Sud: Hushed Ramadan Fetar Buffet at Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah
When out-of-towners ask for Cairo 360’s recommendations on the best restaurants in Cairo, we have no problem in pointing them in the direction of the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah. The Nile-side hotel has, over the years, maintained excellent standards across its dining venues. Sud is often only frequented by hotel guests – thanks to its year-round lunch and dinner buffets – but offers an alternative Ramadan experience.
The special Ramadan buffet – which stands at a rather high 240LE per person – is set-up in a small enclosure that sits to the left of the entrance. Across in the far corner, is what you might call the soup station. A smiley attendant stands like the guards of Buckingham Palace, overseeing the doling out of two varieties, of which the lentil soup was rather grainy, thick and much more winter-appropriate.
The rest of Sud’s buffet offers a fair variety of both the expected and the surprising, with what seems to be a well-thought-out spread.
The salad selection, though unspectacular, satisfied with a very noticeable freshness. In keeping with Oriental and Ramadan traditions, the hommos and baba ghanough played a big part in the meal; though both were a little watered down in taste, it made for a much more palpable side to salads and mains. Speaking of hommos, a chickpea salad stood out, as did a salad that involved slices of hotdogs – the latter for the wrong reasons. Other notable offerings at the salad bar included a very sweet and fresh, but delicious, beetroot salad that packed bags of flavour and freshness.
Several chafing dishes are lined up offering diners a range of classic Egyptian dishes, including a selection of mixed grill that didn’t quite stand up to grilled meats served up at neighbouring Sofitel restaurant, El Kebabgy. Though the meats might well have been prepared at El Kebabgy, only the kofta and chicken were gratifying enough to go back for more; despite becoming lukewarm very quickly, both were grilled perfectly, with the kofta being particularly flavoursome. Other mains included liver swimming in a tomato heavy broth, baked fish and classic Egyptian béchamel pasta; though all were worthy of attention, none of them blew us away – because each was entirely lacking in seasoning.
All the Oriental sweets one would come to expect are offered, and all would satisfy any sweet-toothed Cairene. Again, however, there was nothing that elevated said sweets to the high standards that one would expect of the Sofitel. The shining light of our dessert round came via the small selection of fruit that was also on offer. Slices of juicy watermelon, ripe plums and plump peaches were, like the salads, incredibly fresh and made for the perfect finish to what was a mammoth meal.
Despite its imperfections, Sud’s staff are welcoming, helpful and completely and utterly accommodative. Add to that the choice of outdoor seating just a few feet away from the Nile, and you have a very enjoyably, albeit muted, Ramadan experience.