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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Nola: More Cupcakes in Cairo, Hurrah!
Here’s yet another reason why living in Zamalek is awesome if you have a sweet tooth! Located on the always busy Brazil Street just off of 26th of July Street is Nola, a quaint and elegant little cupcake shop with charming decor and sweet desserts. Though it’s definitely not the first pastry shop in Zamalek to sell cupcakes (you’ve got Loolie’s and Sugar N Spice in walking distance), it is the first to devote itself entirely and completely to cupcakes.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit, the cupcakes are sold in two sizes, a tiny bite-size and a large size, which– quite honestly– is not as large as we had hoped it would be. The cupcakes are arranged in a glass display shelf on one side of the shop, while the other side holds a chalkboard with the menu list written out in coloured chalk. Nola’s interior is painted in Robin’s Egg blue with elegant floor tiles, white chandeliers and two white high-top tables in the centre for you to wait at while your order is being prepared.
The upper level is completely devoted to the in-house oven and baking section, where a new batch of cupcakes is consistently being baked. So, if they’ve run out of your favourite flavour; be sure to ask when their next batch will be ready: it could be a matter of minutes.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit; the following cupcake flavours were available: chocolate, peanut butter, blueberry, apple, vanilla, carrot, coconut, red velvet and lemon meringue. Prices range from 8.50LE for the vanilla cupcake all the way up to 12LE for the quite extravagant chocolate cupcake.
The cupcakes are all so prettily arranged and decorated; you almost feel bad taking your first bite. Biting into the little treat, you’ll find that the cake’s texture is lovely and chewy with just the right consistency of fluffiness. In some cases such as the vanilla (8.50LE) and carrot cupcakes (11LE), the icing is just a little too creamy; as we prefer ours to be thick and heavy.
Some flavours are also a little too vague; it was difficult to figure out if our cupcake sample was carrot or banana, especially since the cake itself tasted more like banana cake and the icing had too much butter. The lemon meringue (11LE) and coconut cupcakes (9LE) brought interesting twists to the traditional flavours, but while they were sweet and pretty; they were nothing special to write home about.
The red velvet (10.50LE) is decorated with a picturesque, fluffy cake texture, though its cream cheese icing overpowers the cake’s flavour. The chocolate cupcake (12LE) has a rich, creamy chocolate icing that complements the rich chocolate cake.
All in all, the cupcakes at Nola are sweet, pretty and daintily decorated: they’re the perfect gift to bring to a ladies’ afternoon tea or an elegant birthday party. Their moderate sizes and so-so flavours stop them from becoming our all-time favourite desserts in Cairo; but since this is only the shop’s opening week, we see great potential in Nola’s future.
Downtown Cairo’s Talaat Harb Mall isn’t the trendiest place in town, but is overflowing with outlets and all the cafes and restaurants in are situated on the ground floor. Our latest trip was to a cosy little café called Shahrzad. The name, of course, comes from the famous 1001Nights.
With its loud Arabic music, warm colours and dim lighting, Shahrzad Café possesses both the atmosphere of a bar and a café entwined. It’s quite small and dainty inside and actually looks more interesting from a distance, yet all in all the venue is a pleasantly comfortable one with a tantalising drinks menu.
Whether it’s hot drinks, cold drinks or a deliciously sweet cocktail, Shahrzad’s menu provides it all. We ordered Strawberry Juice at (13.75LE); Turkish Coffee (8.50LE) and a Shahrzad Cocktail (14.75LE) which was an interesting mix mixture of kiwi, banana milk and vanilla ice cream.
Firstly the strawberry juice tasted incredibly fresh and contained chunky strawberry pieces; the glass was generously sized too. The Turkish coffee was strong and robust just – as it should be – yet the Shahrzad cocktail, though generously sized and looking quite delicious, wasn’t as enjoyable as anticipated; the sweetness of the banana milk and vanilla ice-cream just didn’t go down well with the sourness of the kiwi. However, overall the prices aren’t bad.
There’s a vast range of drinks to try, however, and the list of cocktails kept us entertained with their unusual names and bizarre mixes, like the Romeo and Juliet; a mixture of mango; banana milk and banana pieces. They also offer canned drinks though these are expensive compared to outside: popular non-alcoholic malt beverage, Byril, costs 10.75LE, while soft drinks are sold at a typically high 9.75LE.
Desserts are available too, though they’re primarily different flavours of ice cream mixed with fruit or topped with chocolate sauce: the famous Banana Split, which is three scoops of vanilla ice cream, banana slices topped with chocolate sauce, is available for 20.75LE.
The final page of the menu consists of shisha and, being reeled in by the exotic flavours, we opted to try the strawberry flavour at a very reasonable 9.25LE as well as the cocktail flavour which cost a rather high 20.75LE. In the context of other places that serve shisha, they aren’t bad prices, but both tasted of a similarly generic fruitiness and were pretty indistinguishable from each other.
When the cheque arrived, we had been charged for a bottle of water we hadn’t opened. To the waiter’s credit, he quickly deducted the item – but make sure to revise your cheque nonetheless. There’s little here that will truly wow you, but Shahrzad offers a pleasant menu and comfortable atmosphere with decent prices.