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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Groppi: A Once Cherished Downtown Relic
Located on the corner of Talaat Harb and Qasr El Nil Street in Downtown is the infamous café Groppi. Open since 1892, Groppi was once the hottest spot in Cairo to see and be seen, with a changing patronage along the way from British occupation army officers to Cairo's artists and writers.
Originally designed as a pastry and tea room, Giacomo Groppi opened the café, not knowing that it would become a Cairo monument of historical wealth and nostalgia.
From its art deco
design, delicate mosaic tiles in the entryway to its rotunda style, Groppi’s
beautiful architecture has drawn in many patrons over the years. Although its
outside beauty catches the eye, once inside; it’s clear that the years have
taken their toll.
The entryway is filled with pastry cases boasting chocolates, petit-fours, cakes and more. Take a walk to the next level and you’ll find simple tables and chairs under high ceilings, seemingly ancient chandeliers, and a quiet, drab atmosphere.
Waiters are formally dressed, making up for their informal or rather missing service. At the time of this reviewer’s visit, ordering a bottle of water seemed like a feat of great difficulty. Although Groppi boasts a full-scale menu aside from the desserts, many of the options were actually not available during our visit.
For a quick snack, we opted for a toasted rumi cheese sandwich (6LE). While the price seemed measly, the sandwich was unfortunately measly too and served on a semi-stale toasted petit pain. The lemon juice (approximately 10LE) came cold, though it lacked a bit in flavour.
While we weren’t impressed enough to try their sweets, we’ve been told that their tarts are decent, ranging from 30LE to 240LE. Between 17LE to 170LE, oriental sweets are also available, including platters of om ali as well as basbousa and konafa.
If you happen to be in the Talaat Harb area, Groppi is a great place to check out for its history and the striking architecture of the store front. Despite its flair for nostalgia and its status as one of the most iconic landmarks of Downtown Cairo, ultimately; its food just isn’t as good as it used to be.
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.