Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
8 - 14 February 2001
Issue No.520
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Delusions of grandeur

By Injy El-Kashef

Every once in a while something will happen to put you back in your place. As usual, having left the office pretty late, we had to find a place that would shelter hungry souls in the night. And since the Ibis Café at the Nile Hilton is known to be among those, we promptly headed to that lovely hotel, trying not to push our luck.

There was quite a crowd at midnight, most looking like millions were being discussed over the bread crumbs. Suddenly, for some very strange reason, I began to feel very important. My vocabulary began to incorporate more and more five-syllable words and I began to adopt airs: a toss of the head, a flick of the cigarette, a sip of the LE15 strawberry juice, a sidelong glance with one semi-raised eye-brow. I don't know how it started, but I was on a definite ego trip.

The waiter had explained that the Ibis offers buffet dinner (including salad and dessert, for LE85 a head) every night until around 12.30am, after which the restaurant is open for à la carte orders, operating on a 24-hour basis. One look at the obscenely overpriced menu and our minds were made up. The salad buffet was, to say the very least, rich and impressive. It is probably the fanciest salad bar I have ever seen, composed mainly of smoked salmon, mussels, oyster mushrooms, smoked herring, smoked eel, foie gras, fennel, smoked turkey and many other precious treats. The other two sections were much closer to average. We attacked the salad, relishing every bite with dignity and gusto. Then something awful happened: a waiter began removing trays from the dinner section for the night. In a flash, I was standing there, wringing my hands, looking at the floor, bending my head to one side and summoning the courage to whisper: "Please sir, may I have some more?" The waiter looked at me with a revolted frown: "More?!" For a minute I wavered, then out came a sentence -- "We have not had dinner yet, and would like to, if you don't mind." That put an end to the drama and acted like a pin on the inflated balloon of my ego.

The dinner menu changes every night but the quality, one assumes, remains the same. What we had was rather good but had been sitting there too long; it was our fault for coming so late. The desserts, on the other hand, had not been affected and included some divine items like meringue sandwiches, sugar-dusted buttery sablés, pies, cheesecake, fruit salad, Umm Ali, and chocolate mousse.

Go early and have something really important to say. You'll love it.

Ibis Café, Nile Hilton, Nile Corniche, Tahrir Square.
Tel 578 0444/666 (ext 277)

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