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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Hola Café: Spanish Café & Restaurant in Heliopolis
The Oasis D’Heliopolis officially has the largest food court in the world – it’s in the Guiness book of records. Of the twenty-five restaurants and cafés that take residence there at the moment, Hola Café was visited by this reviewer for a friend's birthday. When we arrived at the venue, another birthday party was dominating the place. A group of six-year-olds was gathered around a show of clowns, puppies and birds.
We were seated away from the hollering kids only to find a sweet sixteen on the neighbouring table. We came to the realisation that Hola Café is the destination of many birthday celebrations, so we just had to make do with the continuous birthday songs. A live performer was also entertaining, at the expense of our eardrums.
We took plenty of time perusing our menus. After strenuous thought, we settled on the fried mozzarella, but the waiter apologetically said that it was not available. So we ordered the onion rings instead (16LE). Served on a bed of chopped lettuce with a cocktail sauce whose components remain unknown to this reviewer, the rings were deliciously crispy.
The menu at Hola Café also features soups including tomato soup (14LE) and Chicken mushroom soup (17LE). You can also order from a variety of chicken, beef and fish dishes with sides of your choice, including sautéed vegetables, French fries, mashed potatoes and Spanish rice.
We ordered the Hola salad (30 LE). A hollow slice of roasted bread was stuffed with kidney beans, lettuce, sweet corn, grilled chicken, parmesan and red cabbage. Light on the stomach and the calories, the Hola salad is definitely a healthy option for those who like to monitor their weight.
We then had the Sevilla sandwich (28 LE): grilled chicken pieces with plenty of Spanish spices that gave the chicken a weird yellow colour and an immensely dislikeable zest.
We also tried the Hola sandwich (30LE): fried chicken, salami and cheddar cheese. The cheese was so sickeningly fatty that we left the sandwich after the first bite.
All sandwiches are served with one scoop of coleslaw salad and a side of French fries; the French fries were terrible. Squishy, oily and cold, they didn't remotely resemble our idea of French fries.
We also sampled the pollo fajita (55 LE). The chicken fajita was served on a fish-shaped platter with chopped green pepper and onion. The chicken's presence was so scarce that we felt were only eating vegetables. Served on another platter was Mexican bread, sour cream, pico de gallo and cheddar cheese.
As for desserts, there are plenty of options, including cheese cake (23LE) and chocolate cake (22LE). Ice cream is also available for 7LE per scoop. We opted for the birthday cake instead.
A perfect hangout spot can be hard to find in Cairo. Though there’s certainly no lack of cafes, restaurants and bars, it’s simply difficult to find a place that balances entertainment, food and a sense of comfort all at the same time with venues often sacrificing one aspect to keep the rest as high as possible.
Hidden away in the Walk at Beverly Hills,6th of October City, lies Bricks; a simple venue with an emphasis on being a hangout spot with good food. The outdoor area is filled with modernised version of Ahwa chairs painted in white along with wooden top tables with metal centres offering cosy setting.
Bricks also boasts a relatively small indoor area with the same previously mentioned chairs and a ‘PlayStation Corner’ for anyone who’s into gaming – for free – alongside a huge black graffiti-decorated wall quoting famous Beatles song, Come together.
With a relaxed atmosphere, Bricks offer a chilled out mood their seating arrangements, while the availability of playing cards and backgammon, as well as a screen to show matches, it certainly checks two of the boxes for an all-inclusive hangout spot.
After taking a seat outside and looking through the menus we opted for the Mozzarella sticks (35LE) as an appetiser, as well as the Classic Burger (45LE), the Mushroom Burger (55 LE) and a Chilly Hotdog (40LE) with extra cheese (5LE) for our main dishes.
Arriving only a few minutes later, the appetiser came as four mozzarella sticks with a mayo and sweet chilli sauce; the sticks had a satisfyingly crunchy outer shell with a tender gooey cheese centre that was enhanced even further after dipping it into the sweet chilli sauce for an extra spicy sweet aftertaste.
Our main dishes arrived moments later in wooden framed plates accompanied with a small bowl of pickles, alongside some fries. The Mushroom burger had a large burger patty on top of some lettuce and mayo, topped by Swiss cheese and large mushroom pieces and had some curly fries on the side (4LE).
The curly fries were well seasoned and would rival that of Hardee’s, with a crispy exterior and tender hot interior making us uncontrollably eat one after the other. As for the burger, it had a high quality, pure beef flavour with a barbequed aftertaste, working well with the slightly tangy cheese and the saltiness of the mushroom, making it a well-rounded sandwich.
The classic burger followed the same pattern as the mushroom burger in quality, and had lettuce and tomatoes, but was a bit dry. However, that was quickly solved by adding the mayo and sweet chilli sauce.
Moving on to the Chilli Hotdog, it came in a large hotdog bun, topped with some mustard and smothered with chilli, extra cheese and slices of onion alongside some French fries.
Although the fries lacked a bit of seasoning, it was easily fixed with a bit of salt, and were great, similar to ones from other fast food restaurants like Burger king or McDonald’s; crunchy on the outside, soft and hot on the inside.
As for the hotdog itself, it had the traditional familiar hotdog taste with an extra kick from the mustard, while the onions made the flavour of the chilli pop, making the sandwich one of the highlights of the evening.
We also tried the Peanut Butter Milkshake (30LE), which arrived in a tall glass with a straw. Though rich with peanut butter flavour, it was a bit light texture-wise, and could have been all round better if was a bit thicker.
Overall, our visit to Bricks was a pleasant one. With great food and excellent, attentive staff, it makes for a good hang-out spot for both groups and individuals by keeping things relatively simple and letting the atmosphere and food talk for themselves.