Kazoku, Cairo

I think it’s fair to say I’ve sometimes been underwhelmed by the restaurant offerings close to where we live in New Cairo. I do like Beirut and Sakura in City Square and enjoy the food at Casper & Gambinis but other places have been pretty average, nowhere I’d rush back to. This changed with our visit to Kazoku. I had planned to visit this restaurant when we first arrived in Cairo, but life got in the way and we finally only managed a visit a couple of weeks ago. At Kazoku everything comes together; the ambiance, the service and most importantly the food…….

The ambiance

Tucked away in Swan Lake compound the contemporary design of the restaurant allows huge amounts of natural light into the room and the space has been well thought out. It has a very welcoming feel with various seating options, cute art features and a laid back vibe. When we first arrived it was quiet with only a few tables occupied, but it slowly started to get busier and there was a lively buzz. Most of the seating is indoors but there are a few tables on the terrace overlooking the pool. This makes me sound really old, but I liked the fact the music isn’t intrusive -you can still have proper conversation without shouting! However, I have seen footage of the Saturday brunch which seems to have much more of a party atmosphere. The restaurant is the type of place you can go to as a couple, with family and friends in larger groups – it is great for any occasion.

The service

On both of our visits the service has been spot on. Friendly but not over the top, efficient but not hovering and they seem genuinely interested in providing guests with a good, all round experience which is refreshing to see. On our first visit it took about 15 minutes for our drinks to materialise but Greg commented that this was probably as good thing as it stopped us drinking too much before eating! On our next visit the drinks were served a lot faster.

The food 

Offering a comtemporary, Asian inspired menu, we were spoilt for choice. On our visits we have enjoyed the slightly spicy tempura shrimp, salt and pepper squid, various gyoza, sushi rolls and sushi temaki as appetisers. I think the best thing to do is try different dishes by ordering several and sharing tapas style.

My favourite main course (and one of the most expensive dishes on the menu) is the miso black cod which was cooked to perfection. I also really enjoyed the beef tenderloin which was served meduim rare. Two main courses with a complimentary side dish each are enough for 2/3 people. Our friends enjoyed the Thai curry and roast duck, however I found the duck a little dry, as I prefer it a pink and this was well done.

I loved the concept of bento box desserts and they were reasonably priced at 150LE. We shared the peanut butter rice pudding, white chocolate mousse, match creme brulee, chocolate fondant and the chocolate semifredo. However, the firm favourite was the tangy, sharp, yuzu lemon cud which was very refreshing.

Kazoku also has an extensive cocktail menu, there are pages of classics such as a Moscow Mule through to the Serenity which features sesame oil. The wine list showcases local wine as well as imports. I am speaking from experience when I say is easy to spend as much (if not more) on drink than food so be warned!

I am really pleased we have discovered Kazoku, it is a gem of a restaurant and a place we will return to again and again. No, it’s not cheap in comparsion to other restaurants I have reviewed,  but here you definitely get what you pay for….

On a side note I have found it quite difficult to use their website, it doesn’t seem to load very well. I also found the menu on there isn’t the same as the menu we were given at the restaurant, so you may want to double check with them. From what I can gather there are 3 ‘sittings’ 2-7pm 7-10pm and 10-1am and reservations are advised.

Four Seasons at San Stefano, Alexandria 

You may have read in my previous post that on our recent trip to Alexandria we stayed at the Four Seasons. I feel that the hotel was partly the reason why we enjoyed our holiday in Alexandria so much, as it brought a bit of luxury to our trip. So, here’s my write-up of our *almost* perfect stay.

The Good

As the saying goes location, location, location. Usually when I book a hotel  – because lets face it Greg doesn’t get too much of a say – my choice is based on the location. If it’s somewhere we haven’t been before I try to choose a central location close to the main sites, if it’s a place we’ve been several times I’ll book based on different factors. As this was our first visit I wanted to be close to the historic / tourist sites such as the catacombs, amphitheater and Citadel as I’d heard horror stories about the traffic and didn’t want to waste time sitting in jams. It turned out that the location was ideal, in normal traffic it took about 20 minutes to the main sites and just over that to the Citadel. The hotel is located right on the corniche and has fabulous views over the Mediterranean Sea.


On this occasion we didn’t book a sea view room but I would probably upgrade when we go again. I bet watching the sunset from one of the balconies is just wonderful!


I wasn’t expecting too much from the room as it is their cheapest basic room. However, on arrival I was pleasantly surprised. Our city view room was very spacious, I liked the how light and airy it was and the classic design. There was lots of storage space, mini bar, complimentary water, kettle, coffee machine ( pods were extra) hairdryer, robes, slippers and a safe. I thought the in-room plug adapters were a thoughtful touch especially for international travelers. The best part of the room was the extremely comfortable bed with down pillows; it was difficult to get up on a morning after such a good nights sleep!

