

The aromas coming from the grill in the corner will make your stomach talk.

Worst Bit

Seating feels fit for a bar, but not for a restaurant. You can’t put your legs underneath the tables, so expect to drop food on your lap as you lurch forward.

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