Mediterranean, Lebanese, Asian, and Oriental cuisines under the same roof at the Conrad's Solana Brunch. Our very own Seif Bibars and his guest, Hayat Selim, tried a bit of everything, including a surprise that caught their taste buds off guard.
There is something in me that the overlords of Cairo Scene see fitting for brunch reviews. Last year, around the same time, MO4 Network CEO Amy Mowafi sent me to brunch at a swanky Italian joint to write a review. Note to reader: I am a music writer working for Cairo Scene’s music page - which is soon to become its own website - Scene Noise.
This year, Farah Hosny Cairo Scene Managing Editor decided to send me to brunch at the Conrad in an attempt to recreate the greatness that was last year's review - actually everyone was busy with real world problems, and I was loitering around the office blasting heavy metal at unwitting employees.
Basically, I am not made for fancy brunches. In all fairness, I'm not made for fancy anything; for years and years, my parents tried, but to no avail. I believe that anything that requires me to wear a dress shirt is not worth my time, so when I was told that I have to look sharp and bring a date, I was instantly turned off, but free food is free food, so I accepted the assignment. In all honesty, I really had no choice, Farah is boss lady around this part of MO4, and what she wants, she gets - she wanted me to brunch at the Conrad.
Who will I bring? What will I wear? And most importantly, is there free booze? I started out by shortlisting my female contacts. I separated them into two categories, classy girls, and others - the latter was overflowing, the classy girls list turned into a single classy girl listing. I mean, I know a lot of girls who would fit the description, just none that would be interested in brunching with me.
I banked on my friend Hayat Selim; a classical musician, soundtrack composer, and choir conductress. She defines class, and since she’s a musician, we would have a lot to talk about. I called her and invited her to brunch, and said it was my treat. Actually, it was the Conrad’s treat - nonetheless, I decided to take credit for it.
Hayat and I arrived at Solana, the Conrad’s Mediterranean restaurant. After the greetings, we were seated across from the restaurant's magnificent panoramic Nile view, a pianist was playing classics on a grand piano, setting the mood and theme of the place. And as much as we were enjoying the view and the music, all we could think about was the food.Abiding by the classy atmosphere we were situated in, we decided to start with a drink; an aperitif that could possibly make us hungrier than we already were. We ordered two glasses of Pernod pastis - a french aperitif that gets you really drunk, really fast - and also really hungry.
After sipping on our anise-flavoured Pernod for a few minutes, we hit the buffet, where we met the best herring salad in the world. And then, there was the smoked salmon, which is one of my favourite foods, and the condiments and toppings that go well with it were all there; fresh onion, pickled cucumbers, capers, and most notably fresh thinly-sliced, perfectly toasted bread - I still get goosebumps when I think about what was surely the most perfect smoked salmon bite.
After two rounds of starters, we moved on to the mains. Basically, a representative of every popular world cuisine was on display. Egyptian rice? Check. Chinese stir fry? Present and accounted for. Indian curries? Available in close proximity. A dedicated chef for Italian pizza and pasta was also on hand - so many cultures to visit, such little time.
We didn't have the courage to leave without tasting everything, so we tried a little bit of each. By the time we got to the fillet mignon, we were bursting from our sides - one last dish and we would have tried every single main course on display. As we turn around, our fillet mignons well-secured on both of our plates, we noticed a station situated between the salad bar and the main buffet; a live sushi bar, with a dedicated chef.
We both knew that if we ordered our sushi as we made our way back to our seats, we could have it delivered to our table by the time we finish the last bite of fillet, before our stomachs seal themselves up for hibernation - we ate enough food to last a bear through winter season, but no bear ever says no to raw fish, especially salmon. The maki rolls were to die for, the sashimi so fresh, you could feel the tuna wiggle in your mouth as you chew - well it wasn't really wiggling, we were suffering from convulsions caused by excessive stuffing of the frontal face cavity, it was beautiful.
Do keep note that throughout the brunch, which started at 12 PM and lasted till they closed at 5 PM, conversations between Hayat and I ranged from This is so good to This is really good, and, at points, it degraded to Nom, nom, nom. It was mostly the latter.
What I heard next from my date sent shivers down my spine. I was in disbelief when she said, “I don’t think I have any room for dessert.” Does she not see the dessert buffet? Let alone the white chocolate fountain surrounded by strawberries, red grapes, and cookies?
As I brought the fountain to her attention, the tide quickly turned and our second wind had us chowing down on all sorts of sweets. Little, did we know, however, that we'd soon be back. How soon? Exactly 24 hours later.
It turns out that weekend bingeing is the name of Conrad's game - alongside Friday's massive brunch, Saturday is all about sushi. 'All you can eat sushi' to be precise -Cairo's favourite five words. Informed of Kamala's Saturday sushi lunch on our way out of Solana, we instantly made a reservation, this time for a whole table of hungry Cairo Sceners.
At just 175LE++ per person, Kamala's weekend offering is almost unspeakably good value for money. The gorgeous and glossy pink-hued restaurant got us in the mood for some more delectable sushi and as we got seated (and began contemplating unbuttoning our pants preemptively), we were quickly greeted with a short and sweet menu. A selection of classic Nigiri and speciality rolls are all available as part of the offer, but we decided to hand over control to the chef who designed our first (of many) platters so we could get a little taste of everything.
The usual suspects - think tuna and salmon Nigiri and California rolls - perfected by Kamala's kitchen did not disappoint. However, where Kamala really stands out is it speciality rolls, ranging from tempura fried spicy lemon salmon rolls to a fantastic Maki bursting with salmon caviar. Platter after platter descended to our table and this time, when someone said they had no room for dessert, I believed them.
For reservations at The Conrad’s weekend binges call +20-22-580-8000.
*The content of this article is sponsored.