 


The roman style marble bathroom was a lovely place to relax after a busy day with a very deep bath and separate powerful shower. I loved the double doors that folded back to reveal full length mirrors and the mosaic feature tiles; which resulted in a really luxurious feel.

 


We didn’t make use of the balcony other than to dry our swimsuits as it was overlooked by the rooms directly opposite and wasn’t very private. To be fair, the view from the balcony wasn’t great as we could only really see the roof of the mall and a tiny glimpse of the sea. If you want a room with a pretty view I would recommend the sea view rooms at an extra cost.

 

Food 

We had breakfast included in our room rate and it helped set us up for the day. Each morning the staff greeted us and gave us a table with a wonderful view. Breakfast is served buffet style and there was the usual selection of pastries, fruit, deli items, hot dishes, waffles, pancakes and an egg station. Kala restaurant is nicely designed using a fresh blue and white theme and has lots of natural light,  it was lovely to start the day people watching and gazing at the sea.

One evening we ate at Stefano’s, the Italian restaurant within the hotel. We thought the food was very good and the service from Mina was exceptional – he really is a credit to the hotel. It was a shame that the restaurant was so quiet but the food was of a good standard and reasonably priced.


We also tried room service one evening when we were felt like a night in. Once again the food was very tasty and arrived within about 30 minutes.

Pool / Beach

The amenities within the hotel were also good and made for a relaxing stay. Despite the outdoor pool being a little chilly it was a great place to go back to after a busy morning sight-seeing. There were plenty of loungers and, by early afternoon, the terrace caught the sun.

In addition to the main pool there was also a Jacuzzi and a shaded kids pool.

Occasionally we were brought complimentary ice cream and fruit, which was a lovely touch.


The hotels wonderful, private beach can be safely and conveniently accessed via a corridor which goes from the hotel under the main road. At the beach there is a restaurant serving food, drinks and shisha which is perfect when you want a break from the beach but you don’t want to walk back up to the hotel.

There is a washroom with toilets and showers which were very clean and perfect for getting changed or for freshening up. The beach itself is well maintained and has sunbeds, chairs and umbrellas. We spent a few hours here catching a bit of sun, dipping our feet into the clear water and listening to the waves!


Why ‘almost’ perfect?

There were a couple of things that we felt could have been better and these were mostly down to communication. On our first day we had a lovely lunch by the pool however, there was a price discrepancy between the menu we ordered food from and the bill. It transpired that the outlet had 3 different menus showing completely different prices. We had been given the menu with the cheapest prices to order from but the bill had been calculated using the most expensive menu. We felt that this was unfair as we were charged the higher prices and we explained that we should have paid the price from the menu that we ordered from. The staff were very apologetic but we did have to pay the higher bill as they said it was an error on the menu. To be fair it was only about 150LE difference but for us it was the principal. Later when we went to the pool we were given a complimentary coffee but it didn’t leave a good impression.


Another disappointment was the closure of the indoor pool which we were not informed about on check in. The staff at the spa told us the steam room was still available but these were segregated and therefore we couldn’t use the indoor facilities as a couple, which was disappointing – especially as the outdoor pool was not heated.

So, being picky, our stay wasn’t 100% perfect but on the whole it was relaxing and we loved the location, our room, the pool and private beach. There was some inconsistent service and the indoor facilities weren’t fully functioning but this wasn’t too much of an issue overall. My plan is to return in a couple of months, book a sea view room and enjoy a winter break Alexandria style!

5 Delicious Dishes at Casper & Gambini’s

I sometimes feel that people look down on chain restaurants under the belief that they offer mass-produced, substandard food. For me, as long as the food is good, I don’t mind the name above the door. For people who are new to a town, city or even a country, a chain restaurant can provide some familiarity and comfort. I remember when I traveled to India several years ago almost 3 weeks into my trip, I snuck off to McDonald’s as I just wanted a break from Indian food! Also, in countries where there is a language barrier, such as when we went to China, a universal menu at a chain restaurant is sometimes a good idea!

Chinese Street Food, Beijing


A week or so after we moved to Cairo we needed to have the dreaded trip to Ikea, so we thought we’d fuel ourselves up before buying half of the store. I looked on El Menus and Cairo 360 for decent places to eat at CFC and the chain restaurant Casper and Gambini’s was recommended. The chain started Northern Italy just after WWII and it now has restaurants in 10 cities across the Middle East and Africa – for us it was our first visit.

Casper & Gambini’s Cairo Festival City


Since that first visit we’ve been back several times for the following reasons;

* We usually go on a Friday morning and it’s really easy to get a table. We have been sitting indoors but now the weather is cooler there’s a large outside terrace.

Casper & Gambini’s Cairo Festival City


* The staff are very friendly and the service is consistently good. On one occasion I poured half the salt-cellar over my food and, without any fuss, it was quickly replaced.

