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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
L' Aroma: Homely Heliopolis Café
Whatever the occasion, typical outings tend to revolve around the multitude of restaurants and cafés in Cairo, with well-known chains being particularly favourable. One such café, L'Aroma, located on Al-Maza Street, has long been a staple among Heliopolis locals. Well known for fresh pastries and decadent desserts, L'Aroma's menu has expanded to serve not only basic hot and cold beverages, but wraps, Paninis, sandwiches, pasta, soups and salads.
The interior is spacious and the tables are arranged in a way to maintain a level of privacy for each group of diners. Warm lighting and a climate controlling humidifier greatly contribute to the intimate, cosy vibe. A tiled walkway between rich wooden flooring allows direct access to both the barista counter and display case at the beginning. We noticed that many of L'Aroma's patrons were study groups.
From the vast selection of drinks, we decided on an Italian cappuccino (12.50LE), original freddoccino (22LE), Irish cream latte (18LE) and a caffe Americano (10LE). For food, we opted for one turkey and basil Panini (28LE), a brownie (10LE) and a sugar and jam doughnut (6.75LE). Unfortunately, the hot drinks were nothing out of the ordinary and the freddoccino was not only flavourless, but diluted due to the melting ice which was not crushed finely enough to drink through the straw. The turkey and basil Panini was carelessly put together, with stale, artificial-tasting ingredients. After hearing many good things about the brownie, we were sorely disappointed at its dry consistency. Sadly, the sugar and jam doughnut did nothing to curb our sugar cravings either, and was saturated with the taste of sweeteners.
Dissatisfied with our selections, we asked the waiter what he would recommend in the future and it appeared we would have been better off ordering either the club sandwich or pasta.
After a far from extraordinary experience, we left L'Aroma somewhat heavyhearted; only the attentive staff and the relaxing ambience would give us reason to revisit.
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!