6 Must-Try Restaurants In Cairo (A Local’s Guide!)
From innovative Thai to mouthwatering deserts with Nile views, here are the best must-try restaurants in Cairo.
Cairo has some incredible restaurants with brilliant chefs and pioneering dishes that make for an unforgettable night out with gorgeous Nile views.
But Cairo’s dining scene is also very underrated. Most visitors to the Egyptian capital focus on hunting down the most authentic street food. And they don’t often sit down for a more luxurious meal.
Which is a shame because a great meal after a long day of sightseeing can be a real highlight of your Cairo itinerary.
But it’s not exactly easy to find Cairo’s best restaurants. Online reviews – at least in this category – are very skewed and unreliable. And if you ask your tour guide for some recommendations, there’s a good chance they’ll point you to whoever’s giving them a commission.
As a long-time expat living for nearly a decade in Cairo, I’ve had my share of unforgettable meals – and some real misses. I’ve also reviewed dozens of restaurants in my years as a magazine editor. And I know some of the best ones are well under the radar.
Treat yourself to a night of dining in this bustling city and Cairo’s upscale restaurants just might surprise you.
How to use this list:
Some of Cairo’s best restaurants are inside hotels. But they’re a far cry from the lackluster meals you’d find at many chains. Cairo’s luxury hotels take their restaurants seriously. They have the budget to hire the best chefs. And they’re multi-storied, which means they have the best Nile views in the city.
This list does not include chain eateries and street food (which are definitely worth trying but belong in a separate category).
All restaurants on this list serve wine, beer and cocktails.
Head to Zamalek and Maadi for the best restaurant options. These two Cairo districts are great if you’re looking to wander into some local eateries. They won’t all be winners (check reviews before you go), but Zamalek and Maadi definitely have lots of great options.
So here’s my list of my all-time favorite restaurants in Cairo:
With its cozy ambiance, award-winning chef and innovative Thai dishes that fuse different culinary traditions, Birdcage is hands-down my favorite restaurant in Cairo.
Tucked inside the Intercontinental Cairo Semiramis, Birdcage is atmospheric with dark wood-paneling, booths lined with flowing curtains and water fixtures with bamboo.
This gem has earned numerous awards including a prestigious prize for the best Thai cuisine on the continent.
Expect all your favorite Thai classics here, served in meticulously-arranged plates and show-stopping presentation.
And expect to be surprised. Birdcage Chef Narong Butsriphoom is the inventor of the famous shrimp konafa, or Koong Sai Mai, which has since been copied at restaurants around the city.
But no dupe can compete with the Birdcage original – a surprising dish of deep-fried marinated shrimp seasoned with Thai herbs and wrapped in konafa. The dish was invented when chef Butsriphoom’s kitchen was on the search for a substitute for a thin Thai noodle that wasn’t available in Egypt.
He knew konafa (a sweet Egyptian Ramadan favorite) had a similar texture. And so he brought together the savory flavors of Thailand with oriental sweetness.
The enormous shrimp are arranged inside hollowed-out slices of bamboo. The konafa adds texture and brings out the saltiness of the shrimp – which makes the dish crunchy and fun to eat. Given the huge portion, it’s a great appetizer to split.
Birdcage also offers dishes like the fried chicken marinated in pandan leaf – a Thai classic that’s rarely served in Egypt. Other dishes feature unexpected touches of local ingredients like sweet potatoes or sugar cane.
And they’re all presented with that same kind of creativity: garnished with intricately cut banana leaf or bamboo, or served inside carved-out produce in dishes like curried shrimp in pineapple.
The Pla Salmon Yang Si Eiow, or grilled salmon steak in soy sauce and ginger, includes buttery fish topped with parsley, red pepper, mushrooms and lemongrass. Each bite brings a different, surprising facet of the fish.
The Koong Yang Kati, or grilled marinated shrimps in sugar cane, are skewered with blades of lemongrass and arranged in a perfectly balanced and heaping basket. Succulent and juicy, the lemongrass gives a delicate citrus taste to the shrimp.
