Downtown Cairo is often jam-packed with office workers and travelers so the streets are chaotic and relaxation is out of the window. However, there are some pockets of calm – if you know where to find them. Located in the area’s old banking sector is the charming La Chesa. It’s a Swiss restaurant and true to its tag, it feels attractive, cozy and welcoming. The restaurant’s menu is short, with a mixture of Swiss and general European cuisine. Try the seafood dishes, crepes and salads for starters and beef medallion for the mains. If you drop by in the morning, you can partake in their Swiss breakfast which features fruit, yoghurt, orange juice, jam, honey, butter, bread rolls, Danish pastries, tea or Nescafe.
21 Adly St., Downtown Cairo, Egypt +20 2 23935768
The Greek Club
Like its namesake country, The Greek Club has a long history. It is located in Talaat Harb Square, which was once the most popular center for Mediterranean expats. From attracting soldiers during WWII to socialites in the 1950s, the Greek Club remains one of the few places to have seen it all. An institution in itself, the restaurant is a popular hangout among artists and expats. It has a gorgeous outdoor garden terrace, where patrons love to sit and relax over a beer. Inside, the dining room much more grand, with high ceilings, tall windows, curtains and long columns. The menu offers both Greek and Egyptian food. You have to try the Greek Salad, it’s the best served in the whole of Cairo. The calamari here is fresh, crispy and delicious. Pair with some classic Greek beer, wine or ouzo.
21 Mahmoud Bassyouni Street, Talaat Harb, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 25750822
Sushi has been embraced the world over. From America to Australia, the raw fish dishes have managed to find a place in every city – and Cairo is no different. A lot of Japanese-themed and sushi-serving restaurants have opened up, but Sushiramis is one of the finest. Located in the InterContinental and sharing a space with the Corniche Café, it is a classy space with pretty decor and a live pianist. The menu has all the classic nigiri and sashimi selections, including maguro (tuna), sake (salmon) along with unagi (eel) and tako (octopus) among others. Try their combination platters as they are delicious.
Garden City, Qasr an Nile, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 27957171
The Maharaja Restaurant inside the Ramses Hilton Hotel is one of the best places to savor Indian food in Cairo. With beautiful Indian artwork, natural wood floors and a stainless steel tandoor that catches your eye the moment you enter, the restaurant scores full marks when it comes to decor. Like most Indian restaurants in hotels, you are offered a complementary nibble before you place the order. At the Maharaja, it’s bite-sized vegetable patties with a cool mint chutney, accompanied by wafer-thin papadum bread with mango chutney and marinated lemons. The menu is modern Indian food, and the vegetarian options are quite good. Try the Bhindi Pyaaz with roti, while meat lovers should opt for the specialities from the tandoor.
1115 Corniche El Nil, DO, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 25777444
Koshary Abou Tarek
Koshary Abou Tarek is perhaps the most famous restaurant in Cairo. It only serves one dish, but it’s always crowded. Koshary is a mixture of different types of pasta, mixed with lentils, chickpeas, fried onions and a sort of tomato salsa. No koshary meal would be complete without the essential garlic dressing, da’a, and chili sauce, both of which Abou Tarek do fantastically. The restaurant is spread over two floors; a necessity due to its popularity and bustle. If you have room for more, you can try the sweet, creamy rice pudding for dessert. Service is very quick, and the staff are used to tourists and are pretty welcoming.
16 Marouf, Qasr an Nile, Cairo, Egypt +20 100 105 9950
There are plenty of fast food restaurants in downtown Cairo, but they often disappoint when it comes to the taste. Kazaz is an exception. The restaurant offers nearly every variety of taameya and meats, as well as the best shawarma in the downtown area. But, the one dish which everyone orders is the lentil soup. It’s perfectly thick and is served with raw onion, fresh lemon and tiny pieces of crunchy, fried bread. It’s a cheap, cheerful and fast meal, but there is a seating area if you want to linger a little longer. Their takeaway section is open until the early hours of the morning and best suited for midnight cravings.
Bab Al Louq, Abdin, Cairo, Egypt +2 02 23960034
Paprika is a decades-old institution, dating back to the 1970s; a cozy restaurant overlooking the river Nile and serving oriental Egyptian cuisine along with international dishes. The restaurant feels upmarket and smart, with coveted views over the river and soft jazz music played in the background. The food is hearty and satisfying; try the mini kofta in Daoud pasha sauce or one of the house specialities, beef goulash. Finish your meal with a dessert, the om ali or the crème caramel are both fine choices.
1129 Nile Corniche, Boulaq, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 25789447
Windows on the World
Located on the 36th floor of the Ramses Hilton Hotel, Windows on the World offers spectacular views over Cairo. The restaurant offers international cuisine along with cocktails. Try the goat’s cheese salad for starters and then move on to the grilled sea bass fillet for the mains. End your meal on a high with their sweet temptations (a selection of French pastries, oriental pastries and cake). With its excellent service and dim lighting, Windows on the World is an good choice for romantic dinners.
1115 Corniche El Nil, Downtown, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 25777444
Get your creative fix at Le Grillion. Filled with artsy types, it has a relaxed, fun atmosphere across indoor and outdoor sections. The outdoor area is mainly for drinks and shisha, while indoors is for dining, and both have different menus. Most of the dishes come from the grill. Don’t leave without tasting the artichokes with minced meat.
Al Ismaileyah, Qasr an Nile, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 25743114
Saigon is one of the best restaurants for Asian fusion in Cairo. There are two areas, one uses wood flooring and reds and blacks in the furniture, the other looks like a colonial club house; with wicker chairs and a beige carpet. The menu is well done with a lot of variety. The glass noodle and quail salad or the veal chop come highly recommended.
Fairmont Nile City, Beaulac, Downtown, Cairo, Egypt +20 2 24619494