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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Bread Basket: Staple Cairo Bakery Chain Still Standing Strong in Zamalek
Over the past few years, the island of Zamalek has seen 26th of July Street sprout numerous restaurants and cafes. Standing strong against the plethora of new competitors is Bread Basket – a staple of bakeries and cafes in Cairo. The completely glass front reveals a stylish layout; two rows of high tables and stools look out onto the busy street and are perfectly positioned for some serious people watching. The bare brick walls coupled with the black and white furniture, gives the small 'food emporium' a particularly urban feel.
We marched up to the glass counter at the back and were greeted by rows of doughnuts (5LE-8LE), mini and large, savoury and sweet croissants (3.5LE-11LE), muffins (4LE/8LE), biscuits (6LE-9.50LE/100g), pizza pieces (11LE/13LE) and chocolate chip cake loaves (25LE). An assortment of bread loaves can be found all over the place, including rye bread (19LE), malt grain (25LE), burger buns (2.50LE), French baguettes (6.50LE) and toast (11LE/12.50LE). Catering bread or sandwich baskets – serving between four and six people – can be prepared with 24-hours notice (45LE-140LE).
As well as ready-made products, Bread Basket also offers cooked breakfasts (22LE-44LE), omelettes (20.50LE-28LE), muesli with yoghurt and honey (20LE) or a French breakfast (49LE), complete with a selection of mini pastries. Their salad (23LE-40LE) and sandwich selection (17LE-45LE) are nicely varied, with the choice of the bread, the filling and several extras.
To eat, we picked a chicken mayo sandwich on olive ciabatta (32.45LE), a jam doughnut (8LE) and a cinnamon croissant (8.50LE). The sandwich was prepared quickly in their back room and was fairly disappointing; despite the occasional tasty chunk of black olive, the bread was otherwise dry and certainly less than extraordinary. The chicken mayo mixture was also incredibly dry, made worse with a stingy helping of mayonnaise.
Thankfully, the cinnamon croissant was an improvement, with a crispy outer shell and a generous filling of sweet cinnamon – we'd recommend the croissant was heated a little before eating though. The best of the three, however, was the soft, airy jam doughnut; covered in sugar and filled with smooth and sweet apricot jam, which made for a welcome change to the usual standard strawberry filling.
Their drinks menu is also vast, with plenty of hot and cold drinks; coffees (11.50LE-17LE), teas (7LE/8LE) and espressos as well as iced coffees (9LE-18.50LE), smoothies (20LE), milkshakes (19.50LE) and fresh juices (11LE-13LE). We picked up a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice (12LE), which was neither too sweet nor too bitter, sporting just the right amount of orange pulp.
Although the sandwich wasn't up to par, we're sure the friendly staff would have corrected it had we made a fuss. On the other hand, we'd highly recommend their sweet pastries and would most probably return in the morning in order to sample their fresh batches of bread, as well as their tasty sounding breakfasts, whilst watching the world go by.
With Brew & Chew satisfying the cravings of Maadi residents, and Dip n Dip spreading their fantastic desserts in New Cairo, Nasr City and 6 of October City, the sweet-toothed of Zamalek can be forgiven for feeling a little neglected – that is until now. Chocolate by name, chocolaty by nature, Joe’s Chocolate Bar on Taha Hussein Street could be the answer to every chocaholic’s dreams.
As a venue, Joe’s Chocolate Bar is divided into two floors; the top floor has nothing remarkable about it but allows smoking, while the ground floor is where the ‘chocolate is. Besides the melted chocolate-like decoration on the wall (which is installed upside down, so instead looks like chocolate waves) the calm lighting and wood walls create a relaxing and cosy ambiance to the place.
The items on the menu are limited and nothing grabbed our attention, but we opted for the Molten Chocolate Cake (47LE), Triple Chocolate Crepe (41LE) and their new special item – as the waiter was so keen to mention – Oreo Waffle (49LE).
The molten chocolate cake had a bold chocolate flavour and a very moist texture; the gooey centre had a fantastic pudding-like consistency, which shows that it was cooked to perfection and, overall, the dessert had a spot-on sweetness. On the other hand, we would have preferred that the ice cream was served separately, because the hot temperature of cake melted it quickly and made the top of the cake rather soggy.
The triple chocolate crepe was just as good, meanwhile; coming as three thin, light and fluffy triangular servings, each one was filled with a generous amount of melted milk chocolate, and drizzled with white, milk, and dark chocolate. We also asked for fruit (10LE) on the side which consists of mini cubes of kiwi, bananas, and strawberries, and it was surprisingly fresh even though it’s not strawberry season yet.
As for the Oreo waffle, we expected nothing more than a waffle with crushed Oreo on top, but, impressively, the waffle itself had an actual layer of Oreo in the middle. Despite the waffles needing a little more milk chocolate on top and being a bit chewy, they were largely soft with a slightly crispy exterior, and the flavour of the Oreo popped in every single bite.
Joe’s Chocolate Bar definitely impressed with their well-executed desserts and big flavours, but we felt that the variety on the menu is too safe and a bit limited for a dessert specialist. We’d very happily come back for the molten chocolate cake, though.