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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Sahar El Layaly Restaurant and Café: Basic Shisha in Mohandiseen
Located on Esraa Street near Lebanon Square, you’ll find the lantern-lit doorway of Sahar El Layaly Restaurant and Café. Classic poster art images line the wall, including everything from kitschy flower vases to pre-colonial city themes.
While Mohandiseen is anything but short on shisha joints, quality and customer service are often lacking; leaving your spontaneous meet-up filled with disappointment. Sahar El Layaly not only makes a quality shisha; but with no minimum charge, it’s a new convenient option for all shisha lovers in Cairo.
Note: if smoke bothers you, keep out. The equation of poor ventilation and a slew of water pipes lead to a lack of fresh air. At first glance, the drab atmosphere might keep you at bay but once seated, it doesn’t take long to get cosy.
Sahar El Layaly’s menu consists of appetisers and main courses including sandwiches (15LE to 30LE) and meat platters (30LE to 45LE) as well as salads and desserts. However, at our time of visit, the kitchen was being rennovated and food was not available.
The drinks menu is rather extensive, including fresh juices (around 10LE) and cocktails. Seeing as how we were looking for a little caffeine high, tea with mint and a cappuccino were quickly chosen. For 5LE, the tea came served with an overzealous amount of fresh mint leaves, which automatically made us happy. Though the cappuccino’s foam was topped with a heavy layer of Nescafé grains, the coffee itself went down smoothly. Served in a dainty hand-blown pottery cup with a sugar bowl to match, the drink managed to redeem the drab atmosphere
As for shisha, they definitely know the ropes. For a reasonable 6LE to 8LE, flavours include your standards as well as cantaloupe and a few other fruits. Not only was the shisha well-attended to; but it also had just the right amount of taste without overpowering the tobacco.
When it comes to Sahar El Layaly, it’s the definite go-to place if you are looking for a basic shisha and a hot drink. If the kitchen is open, check it out; you might be pleasantly surprised.
Cafés in Cairo are a dime a dozen, and competition is pretty brutal. That usually translates into some rather strange themes and gimmicks across the capital. In Mohandiseen, Bon Bini follows suit with a kitschy jazz vibe.
With two floors and an outdoor seating area, the café is spacious with a peculiar variety of seating areas,making the whole place interestingly asymmetrical. Although the furniture seems dated and worn, the running jazz theme creates a charming, nostalgic feel. Jazz band statues and antique books give a purposefully vintage edge to the venue.
The polite and courteous staff are well versed in the menu. Akin to the typical Cairene café scene, the menu is awash with a wide variety of sandwiches, pizzas and entrees, along with a shisha section.
For appetisers, we ordered tomato soup (17.95LE) and a fried Texas platter (18.95LE) – fries with chilli cheese sauce. For our mains we ordered one Verona pizza (49.95LE) topped with chicken, roast beef slices, olives, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, alongside a chef filet (74.95LE) which transpired to be a beef strip stuffed with mushrooms and roast beef, topped with a butter sauce.
First on our table came the extraordinarily hot soup and fries; so hot in fact, that we had to let both dishes cool off for a few minutes. Served with crispy croutons and a thick dollop of cream, the generously-sized soup was full of flavour. Despite being topped with a thick layer of cheese, the fries were well-cooked and surprisingly light.
Later, both the pizza and filet proved to be even better. The pizza was large enough to satisfy two, and boasted a thick, fluffy base. The fillet was cooked to perfection, without sacrificing the meat’s tenderness, and laced with a rich, flavourful butter sauce. The sides of fresh vegetables and smooth mashed potatoes were a welcome addition to the meal.
For dessert, we enjoyed a cold fruit crepe (19.95LE), made with apples and bananas and topped with Nutella. Unlike the conventional serving of crepes, our crepe was laid flat – as opposed to folded - topped with the fresh, ripe ingredients.
Although the quirky decor and unusual ambience may not suit everyone’s taste, Bon Bini is a great venue for casual outings – and the kitchen certainly delivers.