* The menu has lots of choice. They serve breakfast, light lunches, main meals and desserts – there’s something for everyone.

* The prices are reasonable for example Pancakes are 62LE, Lasagna is 91LE the House Burger is 85LE and Chocolate Fondant 49LE.

* You get a delicious basket of focaccia with dip to nibble on whilst waiting for your food to arrive.

Bread at Casper and Gambini’s


* They serve really nice iced tea, but my favourite drink is ‘sweet roots’ with fresh pomegranate, beetroot and orange.

Casper and Gambini’s Cairo


The 5 dishes I would recommend to try here are;

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich (96LE)

Philly Cheesesteak, Casper &Gambini’s


Poached eggs with avocado on pumpernickel (44LE)

Poached eggs, Casper & Gambini’s


Terriyaki salmon with squid ink pasta (159LE)

Terriyaki Salmon, Casper & Gambini’s


Cobb Salad (86LE)

Cobb Salad, Casper & Gambini’s


Salmon with basmati rice and aubergine (185LE)

Salmon with aubergine, Casper & Gambini’s


So, next time you’re at CFC and you get hungry I’d recommend you try Casper and Gambini’s. They also have branches at the Mall of Arabia, Towers Mall, Point 90 Mall, Maadi and City Stars.

Why I think you should visit Alexandria 

Greg and I have quickly come to the conclusion that there’s so much to do and see in Egypt we probably won’t always travel overseas during our holidays. I have already added Sahel, Sharm, El Gouna, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan to our ‘must visit’ list! However, we decided to spend October half term in Alexandria, a city neither of us knew much about other than that it’s on the North Coast and its famous for the light house which was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. We chose the Four Seasons at San Stefano mainly due to its location and facilities plus the fact we’ve never stayed in a Four Seasons property before (I will write a separate review of the hotel in a future post but I can’t recommend it highly enough, it was just lovely).

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Four Seasons Alexandria

 

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Pool, Four Seasons Alexandria

History 

The city dates back to about 300BC and for history buffs it offers so much. To get the most out of our visit, and because we don’t know a huge amount about Egyptian history, we booked a guided tour of the main sights. I’d recommend this as a good introduction not only to Alexandria, but to Egypt as a whole because it was so informative. Our first stop was to the Catacombs which were discovered accidentally when a donkey fell down a hole exposing an underground burial chamber! Photography is not allowed so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s an incredible venture into the ancient practices of mummifying bodies and burial chambers.

Catacombs Alexandria
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99 steps leading underground

​We also drove past Pompey’s Pillar and through the old town which, rumor has it, was built on top of Alexander’s tomb.

Pompey’s Pillar

Many people are surprised that there is a large Christian community in Alexandria and our next stop was to St Marks, the oldest church in Africa. This religious complex is also home to the Pope of the Orthodox Church and it was a lovely oasis of quiet in the middle of the city.

St Mark’s, Alexandria

Our final stop was to the Roman amphitheater, again only discovered accidentally in the last 50 years when foundations were being laid for a new housing development. The site has lots of artifacts from the sunken city in Alexandria harbor, as well as an amphitheater. What is fascinating about this historical site is that it is actively being excavated and it’s obvious there is a lot more to discover.

Roman amphitheatre, Alexandria

Independently over the course of our stay we visited Biblioteca Alexandria which is a hugely impressive building inside and out. We also took a short trip to Qaitbay fortification which was built on the old foundations of the lighthouse and has magnificent views across the city and coastline.

Bibliotheca Alexandria

 

Fort Qaitby

Sea air 

Coming to Alexandria from Cairo it was so nice to breath in the sea air and smell the saltiness after a day out and about. Our hotel had a private beach and fabulous views across the beautiful blues of the Mediterranean Sea. It was lovely to sit and have lunch watching fishermen going about their daily business as well as people enjoying the beach.

Alexandria coast line
Alexandria corniche

Food

One of the things I was most looking forward to, and what everyone told us to do, was to eat the seafood here. Our most notable meal was at the Blue and White restaurant on the second floor of the Greek Club near Citadel. We sat outside on the terrace overlooking the harbor and it was stunning. The restaurant is renowned for its fresh fish cooked to order and we thoroughly enjoyed the red snapper simply grilled with lemon, herbs and oil. Although we found the service indifferent the food was very good and it’s a place we’d go back to.

The Greek Club, Alexandria

People 

The one thing I can hand on heart say about Egypt is that the Egyptian people are the nicest I’ve ever met and Alexandria was no exception. From the staff in the hotel who took time to chat to us about our day to our guides Mohamed and Omar who answered our (thousands) of questions about Egypt. We also met a lovely Uber Driver who told us that he used to be an engineer but as there’s is no work for him he now uses his car for a livelihood and, despite his circumstances, invited Greg and I for dinner with his family. Sometimes Egypt has a reputation for scams and hard sells but we didn’t experience this. Alexandria is also a university city and it was nice to see groups of students sitting reading and socialising along the corniche and in the parks, it gives the place a young vibe.


