We crossed the river over to the Kempinski Nile Hotel's Chic Dining for a taste of truly Egyptian food that'll blow mama's cooking out of the water.
We’ll admit it – skepticism kicked in as soon as we entered the Keminski Nile Hotel this week for iftar and were told that their Ramadan buffet was held at a place called ‘Chic Dining’. Usually, when you have to say that something is chic it’s probably a cover up for something so decidedly un-chic you wish you had dressed down for it. Luckily, as soon as we emerged on the 10th floor of the big-boutique hotel (we just made that term up, but the quaintness matched with five-star standards makes it pretty apt), it was anything but gaudy. The Chic Dining restaurant mixes a silver-service style set up with classic décor and floor to ceiling windows looking on the Nile, making it feel much higher than a mere 10 floors.
It being Ramadan, we were offered a choice from menu of typical drinks including tamr hendy, sobia, karkade and khoshaf which were perfectly sweetened and a great thirst quencher. As soon as the sun began to set, the restaurant was magically illuminated making for some of the best #instafood shots we’ve taken since we became obsessed with Instagram. Now, we’re not going to lie here. We completely bypassed the customary dates, prunes and nuts – Egypt’s version of iftar amuse-bouche – and delved right into the buffet. Though we were initially a little let down by the fact that Chic Dining is serving Egyptian and Oriental classics throughout Ramadan (we had a moment were we thought we might as well have stayed at home), the first sip of soup put our appetite into fifth gear. The salad bar was great and varied – no salata balady here. With pickled homous, chilled mousaka, smoky baba ghanoush, fattoush and a variety of pickled vegetables, olives and more, it’s easy to fill up but don’t – there’s still a myriad of mains to choose from.
And here’s where it really differs from mama’s cooking. With all sorts of grills – including the as well as home-cooked classics like Dawood Basha, sogo2, kobeba and more, we visited the buffet at least three times to make sure we got a taste of everything. And, by the way, if you thought your aunt’s macarona béchamel was good, just wait until you try the Kempinski’s.
And so we moved on to dessert. Again, the display was filled with traditional favourites – basbousa, konafa in all its varieties, balah el sham, three different flavours of mahalabeya served in cool little shot glasses and steaming hot Om Ali which we devoured several bowls off. There was even fresh fruit to boot, reminding us that there are thing to have for dessert this Ramadan that won’t cause diabetes.
At 255LE per person, we definitely got our money’s worth especially as we couldn’t help but linger a little too long over our post-meal tea and coffee. One thing worth mentioning is that Chic Dining is a non-smoking restaurant which is great for some and heartbreaking for others. If the latter applies to you, don’t worry. The terrace which is fully loaded with tables, chairs and ashtrays, boasts some of the best views of the Nile in Cairo, so it’s those troublesome non-smokers that are missing out.