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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Goal Café: Zamalek Shisha With Nile View
Goal café is a cult favourite, where people-watching along the tree-lined street becomes a true spectator’s sport. Some call the slightly gritty café charming, and many call it a home away from home. The most popular pastime here is shisha and tawla, and you can usually spot a table or two of regulars who look like they have been frequenting this spot for decades, hunkered over tea and some rowdy conversation. The café requires a 30LE minimum, and as its name insinuates, is the perfect place to catch a match on one of their indoor TV screens, if you arrive early enough to beat the crowds. Shisha includes the standard flavours of mint, apple, grape, cantaloupe and a few specials, and for 10LE to 13LE, and meals costing only slightly higher, an hour or so spent with friends is well worth it.
Since Goal has its set crowd of regulars and steady influx of newcomers here on holiday, the staff don't have to work too hard to please the customers, and service can be shoddy if you're not recognized. Still, in such a laid-back atmosphere, it should inspire few complaints.
Late summer evenings are busiest, when people come out from daytime hiding to enjoy the somewhat cooler night air. Order an assortment of sandwiches, French fries and anything you dare from the very handled-looking menus, which may not have been updated for as long as some people have been coming here. The fajita sandwich is pretty standard and satisfying fast food fare, and the club sandwich is a sizeable snack, neither which should put you much over the required 30LE-minimum charge.
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!