The Keang Kuoa Koong Sapprarod, or shrimp in red curry with pineapple, is presented in a cavity of a pineapple sliced neatly in half. This creates a bowl for a peach-colored sauce swimming with succulent shrimp and juicy pineapple chunks.
The Kloy Tod, or fried banana in coconut milk with vanilla ice cream, is served inside a hollowed-out coconut half, along with a row of chunks of fried banana topped with bits of hard and chewy coconut pieces. This dessert proves how surprisingly decadent a banana can be.
Need to know:
Birdcage is open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Osmanly is a cozy and vibrant restaurant that serves up nouveau Ottoman cuisine, sumptuous Turkish classics – and the best baklava in town.
Tucked inside the Kempinski Nile Hotel (just off the Nile corniche), Osmanly features colorful paintings of whirling dervishes and Iznik pottery hanging from orange ochre walls.
The menu features legendary dishes of the Ottoman Empire like Hunkar Begendi, or braised beef tenderloin on a bed of pureed eggplant. This historic dish was first served in 1869 to Empress Eugenie, who loved it so much that Sultan Abdul Aziz gave her the recipe.
And there’s plenty of the grilled kofte and kebab that Turkey is known for, served here with flourish in still-sizzling platters.
Other highlights include the 15th-century Anatolian Soup, a Sultan’s favorite with its mix of sun dried vegetables, minced beef and mint.
Dinner at Osmanly is a real sensory experience that begins with a hand-washing ceremony where you’re brought a pitcher of jasmine water and warm towels.
This is followed by an amuse-bouche of freshly-baked bread and dipping sauces that include olive oil and a tangy tomato sauce.
The menu is a journey into unexpected flavor combinations, from pomegranate, mint and walnut to beef skewers, dried fruit and cinnamon.
Osmanly has a few cozy tables that are perfect for a romantic date accompanied by the sounds of the harp player in the lobby.
It’s also great for groups of friends and colleagues. There are many dishes that can be ordered for the table and shared family-style.
And the baklava at Osmanly is exceptional. Made fresh daily by a young Turkish chef, the baklava features layers of crispy pastry balanced perfectly with pistachio and honey.
The Karides Guvec, or sauteed shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, onions and pepper, is a savory hot starter. A bed of perfectly-seasoned shrimp ooze with juice while a side of greens adds zesty freshness.
The Anadolu Borek Tabak features thin crispy dough stuffed with spinach on a bed of velvety cheese. Perfect for sharing, this hot starter is a great combination of creaminess and crunch.
The Karisik Deniz Mahsulleri is an oven-baked mix of seafood in a juicy tomato and mushroom sauce. Served with a bowl of buttered rice, this main dish oozes with fish cooked to succulent perfection.
The Baklava, or layered pastry dessert sweetened with pistachios and honey, is served here in the authentic Turkish style – and still warm out of the oven. It’s paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that’s a refreshing end to a meal.
Need to know:
Osmanly is open daily from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
3. The Grill
For fine dining against a sparkling Nile backdrop, The Grill serves immaculate French cuisine in an elegant setting overlooking the city.
The Grill overlooks the Corniche, which appears uncharacteristically calm with the street noise blocked out and the smooth jazz playing softly on the speakers. Tables overlook downtown’s bustling Qasr el Nil bridge, the flowing river and swaying palms. The tall windows make this one of the best restaurants in Cairo with a Nile view.
From the rows of fine wines that line the walls at the entrance to the large, striking portrait of a woman hanging over a long wooden table, The Grill makes a great first impression.
The Grill offers an elegant take on classic French cuisine with mouthwatering dishes meant to be savored. With its spectacular view, unobtrusive service and intimate atmosphere, it’s perfect venue for a romantic date or special occasion.
Lyon-trained Head Chef Ashraf Ali has a real love for the rich French classics – and a meal at The Grill is always indulgent.
The Vegetables Tart is a rich, buttery starter that features a substantial tart topped with an array of hearty veggies. And the flavored lavender and cucumber sherbet spread delicately over the top really elevates this starter. It’s a surprising combination of flavors that lends freshness.
