In the impossible streets of Giza, where horses and BMWs coexist, a hidden, quiet square with a neat garden in the middle is located in that ambiguous area that is not quite Dokki and not really Mohandessin either. This location is where Cairo Jazz Club’s newest venture, Alchemy, is found. A restaurant and lounge that is part of Cairo Jazz Club’s expansion, Alchemy carries the same style the franchise is famous for.
The restaurant is heavy on the concept from which the name derives. Everything from the bathrooms to the menu is tailored to a general theme of alchemy, with beautiful artwork and distinctive, if somewhat overwhelming interior design.
“There are restaurants that experiment with food chemically; they go so far as to change the structure of the food itself,” said Mourad Haikal, venue manager. “Inspired by that idea, but wanting to take it down a notch, we took the idea of alchemy and applied it to food, trying to put together dishes that were based on their elements and have the choice clearly labeled for the customer.”
The diverse menu does not go for a specific cuisine but offers an eclectic mix of dishes that cover a wide range of prices, from EGP 30 to EGP 190. The dishes include unique creations by the chefs and, in true Cairo Jazz Club fashion, a wide selection of alcoholic beverages.
“We want customers to be able to know immediately what they are getting and that is where the idea of the elements comes from,” said Haikal. “There are four elements; earth, water, air and fire. For example, if you are getting something that is earthy, you know it will be filling. One of our dishes has seven different kinds of mushrooms so we consider that to be [earthy].”
The other elements signify other traits in the dishes. Water is anything that is neutral and can serve as a buffer between the other elements; air is light; and fire is “anything with a punch,” according to Nariman El Bakry, marketing executive at Cairo Jazz Club.
The dishes can be a combination of both. We had grilled shrimps with delicious mango salsa and ox sauce. The spices, mixed with zesty shrimps and the cool succulent mango were clearly fire and water. “We went through a lot of trouble labeling the dishes and we welcome any feedback from the customers if they think it constitutes another element,” said Sara El Redy, marketing manager for Cairo Jazz Club.
The menu is clearly labeled but it will take customers some time to get used to the novel idea. The restaurant relies heavily on its theme with everything designed to complement the look. “We had five different artists working with us just to get the presentation done. Everything from the menu to the bathrooms and the statues [is] in grotesque style,” said El Redy.
The design can seem garish at times, especially in the daylight of its earlier opening hours (it is designed as a lunch venue and is open from noon until 2am), but as Bakry explains, “the place is meant to be transitional. You are supposed to walk in and forget the outside world. We are opening a new venue very close to it so that we can dedicate the original Cairo Jazz Club location to live music, the new location as a proper club and this one as the transitional place. People can have a delicious meal here and then continue their night in one of our other venues, if they so wish.”
Alchemy may rely heavily on its concept but for the most part, it works. The restaurant is still in its early phase and will no doubt continue to grow and fine tune but for now, the restaurant has lots of style, great service and just enough zest to create a buzz when it opens its doors to the public this Friday.