You can probably tell from this post that we both enjoyed our time in Alexandria and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy history, good food and being at the seaside! Have you been?

Tips:

We hired a Driver from New Cairo to Alexandria, it cost 1700LE for a return trip which took about 3 hours eat way. If you’re close to the train station I know it’s significantly cheaper, perhaps 140LE return per person – I think the train takes a couple of hours.

As already mentioned, we stayed at the Four Seasons which was wonderful,although it is one of the more expensive options. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury I definitely recommend you stay there.

We booked our guided trip with Ramasside Tours who were very good at tailor making a trip to suit our requirements.

If you chose to have dinner at the Greek Club booking is recommended especially if you want a table with a view.

Keep in mind when planning your days out that the traffic, especially along the corniche, can get gridlocked. For example it took us almost 45 minutes to get from Qaitbay to our hotel so try to pick quieter times for longer journeys.

Staycation Package at the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo 

Last week I had what was previously referred to as a ‘Doha Day’ – I’m not sure what to call it now I’m in Cairo but it wasn’t a good day. Greg felt I needed a bit of time to myself, a bit of pampering, so he suggested I booked a solo staycation at the Kempinki near our home (I think he was just trying to get rid of me). The hotel offers a fantastic staycation package so I booked in for the Thursday evening reserving a single occupancy, deluxe room via their website and paid $130. The staycation package includes;

  • Complimentary upgrade if booked directly through their website 
  • Breakfast buffet per person
  • Access to swimming pool and spa facilities
  • Pizza and soft drink by the pool (worth approx 200LE) per person
  • 15% off the bill in Lucca, Romanov or Yana
  • 100/200LE discount on a 50/80min spa treatment per person
  • 4pm check out

Check in  – So that I could make full use of my stay I arrived at midday. I didn’t expect my room to be ready so planned to go to the pool but I was pleased to be told it was available. Check in was friendly and, at the time, I felt it was efficient but in hindsight it could have been better. The lobby area is lovely with a wonderful flower display and a huge chandelier, there were lots of staff on hand. I was personally escorted to my room and my bag followed a few minutes later

The room – I booked the cheapest room and I was happily surprised at how luxurious it felt for a ‘basic’ room. I loved the high ceiling and large windows as this made the room feel light and airy even though the furnishings were deep, rich, dark colors. It was very well sound proofed despite it facing the ring road.

The bed was very, very comfortable and the room overall felt spacious. In addition to the TV and work desk ( with USB ports) there was a long corridor with a full length mirror, luggage storage, clothes hooks, a drinks stand with tea/kettle, complimentary water and a Nespresso machine. 

​I was disappointed to see that the fridge was empty as was the space for the Nespresso capsules and the tea bags hadn’t been replenished either. Maybe housekeeping hadn’t had time to restock the room as I’d checked in early? After mentioning these issues to reception everything was quickly brought to the room but really the room shouldn’t have been made available until everything was checked.

** rant alert**  I rung housekeeping to see if I could have some fresh milk as I think using powdered creamer in tea is just gross, but they said it would not be free. This simple gesture in a 5 star hotel really frustrates me. A small milk is 4LE, I point blank refuse to pay room service for milk so Greg ended up bringing me one over later that night. Its just annoying and a personal bugbear of mine  **rant over**


​The bathroom was huge and was spotlessly clean. In addition to the rainfall shower there was a separate bath, toilet, bidet and a large sink.

The bathroom also housed floor to ceiling wardrobes with plenty of space for those staying for a few nights or more. There was a safe, hand held hairdryer and slippers. The robes unfortunately were missing.



Facilities – I mostly used the outdoor pool and the spa area during my stay. The pool is a really good size and the space has been well designed. Some rooms have access straight onto the pool area, there are lots of loungers with umbrellas and there is a cafe area which offers drinks and snacks. The staff here were really attentive bringing over towels and cold water. There is a small, shaded children’s pool and close by there are changing rooms, lockers and toilets. I found the pool very peaceful on a morning and even though it slowly got busier it never felt really cramped or noisy.


​I also went to the indoor spa area which is absolutely stunning, it really did feel like an escape from crazy Cairo! Although I didn’t have a treatment ( I plan to do so next time) I used the indoor pool and Jacuzzi, there is also a sauna and steam rooms available. The staff here were warm and friendly, they offered to show me around but really I just wanted to lie down and nap!

I didn’t use the gym but, for a hotel, the Gym area looked very well equipped and not just an afterthought. It is certainly good enough for a workout for most people.

Food and drink – For me this was the most inconsistent and disappointing part of my stay. The kofta by the pool on my first day was deliciously fresh and tasty as was the pizza, so I would recommend eating here. 


