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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Qahwa: How Not to Have Breakfast at the Waterway
As one of the hotbeds of new restaurant and cafe openings, one of 6th of October City's most popular restaurants and breakfast spots has been Qahwa at Arkan Plaza. The second branch opening at the Waterway in New Cairo had us rubbing our hands in anticipation, but it failed to meet expectations – quite spectacularly.
Divided into two spaces, Qahwa's indoor area is basically an open station with dessert displays –only a little gloomy and in need of better lighting- while the outdoor area screams brunch with white umbrellas, black fans, organised table arrangements and comfortable wooden chairs
Before we get to the food, we can't help but mention how truly disappointing the service was during the time of our visit. It took no less than 30 minutes, and five different waiters, for our menus to arrive, until we literally had to beg for menus and for someone to clean our tables.
Once the initial unpleasantness was out of the way, we ordered the Cobb Salad (60LE), which came in the form of a giant bowl of iceberg lettuce with tender chicken cubes smothered with smoky BBQ sauce, as well as red kidney beans, sweet corn, grated cheddar cheese and beef bacon bites, all drizzled with an outstanding ranch dressing. The portion was huge and despite the many ingredients, the flavours complimented one another.
The ingredients themselves were fresh and the hint of BBQ sauce on the chicken took the salad to a whole new level of deliciousness. The ratio of lettuce to toppings was a little off, though.
We then tried the with Spinach and Mushroom Omelette (38LE); served with well seasoned potato cubes and fresh sautéed mushrooms, though laying on two not-s- fresh pieces of toast, the perfectly cooked omelette was topped and stuffed with a generous amount of cheese, spinach and mushrooms. However, the omelette lacked some seasoning – it seemed they it was relying on the cheese for flavour – while the spinach didn't add anything to the dish in terms of flavour.
Looking to try another of Qahwa's egg dishes, we also went for the Benedict with Bacon (50LE). Though it is supposedly served on pizza dough, it was essentially just a piece of stale bread and it only got worse, with the eggs being overcooked, ruining all the fun of watching the yolk stream out of the egg as you break into it. In addition, there was little bacon to speak of and the egg whites were generally a little battered – generally, it was just a badly poached egg. The one thing that was done right, however, was the hollandaise sauce.
We'd hoped to end our meal on a sweet note with the Strawberry & Custard Crepe and Blueberry Smoothie, but both were unavailable so we settled for some fresh orange Juice (17LE) and, from the dessert menu, the Caramelised Banana Crepe (36LE).
Topped with a banana cut in half – one that was not caramelised as promised - and drizzled with caramel sauce with an already-melted scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle, we had mixed feelings about what otherwise sounded like an enticing dish. On the one hand, the crepe had a perfect thin texture, but on the other the presentation was sloppy and, again, not what we expected.
Oh and, of course, there was the orange, which we received while paying for the check at the counter. Better late than never, some might say, but no; it was served lukewarm and without ice.
Based on our experiences and the general popularity of Qahwa's Arkan Mall branch, our visit to the the Waterway branch was, in plain, disappointing. Aside from the overall quality of the food, it was the poor service that shocked us most – especially considering that, at the time of our visit, the venue was far from busy.
Coffee, Java, Joe – no matter what you call it, we can all agree that a cup of it can make or break your day. Coffee houses like Starbucks and Costa have been on the top of the coffee game with a branch on almost every corner, and people have been flocking there for their coffee every time; but now there’s a new player in town.
Turkey-based coffee house, Espresso Lab, has arrived to Egypt, at Point 90 Mall New Cairo to be exact, offering you the unique opportunity to play mad scientist in creating the ideal coffee for you.
With a rustic, industrial aesthetic, Espresso Lab offers a relaxing and inviting environment with mostly wooden seats besides giving off a friendly vibe, it’s a great place for studying, working, or just lounging around drinking your cup of Joe.
The venue is of the self-service variety, where there are two bars each with their own set of features; the first has your typical large espresso machine, with an assortment of both savoury and sweet items and some cold drinks, while the other is where the ‘lab’ part comes in.
We picked up one of their signature cold brew coffee (30LE) from the main bar, which came in a small glass bottle reminiscent of a glass whiskey flask; the coffee itself was pure concentrated coffee devoid of any additions which had a strong flavour and a slightly acidic aftertaste.
For something from the other side of the spectrum, we had some hazelnut hot chocolate (32LE), which had a sweet, rich texture with a good amount of foam on top, and hazelnut providing a nutty aftertaste.
Looking into their assortment of sandwiches, we opted for the roast beef (35LE). Heated in a toaster oven, it had warm crunchy bread that contrasted with the melted gooey cheese in the middle perfectly, which in turn complemented the earthy roast beef slices and the addition of the tangy pickles and mayonnaise.
To satisfy our sweet tooth, we ordered the chocolate (40LE) and raspberry (40LE) cheesecakes; despite the rather small slices, they both had a rich heavy texture, which made them well worth the price. The chocolate had a creamy, smooth taste, while the raspberry had a slightly tangy aftertaste that complimented the coffee flavoured crust on both of them.
We then moved to the espresso bar, where you can choose one of six different coffee beans – to be made in one of six different ways, including everything from French press and Chemex, to Aeropress and cold brew. The options allow you to adjust everything from the sweetness to the acidity of your coffee and we went for the Syphon (27LE).
With a smooth texture without the strong aftertaste, the coffee had a nice sweetness to it without being too watered down; we opted for some Irish syrup as well as some steamed milk to turn it into a latte which only enhanced the beverage even more.
Espresso Lab provides one of the most unique customisable coffee experiences you can find in the capital; as well as being great place for to grab a quick coffee and bite to eat, it’s also place where coffee snobbery is more than welcome!