You could be forgiven for cruising past the low key entrance to Carol, sandwiched neatly between the bright neon of an adjacent business and the more ostentatious grandeur of the famed Automobile Club. But to miss it would be doing yourself a terrible disservice. This has to be the quintessential downtown Cairo watering hole.
Signatures Dishes & Dishes Sampled
You need to know first up, that although Carol offers a good range of small, tasty plates with Egyptian and international appetite pleasers; that is not the main draw. It is though, important to have interesting nibbles while downing your beverage of choice, so expect to find Hawawshi, Warra Einab, Bessara and Beef Liver Alexandrian Style amongst the menu options.
It made sense to try a diverse range of items, so we ordered up and soon had a table loaded with Baladi Salad, Arugula Salad, Spicy Tomato Salad, Hawawshi, Cheese and Meat Sambousek, Warra Einab, Fried Chicken Wings, and the recommended Beef Liver. The portions are perfect for sharing, but not too filling, and authentic to the core. The Arugula Salad came with slivers of sharp roumi cheese and slices of fresh mushroom, the Tomato Salad had a zingy herb-laden dressing, and the Sambousek arrived sizzling hot and beautifully light. Just right to accompany the local brew.
Other Menu Options that Appealed & Beverages Available
We would probably head for Spicy Meatballs in Rosemary Sauce, Bessara and Calamari on our next foray.
Beverage options at Carol include a range of cocktails, mocktails, local beer, wine and spirits, along with soft options like juices, soft drinks, tea and coffee.
Décor & Ambience
Enter Carol, close the door gently behind you, and immerse yourself in a Cairo that you may have thought long gone. Carol has been a fixture on the Cairo map since the sixties, and its revived version still retains much of its original appeal. Think vintage pieces, original chandeliers, occasionally mismatched wooden chairs, beautifully preserved carved tables, a color palette that Toulouse Lautrec would have felt at home in, and a charmingly relaxed vibe. Seating in the long narrow space is arranged with standard tables of different sizes, high tables with stools, and a long bar lined with high stools. The music, although not intrusive, flowed easily from guitar, to Oriental, to jazz and other carefully curated selections. Subtle, but perfectly suited to the setting.
Clientele mix: If ever there was a spot to stumble across a full spectrum of Cairenes, this must be it. From the old guard, to ‘suited and booted’ bankers and the like, and earnest young students and arty intellectuals, along with local downtown residents, Carol makes everyone feel at home. There is also a strong showing from young people escaping the more sterile delights of the gated communities on the outer reaches of the city. By the time we arrived at 6 pm the tables had started to fill, and when we wandered out at around 8 pm, every table was packed.
Price range: Still in the 1960’s, so make the most of it.
Worth noting: Opening hours may be extended in the future on weekends. Carol is closed during Ramadan however.
Opening hours: 5 pm to 4 am.
Address: 12 Kasr El Nil St. Downtown.
Tel: 0102 911 1105