However, when Greg came to join me for dinner and we ate at Lucca the Italian restaurant, it was nothing special. We decided to share the antipasta but on the menu there was no description of what this included. We asked and we were told it was grilled vegetables, seafood and cheese but when it arrived it seemed to be a rather odd mix of ‘bits’ with a pile of spinach to bulk it out. There were some prawns, a bit of pasta and veg but nothing that stood out or impressed us. It also tasted heavily of olives which neither of us like!


The main courses were below average in comparison to other Italian dishes we’ve had. My penne chicken with aubergine was definitely under cooked to the point I had to pull pasta out of my teeth, again it tasted very strongly of olives – this ingredient wasn’t listed on the menu.

img_9372Greg’s fish cannelloni was only just warm and again the pasta was under cooked. We decided not to stay for dessert. 

The first cheque that came wasn’t ours and we sent it back, the second cheque didn’t have the 15% discount which is applicable in all 3 restaurants. The manager told us that we couldn’t use the 15% on the a la carte menu but he was happy to do so on this occasion. However, we had been told by the front desk staff we could use it on any item. Throughout my stay it was clear the staff weren’t aware of the staycation offer and if they were there were mixed messages. Indeed, it took me 4 attempts and a trip to reception to get the voucher needed for the complimentary pizza as the staff didn’t know what I was talking about and I hadn’t been issued with it on check in.

We also went to 1897 Bar for drinks but it was very quiet and there wasn’t really much atmosphere. The prices in here are quite high and I wondered if this was a reason why it was empty? I did like the ‘gentleman’s club’ feel to the place though.

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Breakfast was an average hotel buffet. Fresh pastries, cheeses, meats, an egg station etc –  it was OK. I felt some of the food wasn’t replaced quickly and it would have been nice to have some healthier options such as smoothies and more fruit as this was quite limited. Service at breakfast was very good.



Check out  – As I had a late check out I was able to spend most of the day by the pool before coming back to pack which was a huge bonus. On check out my bag was taken so that it could be stored until I was ready to leave. I did ask to speak to the manager to clarify a few questions I had about the package as I felt that some staff didn’t know about the 15% off promotion, the complimentary pizza and as I hadn’t been upgraded I questioned if the hotel was full. After him ringing a few people it transpired he didn’t fully understand the package either! He was very nice about the points I raised and clarified the following for me;

  • If the package is booked through the hotel website  then if a room upgrade is available on check in it will be given. They did offer me an apology as I was not offered this.
  • The staycation package entitles you to 15% off in Romanov, Lucca and Yana restaurants – this is 15% off the whole bill.
  • The staycation package is available to everyone, not just Egyptian residents/citizens

Verdict  – I think the staycation package is an excellent deal and its something I would definitely recommend. I was really taken aback with how different the hotel looks inside in comparison to the outside. The staff were very good and the whole hotel was designed with attention to detail. My room was lovely, I really liked the mix of textures and fabrics and the way the room was laid out. The hotel facilities are excellent especially the pool and the spa, I came home feeling relaxed and happy. It wasn’t seamless, there were some problems, but if not many people are using the promotion this to some extent is understandable. I do feel that further training is needed for staff in the restaurants regarding the discount and I suggested that on check in someone who is staying on this package should get an envelope with the discount for the restaurants and spa and the pizza voucher as this would eliminate any confusion.

Would I go back? Yes, absolutely …maybe next time I will take Greg along and we would give the Italian a miss! So, if you’re looking for a weekend retreat, an escape from city life, this would be the perfect get away. Shortly after my stay I was sent a survey about my experience in which I highlighted all the points raised in this post.

Sofitel, Cairo Nile El Gezirah

Those of you who know Greg will confirm he isn’t the most patient of people but, when on the first night of a two night staycation, he asks to speak to the duty manager it means he’s really pissed off. There wasn’t a major incident that lead to him doing this, just a series of inconsistencies and frustrations that really shouldn’t happen when staying in a hotel by such a well-regarded brand as Accor. Due to the Islamic New Year we had a long weekend and decided to head into Cairo for a couple of nights. I chose the Sofitel, Cairo due to its location right on the Nile, the fact it was ‘buy a night get one free’ using an Entertainer but mainly because we’ve previously had such a good time at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi, Sofitel Palm Dubai and the Mercure Bloomsbury. London which is part of the same hotel group. Booking was very efficient, I made an enquiry through the Entertainer app and received a quote of $303 for 1 night in a luxury club room. Although I felt this price was pretty high I believed it would be value for money as the food in Sofitel club lounges is usually excellent and the general ‘Sofitel experience’ is good. Due to crazy Cairo traffic we were late arriving and on our confirmation email it said to call or our room may not be held. We rung a few times but nobody answered, luckily when we arrived our room was still available. We were checked in at the Club Lounge on floor 16 and we decided to stay here for drinks and a snack before going to our room.

