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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Ampersand: Quaint Cafe & Restaurant in Zamalek
Zamalek isn't short on cafes and restaurants, but that hasn't stopped the island being a desirable spot for the coffee houses and eateries to call home. The venues at Abu El Feda Street's Club 33 haven't had a good start to the year, but the Nile-side road is still largely defined by the number of venues sitting along it, the latest of which is Ampersand.
As a restaurant and café, The aesthetic is all very simple, with outdoor seating in a fantastic little enclosed garden of light, natural wood and greenery and an indoor area boasting white walls and plenty of natural light on account of the glass walls, as well as a fussball table.
The menu at Ampersand brings together a wide variety of dishes inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, but the sandwiches and desserts were rather tempting during a morning visit – the former of which you can customize to your heart's desire. You pick a bread (10LE), cold cuts/protein (15LE), cheese (18LE, vegetables (4LE) and a dressing (2LE). This is where we encountered a problem, though. The menu doesn't state the options available and, at the time of our visit, the waiter was unable to recall what was available. In the end, we decided to rely on luck and go for a roast beef sandwich with cheddar cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise – and luckily all the ingredients were available.
Arriving in no time at all, said ingredients were noticeably fresh, with the beef in particular being tender and finely cut. Served with a side of solid French fries, the only issue with the sandwich was the baguette, which, already brittle from the outside as it is, was just a tad stale.
We also tried a fresh orange juice (24LE) which was, indeed, very fresh and served in a very generous amount, while Ampersand's latte (27LE) was spot on.
Continuing with the drinks, we also ordered a cappuccino (24LE) alongside a hearty slice of chocolate cake (45LE), which comes in a jar, as is the trend these days. Made of layers of cream and cake and topped with crushed biscuits, the cream and cake layers were outstanding. Boasting a balance of sugar that let the chocolate flavor shine, the cake layers were soft and moist, though the biscuit was an unnecessary addition and tasted stale while not retaining much crunchiness.
While our visit to Ampersand wasn't without fault, there's a settling in period that every venue has a right to. As a venue, Ampersand is airy, pleasant and takes full advantage of its location, offering a good spot for lunch brunch or a quick coffee. All that's left is a little bit of tweaking in kitchen.
Remember when Cairo was crazy for cupcakes? Nola was one of the first and main names behind the trend; but as with all trends, people can quickly get tired of them – something that has seen Nola introduce cheesecake, brownies, and cronuts to their menu over the years and this year, they’ve added even more
Nola’s newest items has seen the bakery introduce mini sandwiches, chocolate stones, truffles, cake pops, mini lava cakes and Belgian hot chocolate, though not everything was available when we paid the Mohandiseen branch a visit.
We started our way to out sugar coma with a Mini Chocolate Volcano Cake (27LE); a chocolate cake that’s cooked and served in a bowl, with a valley in the centre that’s filled with thick chocolate pudding, before it’s all dusted with cocoa powder. Despite the very basic, un-Nola presentation, the cake had a great spongy texture and handled the luscious melted chocolate pudding perfectly, while the cocoa powder reduced the overall sweetness to a nice balance.
We also tried the white chocolate version (28LE), but found that it wasn’t exactly what was promised. What should have been a white chocolate cake had no white chocolate flavour whatsoever, but the white chocolate shavings on top and the melted white chocolate pudding pool in the middle took care of that. Although it was overly sweet compared to the other one, there was a little bit more to the flavours and textural contrast.
For many, two cakes would be more than enough sugar intake for one day, but we also left the shop with a Chocolate Pop (9LE) and a Red Velvet Pop (8LE). Wrapped in a plastic cover with a mini bowtie, and served on a lollipop stick, the chocolate pop was moist chocolate cake with a fudgy texture, coated with chocolate shell. We enjoyed the flavours, but we’ve tried better in Cairo and there was nothing remarkable about it.
The red velvet pop had a different problem, though; the red velvet cake is coated in red velvet chocolate and had a very strong artificial flavour, which most likely came from the red chocolate shell or the red food colouring in the cake.
We also tried Nola’s hot chocolate (12.50LE) from the serve-yourself station and it’s possibly the best we’ve tried in a long time. Made with Belgian chocolate, it boasts bold flavour and a perfect thick consistency, too.
We’ve come to consider Nola as the maker of the cutest and most colourful cupcakes in town, but the new items don’t follow suit on that front. Luckily, the items we were able to try made up for it when it came to the most important thing flavour. The new items are fun, varied and ever so chocolaty.