The Crab & lobster cappuccino soup combines the saltiness of crabs paired with the silky whipped cream.
The Sea Bass Fillet is creamy and rich with a lemon butter sauce that brings out the fish’s juiciness.
The Dark Chocolate souffle is topped with mango sauce. It’s crunchy at the top and gooey inside with a scoop of ice cream and a macaroon served on the side to keep the palate well entertained.
Need to know:
Open from 7pm to 11pm.
Lucca serves up flavorful Italian classics in a cozy, laid-back dining room lined with scenic wall paintings.
This scrumptious restaurant at the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski also has a great outdoor dining with tables overlooking the hotel’s enormous courtyard and swimming pool. It’s especially magical at night when the Kempinski’s ornate facade and swimming pool are illuminated.
The indoor dining area is perfect for a romantic and unpretentious dinner with its checkered tablecloths, dim lighting and walls painted with rustic Italian scenes.
The menu is diverse with classic Italian, homey dishes and comfort cuisine. From Venetian appetizers and classic thin-crust pizzas to risotto and succulent sea food, Lucca satisfies all your Italian cravings.
The Cicchetti are a great way to get your taste buds going. And they’re a good option to sample and share. Try the marinated shrimps with garlic and herbs for a dose of freshness. The mozzarella and tomato topped version with pesto and pine nuts are a great intro to classic Italian flavors.
The Risotto al Funghi is a creamy mix of rice with wild mushrooms, truffle oil and parmesan. It’s the epitome of a carb-rich comfort meal. The flavors are perfectly balanced and the dish is just the right combination of creaminess and crunch.
The Tiramisu is another Venetian classic that’s perfectly creamy with a powdery kick of espresso. This indulgent dessert, served in a cocktail glass, is the perfect end to a meal.
Giannini’s serves up Italian classics with a New York twist amid quiet and gorgeous views of the Nile and its house boats.
With its laid-back atmosphere and picturesque views, Giannini’s is perfect for an indulgent meal of all your Italian favorites.
Tucked inside the Sheraton Cairo Hotel, Giannini’s is lined with cozy seating and photos of Italian-American icons like Al Pacino. Reminiscent of a smart Brooklyn eatery, it’s a lively spot for a casual meal – and one of the best Nile views in the city.
Giannini’s menu boasts thin-crust pizzas, pasta and risotto, scrumptiuous seafood and tiramisu (served with or without alcohol).
And there’s a fun list of cocktails including locally-inspired creations like the Mango Martini and Blue Nile.
The Caprese Salad with its mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and green basil pesto emulsion is a light yet flavorful start to the meal.
The Gnocchi are made in house and served with juicy sauteed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, honey, rosemary and balsamic cream. It’s a great dish with a surprising mix of flavors.
King Prawns and Spaghetti Aglio E Olio is a gorgeous dish sauteed in a garlic olive oil and green basil that’s a carb lover’s delight.
6. China Red
This cozy restaurant boasts a dramatic decor with bold red accents and a flavorful menu with all the Chinese classics.
China Red serves Shanghai cuisine with fresh ingredients and authentic spices. And it’s right at the airport at the Le Meridien and a great choice for a luxurious meal before your flight.
The soft lighting and plush sofas also make China Red a great spot for a romantic meal.
The menu includes dumplings, sizzling plates, and a good selection of seafood and stir-fried vegetables.
The Shrimp Naqnaq make a great hot appetizer of sauteed veggies rolled in deep fried spring rolls and served with sweet sour chili sauce. They’re a punchy kick-off to your meal.
The Fried Prech is a mouthwatering main of red snapper deep fried with sweet and sour sauce. It’s topped with a mix of peppers, cucumber and pineapple, and served with steamed rice. It’s a savory dish – and a real adventure of flavors and textures.
The Deep Fried Bananas is a crispy dessert loaded with toffee and vanilla ice cream. It’s a real decadent and indulgent end to your meal.