​Located at the southern tip of Zamalek in downtown Cairo, the views from the lounge are impressive. To one side the sprawling city is clearly visible and, to the other, Cairo tower dominates the skyline.

View of Cairo Tower from the Sofitel

We felt the club lounge wasn’t as relaxing as other lounges I have been in, it definitely lacked comfort and atmosphere. The colours were very harsh and the table and chair set up felt too formal and not very ‘loungey’. The staff however were friendly and welcoming but they didn’t try to chat or engage with us as they were often behind the desk on their mobile phones.

Club Lounge, Sofitel Cairo

As we only had an hour left to make use of the complimentary drinks and food we ordered a beer and whiskey and went to get snacks. Unlike other club lounges the food offering was quite limited. For hot food there were thinly sliced chicken fillets and fish goujons but nothing to accompany them such as veg, rice, breads or salads. There were also some sandwiches which were a little dry. Those with a sweet tooth fared better with a selection of cakes, tasty donuts, dried fruits and nuts.

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After a couple of drinks and feeling a bit underwhelmed, we headed to our luxury club room on the 24th floor. The view from our balcony was fantastic, we could see right across the Nile and over the city.

View from 24th floor Sofitel Cairo

The luxury room was comfortable in fact it was quite spacious with a large bed, chaise lounge and a small desk.

Luxury Club Room, Sofitel Cairo
Luxury Club Room, Sofitel Cairo

We’d been left a handwritten note with a welcome tray with tasty sweet treats and a small banana milkshake.

Welcome note and tray, Sofitel Cairo

The bathroom, despite being compact, was very clean and although there was no separate shower the rainfall shower head over the bath looked great. We also had robes and slippers. Next to the bed was a pillow menu and a choice of scents for the turn down service.

Bathroom, luxury club room, Sofitel Cairo
Bathroom, luxury club room, Sofitel Cairo

We rung the club lounge to ask for fresh milk as they only had powdered milk which is disgusting in tea. We rung a couple of times but there was no answer, so in the end we called room service and within minutes a jug of fresh milk was delivered to our room. After a lovely cup of tea taking in the view from our balcony we slept soundly.

The room was very quiet and the bed was so comfortable it was hard to get up the next morning! Unfortunately when we woke it was a little hazy and we couldn’t see the pyramids from our room, so we went for breakfast hoping the sun would burn off the haze. We decided to have breakfast buffet in the main restaurant which has a lovely view over the Nile and the hotel gardens. We gave our room number and we were offered a table inside or on the terrace, we opted for inside. I was surprised we weren’t shown to a table, simply pointed in the direction of the dining room. It’s was quite difficult to know which tables were occupied so after a couple of circuits of the room we ended up asking which table was free. We ordered tea with cold milk and headed off to check out the buffet offering. There was quite a good selection from cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit and yoghurt, cereals, pastries, hot items such as mushrooms and sausages, GF and organic options plus a live station cooking eggs.

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​Greg ordered an omelette with everything except chili and I ordered my favourite Arabic dish – shakshuka. I was encouraged by one of the staff to try some of the Egyptian dishes such as ful medames and I agreed, unfortunately despite waiting the dishes never appeared. When we got to our table we’d been given hot milk and Greg’s omelette was full of chili. My shakshuka didn’t resemble any shakshuka I’d had before, it was much more like scrambled egg. It was pretty disappointing and was left uneaten. Maybe Egyptian shakshuka is different?!

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After a rather lackluster breakfast we headed to our room (we still couldn’t see the pyramids) and got ready for our morning trip to Muhammad Ali Mosque which is definitely worth a visit. It is such an interesting place with incredible views and only a 15 minute taxi ride from the hotel.

Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo
Muhammad Ali Mosque,Cairo

On returning to our room we found that it had been made up, but the table I’d left pulled out and away from the wall so the tea and coffee stains could be removed, had simply been pushed back and the stains still there! The room still didn’t have Lanvin products as specified in the room information. The rainfall shower flooded the floor as the shower screen didn’t provide enough cover and, as the hairdryer was hard-wired into the bathroom, I couldn’t use it as the bathroom was so damp. I think after paying a $400 deposit a regular, stand alone hairdryer isn’t too much to ask for! We decided to relax by spending a couple of hours by the pool and when we arrived at midday there were no umbrellas available. The friendly member of staff set up a small cabana for us and said that once an umbrella became free we could move. Unfortunately he didn’t communicate this to his colleagues as shortly afterwards other people were given loungers and umbrellas before us!

