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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Il Pennello Ceramic Café: Coffee Meets Creativity
Located across from Pasta Republic on Road 9 in Maadi , Il Pennello Ceramic Café looks like a quaint European coffee house from the outside, with fresh white walls and an airy interior. With its inviting entrance, we expected it to be a lovely spot to get a snack and indulge in our artistic sides.
However, we soon discovered that the food is truly mediocre, a trait that is never all that appealing. Following our afternoon of coffees and ceramics, we deduced that while the ambiance is pleasant, we could not overlook the fact that the menu is average in every way.
The pasta with white sauce and grilled chicken is more coated in a layer of cheese than sautéed in any kind of white sauce, while the afore-mentioned chicken is almost nowhere to be found, besides the few pieces hiding at the very bottom of the bowl. It proved to be a veritable scavenger hunt to find it.
The caprice salad was decent; but the fresh mozzarella looked more like cheddar and the portion was anything but ample, while the garlic bread was fine but really not remarkable. At least the fresh juices were tasty and sweet: the strawberry juice looked almost like a smoothie in its thick texture. Prices here are moderate; expect to pay 25LE for a salad and around 50LE for a main course.
Be sure to stop by the ice cream stand and sample the delightful and unique kiwi ice cream concoction.
The service at Il Pennello is quite fast, attentive and overall better than the food they served, with waiters happy to oblige with any special requests.
The walls are lined with ceramic objects of every shape and size. The selection includes a large hand statue, presumably handy for arranging rings and jewellery on, a soap dish, a duck and so on. Each piece has the price pencilled on, displaying how much it costs to paint your very own pottery piece. Prices generally range from about 30LE to 100LE.
This is how Il Pennello works: you first pick your piece of pottery, and then you get six basic colours of glaze. You can then render whatever master piece or colour combo disaster that you please. A word of caution: you must leave your newly painted piece to be properly dried and fired in a kiln, although the staff promises it will be ready after five days.
The establishment draws a very young crowd, many of which are celebrating their 5th, 6th or maybe 7th birthdays. So no, this is no cool new hotspot for sophisticated conversation.
But for those in search of a little nostalgia– or if you have the kids in tow– get ready to roll up your sleeves, take out the paint brushes and enjoy a cup of coffee while getting creative.
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!