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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Garden Promenade Cafe: Great Outdoors, Poor Food
Like taking a Felucca or dining on Andrea’s chicken, the Zamalek Marriott’s garden café is just one of the Cairene staples that everyone must experience at some point in their lives. The garden café is also an excellent place to take your out-of-towner friends to if you want to impress them while basking in the glorious June sun.
Open all week long from 7AM till 1AM, the Marriott garden (or Promenade Café as the hotel calls it) becomes a bustling hotspot on Fridays and Saturdays around brunch time. Considering it’s just one of three venues in Zamalek that provide open-air seating (other than Coffee Bean& Tea Leaf and Sequoia) and the only one in a green and breezy garden, the café is pretty much the undisputed king of outdoor, lazy weekend brunches in Zamalek. It’s a lot of fun to sit and people-watch; and you’re sure to spot a few celebrities and public figures on a good day.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the food is mediocre and far too expensive for its quality. The spinach omelette (a whopping 59LE) was so bad; we barely finished our second bite. If you’re feeling fabulously generous, the continental gentlemen’s breakfast (95LE) includes fresh juice, eggs, muffins and toast. If you’re minding your waistline, the low-calorie breakfast (also 95LE) offers a rather bland selection of cereal, skimmed milk, fruit and whole-wheat toast.
Sandwiches are just as expensive as their selection of pastas, all ranging between 65LE and 80LE. The grilled tuna salad (105LE) is the sole bright spot on their menu: the tuna is actually tuna steak and grilled well, a rare feat in Cairo.
The cheapest items on the menu are the pizzas (around 55LE), which are quite poor. The fact that the verde pizza needed massive amounts of ketchup to be eaten is a strong indication of how terrible it is.
Service can be quite slow on busy days, and waiters may stroll past you while avoiding eye contact or hearing your calls for help. A pizza and a juice will easily cost just under 90LE, while a cup of juice and a small water bottle will set you back 40LE.
Nonetheless, this café is more about the atmosphere and the open air than the food or service. With June weather in full swing; it’s great to find a cool breeze in an aesthetically pleasing location. If you’re yearning for a full-blown continental breakfast, we highly recommend the buffet breakfast at Omar’s Café inside the hotel.
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!