Pool, Sofitel Cairo

Not to worry, the cabana was comfortable and the views from the pool across the Nile were stunning. The pool area isn’t very large but the temperature of the water and the design of the pool was good.

img_9148Feeling a little peckish we decided to order lunch. Greg really enjoyed his club sandwich but my Caesar salad was not very good. The lettuce had been almost shredded and bound in a thick mayonnaise rather than garlic. It was also missing anchovies which were listed on the menu, I didn’t eat much of it.

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Having spent a few hours by the pool we went back to our room to get ready for the evening. I was so happy to see a very faint outline of the pyramids from our room ………if I squinted really hard!

Can you see the pyramids yet? View from a ‘pyramid view room’ Sofitel Cairo

Again we rung for fresh milk and tea bags as they hadn’t been replaced when our room was made up. We called room service as we had the night before and I asked for 2 tea bags and a small jug of fresh milk. A few minutes later room service arrived with a pot of tea for 2, hot milk and a large glass of cold milk ……and a bill. I explained this was not what we’d asked for and he told me my problem was that we’d called room service not housekeeping. We politely explained back we only did what we had done the night before with no problems. He was very nice about it but clearly there was a communication issue. We then went to get a shower to discover our toiletries (still not Lanvin) had not been replaced. Sigh. We went up for drinks to the club lounge and again we were disappointed with the food on offer. I *think* there were small chicken drumsticks and maybe small lamb skewers plus the same sparse selection of sandwiches, pastries and fruit. This is definitely not consistent with other Sofitel club lounges where the food is more substantial. They did serve a very generous whiskey however!

​As we were still hungry we decided to go to Kebabgy, the oriental restaurant in the hotel. I’m not going to go to lots of detail other than to say the location was very nice, the restaurant well styled and the food, although tasty, was not very filling as the portion sizes were small. The photo is of the mixed grill for 1 person and 1 serving of shish kebab both served together.

Kebabgy, Cairo
Kebabgy, Sofitel Cairo

Whilst having dinner we were chatting about the hotel and I brought up the hotel website to check out the rooms on offer. It was then I read we were meant to have access to a butler – this was the first we’d heard about it! Also, I couldn’t find a price for a luxury club room anywhere near the $300 we’d been charged either on the Sofitel website or comparison sites……..maybe the holiday had hugely increased the cost of a room? On the way back to our room we decided to stop by reception and ask for a late check out the following day. The receptionist told us we should ask our butler – we told him we knew nothing about a butler this as we hadn’t been told. about this service. He said we should have been calling our butler if we needed anything during our stay! On return to our room we found we hadn’t had a turn down service (again) and had no fresh towels, toiletries or water. We rung the butler twice – he didn’t answer. We rung reception and we were cut off. We rung again and Greg, whilst trying to explain, was constantly interrupted. It was at this point Greg went to speak to the duty manager. He listened to Greg’s concerns and agreed these issues were not portraying the hotel in a good light. He assured us the manager would be notified about our concerns when he was back at work on Sunday. At 11pm that evening we received teabags, towels and toiletries!
The next morning we went to the club lounge for breakfast. There was a small buffet and items could also be chosen from the a la carte menu. Greg ordered a pepper omelette and a side of veal sausage, I ordered cheese omelette with sautéed potato and veal sausage. What we got wasn’t quite what we asked for – Greg got a mushroom, sausage and chili omelette with turkey and veal sausages on the side. I received a cheese omelette with veal and turkey sausage. I never received the potatoes. We were the only table in the lounge, how could they get this mixed up?! By now I was kind of losing the will to live, it was becoming a bit of a farce. The pastry basket was nice.

Breakfast, Sofitel Cairo

In the hope of getting an umbrella we headed to the pool early. As soon as we arrived Greg ordered a juice, which after 90 minutes still hadn’t arrived. To be honest we weren’t entirely surprised. Again, the pool and views were delightful.

Nile, Cairo

We decided to have lunch by the pool and I chose a dish I thought they couldn’t possibly get wrong – Greek salad (I asked for it minus the olives). Greg ordered pizza. I was being far too optimistic. The salad was wrong, very wrong. It was listed as having; cucumber, tomato, onion, red, green and yellow pepper, mint, feta and lemon dressing. What I actually got was; cucumber, tomato and white cheese – not even feta. No mint, no dressing. Oh, actually I also got lettuce which wasnt meant to be included. I did consider only paying 1/3 of the bill as I only received 1/3 of the ingredients but we thought it would be better leaving this until we talked to the manager on Sunday – you know, when we were told he would call. …………………….I left the salad but the birds seemed to enjoy it.

