TEN BEST MEALS I EVER ATE (Where, Why & What-Not) Number 10: Cafe Sud at Sofitel El Gezirah, Cairo
TEN BEST MEALS I EVER ATE: THE WHERES, THE WHYS and THE HOWTOFORES
(And I Can’t Believe I’m Dredging This Up NOW, When I’m On a 10-Day FAST! Then Again, Of Course I’m Dredging it Up. Dream, Boy, Dream. That’s All You’ve Got, for the Moment …)
Forget the Cairo smog and the fact that you need some “hair o’ the dog” by the time you’ve ridden the bumpy zephyrs across the Med, gotten through customs, past the artillery and anxiety and have even made it into the deliciously convoluted heart of Cairo. The 5-star Sofitel el Gezirah towers above an island in the middle of the Nile and whisks you from any initial discomfort to become your all-purpose luxury resort, gastronomic paradise and ostensible refuge, in case an uprising happens to uprise, which is likely to occur with rising frequency, these days. There are five fabulous restaurants at Sofitel el Gezirah, but we enjoyed the Mediterranean fare at Cafe Sud most of all. When they brought out a plate lavished with about 25 succulent escargots in garlic & herbes de provence buerre blanc as a mere starter, I knew we were in for a good night. The lamb tagine was worthy of its own chapter in some devilishly apocryphal holy book, and the traditional Egyptian date torte proved quite the complex-yet-delicate and subtly spiced piece de resistance. The service was friendly and white-glove spectacular, and who could argue with glorious company or a stunning view of the Nile shimmering by moonlight while fragrant tendrils of tagine curl up, up, up into your quivering nostrils? Not I, friend. Not I. Of course, I expected to find the best Egyptian food in the grungier, out-of-the-way places in Cairo and beyond, and indeed I did find it. Invariably so. For a night of absolute captivation in a truly flawless, once-in-a-lifetime setting, however, 5-star is sometimes the only way to go. When the cuisine is as dangerously simple and as excellent as it is at Cafe Sud, you’ve got a dining experience you’ll sigh wistfully and wonderfully about for the rest of your life. Uber-satiated, I had a good frolic in my Speedo the next day at the pool, also overlooking the Nile. The god Ra shone down until I was sweet golden brown. Only the Pharaohs themselves could have had it so good. Damn straight.