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Anfoushi, Alexandria, Egypt.
The Greek Club: Seafood in Alexandria With A Great View
To many Cairenes, a trip to Alexandria during the winter season is a very popular weekend option. More or less, Cairene tourists follow the same basic formula in Alexandria: fish, a walk on the Corniche and a visit to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
When it comes to fish; trying to figure out the best seafood restaurant in Alexandria is rather pointless: every Alexandrian seafood connoisseur (i.e. pretty much the entire population) has a favourite restaurant, and everyone strongly believes that their favourite restaurant is better than anyone else's. Avoid the heated debate; and head out to the Greek Club to decide for yourself.
Blessed with a sublime view of the Alexandrian port on one side and the Qaitbay fort on the other, the Greek Club’s terrace is one of the most popular dining destinations in this tiny town of nine million. You’d better be a regular customer or book in advance, though; the terrace is extremely popular and fully booked on weekends. In the summer, you can enjoy a cool breeze outside and watch the small sailing boats racing in the marina, while the winter brings out the much-appreciated oil heaters.
The restaurant’s interior is decorated in a rather harried mixture of Greek and seafood memorabilia. A large open freezer on the left side has the fish of the day arranged, while a chalkboard sign next to it carries the restaurant’s recommendations. A wine basket on your right subtly suggests that alcohol is available.
Once you’ve been seated at your wooden table decked in baby-blue cloth, you will be served a basket carrying fresh, hot white bread. Resist the urge to gorge yourself on the tasty bread; and save it for the restaurant’s best appetisers (starting at 15LE): the Greek salad is zingy and tasty, with thyme leaves complementing the feta cheese cubes; the tehina is suitably creamy and not too thick; and their taramah is especially delectable. This Greek dip of creamy fish roe is so good; many regulars come here just for this salty delight.
If you don’t mind crunching on baby fish; try the bessaria, which are coated in flour and deep-fried, and can be easily chewed and swallowed whole if you’re not the queasy type. Also try the breaded and fried calamari, which come nicely hot with a side of lemon wedges, though the healthier grilled option is equally popular. Another favourite is the grilled octopus; so try all three and decide for yourself.
The restaurant makes a great presentation of your seafood platter: a large fish (try the Wa’aar) is presented on a glass plate with potatoes and lemon slices arranged around it. The waiter expertly prepares every plate at the table with a perfect portion of the still-steaming fish meat. The side dishes of brown rice are often neglected as you will likely stuffed yourself full with dips and bread; so share a plate with the rest of your party.
If the heavy seafood meal has sent you into a sulphur-induced coma, we recommend a cup of tea or their lemon juice. Opt out of the dessert, and head two blocks down to the Azza ice cream stall nearby. Take a walk along the pier outside and try a cup of hot black tea from one of the street stalls for a truly enjoyable Alexandrian experience.
The Greek Club is an excellent option for out-of-towners, business guests and relatives that you want to impress. An average meal with shared appetisers and main courses as well as a drink will probably average at 150LE per person.
Over the last year or so, new restaurants in Cairo have been introducing more and more exotic cuisines to the dining scene, be it Mongolian or even Peruvian with a Japanese twist, leaving classic favourites like Italian and Asian last week’s news. However, recently opened restaurant, Akli, has gone against the tide and specialises in not only one cuisine, but six, across everything from soups to desserts.
Located off Meccas Street in Dokki, Akli is divided into two zones; the ground floor, which has a exposed glass-wall baking room and shawerma station that wasn’t working at the time of our visit, is made for take-out orders, while the top floor is for dining-in. Besides the unfinished ceiling – which doesn’t seem like it will be finished because the AC duct has already been installed - the interior of the restaurant is on the classic side, with olive green, traditional panelled walls behind ruby buttoned couches. The setup of its tables is also pretty basic, but it actually has a cheerful view of a mini garden. If we were to compare it to another restaurant, Akli has the same spirit of everyone’s favourite, Bon Appetit.
Now let’s talk about the food. Our first flight was to Italy with Spicy Arancini Di Manzo (25LE). Starting from the spot-on creamy texture and the scrumptious golden brown crust, to the melted mozzarella cheese and minced beef, which was bursting with Italian herbs flavours, those four fried Italian rice balls were rather tasty.
Our second stop was at our beloved country with Sojouk (42LE). Lying on a bed of chopped parsley in true 90’s style, the grilled sausage was seasoned well, but it was a bit tough and dry. Overall, though, the appetiser seemed incomplete and needed some kind of a sauce or a dip with it.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Greek Shrimp Saganaki (120LE). Made of perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp in tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, the dish was a good one, but it wasn’t Saganaki. There was too little cheese to the flavour and the tomato sauce didn’t have any Greek flavours and tasted like Egyptian vegetable stew. One the other hand, the side of lemon rice added a good zesty flavour to the dish.
We also tried Adana Kebab (89LE) from the Turkish side of the menu. Two pieces of kofta laying on Lebanese bread and served with tahini dip and basmati rice topped with nuts, the dish didn’t capture anything particularly Turkish. Although the kofta was seasoned well and the rice was light and fluffy, the dish was overpriced – it’s almost exactly the same as Shawarmaister’s Kofta Halabi Platter which costs 45LE.
We finished our meal with the French Nougat Glace (27LE) for dessert; a rectangular slice of flawless vanilla ice cream filled with mini bits of pistachio and dried fruits. It was served with sour cherry syrup with a very sticky consistency, but the dessert as a whole was light and well executed.
There’s something about what Akli is trying to do that you can’t help but appreciate – but it’s not an easy job to perfect six different cuisines in one kitchen. The ambiance of the restaurant will take you back in time when you used to dine in a sporting club with the family and the food was, overall, good but there’s nothing remarkable about it.