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Pizza

By now we were ready to leave. Our supposed ‘stress free relaxing weekend at a 5* hotel’ had turned into 2 days of poor communication, less than average food and numerous inconsistencies. I am so glad we had 241 on this room as even paying $300 for 2 nights (plus food/drinks) was not worth it. I actually apologized to Greg for booking the Sofitel as it fell well below our expectations. I don’t feel I can recommend this hotel to anyone unless maybe you get a rock bottom price and chose not to eat there. Although the staff were very friendly and apologetic when things went wrong I just don’t feel this was 5* service. I think the final straw was when we were asked on check out how our stay was I explained we’d ‘had some issues’ and we’d spoken to the duty manager. The member of staff just looked really uncomfortable and responded with ‘have a good flight’!!!!
On a more positive note I’m a huge fan of the Entertainer. I have saved thousands of £’s using it over the last 3 years. I thought when I left Qatar it would be redundant but no, we can still get 241 stays on hotels worldwide. So, even if you are in a country where you can’t use the Entertainer for services, it’s still worth buying as you can make quite a lot of savings on hotel stays. Here’s a screenshot of countries where hotels have signed up to the Entertainer. Any questions please just ask in the comments section below.

Bella Figura, Maadi

There has been much discussion online recently about how the public are getting tired of bloggers and their endless posts about amazing restaurants and hotels in which everything was seamless. Many people are influenced by reviews and blogs yet find themselves having a much different experience when they go to the same place. This can them make them feel they were misled by the blog post or review as they didn’t get the same experience when spending their hard-earned cash. This feeling of the blogger not being honest or true is more common when blog posts are sponsored or ‘comped’ it seems. I do try in my posts to be fair, to praise the positives and when things go wrong (which they do) be constructive in my criticism but there are times when it’s really hard to be positive. This is one of those times.

One of my new colleagues was organizing an evening out for staff and chose a restaurant in Maadi, a place which had been recommended. A booking was made for our large group without any problems and when we arrived and were taken upstairs to our table first impressions were good. The menus were brought out and our drinks order was taken. Slowly more people arrived and our group continued to order drinks and food. The menu was a good selection of pastas, fish and meat dishes and was reasonably priced. A great start!

After about an hour most people had ordered and the room was full of the buzz of new colleagues talking and friendships starting. Rather bizarrely a couple of steps away on a small mezzanine dance floor there was a few people dancing away and the music got louder and louder which wasn’t really a conducive atmosphere for our group who were trying to have conversations.

Greg and I had ordered calamari to share, and those of you who have seen my Instagram account you’ll know this was a bit of a disaster. The calamari was absolutely stone cold. I attempted one piece but it was cold, chewy and rubbery. We called the waiter over and he whisked it away. About 5 minutes later it was brought out again, this time slightly warmer (I suspect it had been reheated) but it didn’t look at all appealing. There were about 3 calamari rings and the rest of the plate was a mass of batter and broken tentacles. The person next to me looked at it and asked ‘what exactly is that?!’ which is never good a good sign. It didn’t scored well on taste still it was cold, rubbery and chewy. The couple sitting opposite didn’t fare much better in the appetiser department either as their bruschetta was on the burnt side of well done. With a sigh we pushed our uneaten calamari aside and hoped our mains would be better. 

They arrived about 40 minutes later, by now we’d been at the restaurant quite a while. I just couldn’t believe what I was served. My rosemary chicken with ‘classic cut French fries’ and a rocket and cherry tomato salad was just depressing. I knew it was rosemary chicken as it had a huge sprig of rosemary in it, my fries were actually stale, cold potato chips (as in a packet of crisps). The rocket was mixed lettuce and there was precisely 1 cherry tomato cut in half. There were 3 elements to my dish…….2 of them were wrong. The chicken itself was tender and the cream sauce was rich but not too heavy. However, it was the only thing on my plate that I ate.


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n fact everyone who’d ordered French fries had been served crisps, people who ordered lasagna were served vegetarian cannelloni and I was told the lasagna was extremely salty. While the staff were dealing with questions from people about their food others people hadn’t been served – in fact one person didn’t really get to eat her meal as her pre booked taxi arrived at pretty much the same time as her meal did! In the interests of fairness and balance it wasn’t all negative – Greg had steak with mash and he said it was ok, not good not bad just ok. 

Others who’d ordered the gnocchi said they enjoyed it as did the person who ordered the seafood mix platter. It was just very hit and miss. It seemed obvious that the kitchen wasn’t prepared for such a large group and either didn’t have the produce available or understand the elements that made up the dishes on the menu. We left shortly before midnight and, as the bill hadn’t arrived, we left our money with a friend. By this point the downstairs bar area had started to get busier and it was a nice atmosphere. I don’t want to comment too much on the events later that evening as I wasn’t there but there were significant issues with the bill as everyone’s food and drink had gone onto the same cheque! Those who stayed had to sort this out with the manager. They went on to enjoy the bar area downstairs and had a great time dancing the night away. Their feedback to me was that it’s fun as a club and a place to go for drinks and dancing but the food wasn’t great. It’s a shame because the menu looked promising but it just didn’t deliver. I’m surprised they took a booking for such a big group without offering a set menu which would have been much easier for the kitchen to prepare and serve.