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.