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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Arabica: Comfort for the Young at Heart
On the corner of the intersection between Marashly and Ahmet Heshmet Streets in Zamalek lies the inviting Arabica Café. The café’s bare entrance carries a few books, hanging lamps and a narrow staircase that leads to a funky lounge area upstairs.
In fact, one might be discouraged from climbing the creaky stairs with random crayon artwork hanging on the walls. However, it is worth the climb.
This café couldn’t be more charming: its décor is somewhat rough and sparse with a colourful paint job, in addition to well-spaced and varied seating. The café’s interior offers a style to suit everyone– high espresso tables, low tables for studying, benches, bar-seating, window-seats, and everything in between.
Once you do sit; you’ll notice another inviting feature– tablecloths are rolls of blank paper and cups of crayons are awaiting you to personalise your space. Now the random drawings above the stairs make sense!
Food options are quite nicely varied and everything we sampled was tasty. An omelette with bresaola and fresh mushrooms was small and slightly overcooked; but it’s nonetheless a satisfying snack with toast. The fried goat’s cheese salad with added avocado was large but pricey at almost 40LE (10LE for the extra avocado alone.)
Drinks were also on the expensive side, though a virgin Mary at 12LE was affordable and unexpectedly refreshing and spicy, made with fresh tomatoes instead of canned juice or Clamato– disappointing for some, delightful for us. We chose the tropical storm at 17LE because it contained coconut juice; but it tasted less tropical and more like a regular mix of strawberry and banana.
For dessert, we had the cream and strawberry jam ‘house’ fiteer, which was hearty, tasty and hard to finish– perfect comfort food to finish the meal.
The café has interesting lighting, mini-vintage posters on the warm red walls, knick-knacks on shelves, flat-screen TVs and a nice magazine collection. Arabica is almost always packed with students working on laptops or chatting over coffee, making for a lively and cosy place to enjoy a pleasant evening in if you need a break from your own living room.
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!