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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Andrea: Nile-Side Sohour on the Maadi Corniche
As one of the most famous names on Cairo’s dining scene, big things are always expected this time of year from Andrea. In Maadi, the tourist-friendly restaurant’s Nile-side branch offers Cairene’s fetar and sohour options.
With the perfect setting of the neat and quiet Maadi Corniche, sohour is a logical option for a relaxing evening by the Nile. Plus, with a 40LE minimum in place from Sunday till Wednesday (a 70LE minimum is enforced on Thursday, Friday and Saturday), Andrea is one of the few places that won’t commit you to a three-figure minimum or set menu – perfect for light eaters.
Usual service sees the boat embark on a two-hour trip through the Nile, but the staggered arrival of those looking to fill up before the next day’s fasting eliminates this, Andrea’s only redeeming quality.
Mostly populated with basic wooden tables and wicker chairs, the top deck on which Andrea is located is ‘balady’ in every sense; basic, Egyptian and more practical than it is aesthetically pleasing.
The menu includes everything you’d expect with few surprises. Overall, it’s a mixed bag. The chicken liver (25.90LE), for example, was dry and tough, whereas the falafel (7.90LE) was fantastic; hot, fresh and full of flavour, it had that perfect combination of crunchy outer shell and smooth, soft centre. The foul (9.90LE) was equally as impressive in its perfectly smooth, dare we say, velvety texture and hint of tehina.
The stuffed vine leaves (23.90LE) were stringy with little taste coming from the rice, whereas the mombar (18.90LE) – rice-stuffed intestines, yum – was one of the highlights. Fearing the casing might be chewy as can be the case, all presumptions were blown away with a dish that was light, perfectly cooked and had a surprising kick of chilli.
The classic Egyptian side of pickled eggplant (7.90LE) was equally impressive, filled and seasoned with garlic, vinegar and green pepper. For a decidedly less Egyptian choice, Andrea’s crepes aren’t half bad. Also available with sea food (24.90LE), chicken (20.90LE) and mushrooms (17.90LE), the cheese lover’s crepe (18.90LE) is perfect to fill up on; thick-layered pancakes encase hot, gooey cheese.
Drinks wise, Andrea offers classic such as tamr hendy (9.90LE), kamar el din (12.90LE) and karakdeh (9.90LE). Although they all tasted pleasingly homemade, they were loaded with obscene amounts of sugar.
The most important piece of advice we can pass upon to you is to specify your order, maybe three or four times – especially if dining in a big group. We were brought more dishes than we asked for and had to fight it out with the manager before settling the bill.
It’s those final few hours before sunrise when the venturing out for sohour starts. Though Cairo is full of restaurants, cafés, street kiosks and lavish tents offering sohour, not all of them offer the same quality of food. Located in Dokki, Safo is a basic restaurant that provides good food and extremely fast service. This place understands that your sohour must be filling enough to take you through the next day until fetar.
As soon as you take your seat, the staff will rush over to take your order. If not, just shout out for Abu Nasser; if he doesn’t come himself, someone else absolutely will. There is a menu available but it is not handed out. You are here for foul and nothing else, and it is of course is available in all varieties. There is standard foul, Alexandrian foul with olive oil, spicy foul, foul with boiled or fried eggs, and so on and so forth. Prices start at 1.25LE for a sandwich and 2.75LE for a bowl of the mashed beans. You can also order basterma with sogo’ for 2.50LE and Alexandrian liver for 3.75LE.
The foul is as good as it gets: creamy, tasty and filling. In case you have any personal preferences for your foul, the staff are more than happy to prepare it as you wish. The basterma omelettes in particular are really good. They are not excessively greasy as usual and just one omelette is not enough; you will absolutely be craving another one. The tehina and baba ghanough are just so-so. Both lacked taste, and the baba ghanough was a bit too sour for our liking. The solution here is to mix it with the foul, the combination makes it a bit more interesting.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the only downside to having sohour at Safo is the constant stream of cars driving right by the terrace, which often causes quarrels between the drivers and the restaurant’s patrons. Also, kindly note that as soon as you are finished with your meal, you are expected to leave immediately, as other people will be eager to take over your spot.
When in the Dokki neighbourhood and starving for sohour; absolutely go to Safo. You will not be disappointed.
Overly-familiar treatment by staff. We’re not your friends, buddy – we’re your customers.
Andrea will host live oriental music every weekend this Ramadan.