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Mokattam, Cairo, Egypt.
Andrea: A Cairene Classic
Andrea Mokattam is spacious, and subsequently ideal for large parties whether for families, birthdays or other occasions. Far from pretentious or full of airs and graces, this restaurant is casual and laid back; jeans and T-shirt being more than appropriate.
With a play area for kids it’s fair to say that families with younger children will appreciate these special features for instant entertainment and distraction for the young ones, giving parents the opportunity to relax, chit chat and enjoy a nice meal out. Be warned the noise can reach high levels and put you off your meal if you’re not in the mood to hear screeching and screaming from the play area. Part of the restaurant is open air as well, which is a nice departure from the design of many restaurants in the city.
If you’re used to the non-existent service provided at the other infamous Haram Andrea, you’ll be glad to hear the waiters at this particular branch are miles better. They actually do serve you without forcing you to resort to threatening action, and they go about their job with a smile. Many joke around with the patrons, make you feel at home, don’t compromise their service and get the job done efficiently. A word of caution though, if the place is packed—which is usually the case on the weekend—you might have to brace yourself for slow service.
The red beets, tomeya, tahina as well as most other mezzas are simply delicious, especially when eaten with the piping hot, freshly baked eish baladi . Servings are ample, but if you’re visiting Andrea in a large group order two or three of everything just to keep everyone smiling and satisfied. The stuffed vine leaves are nothing to write home about, the chicken liver, calamari, and grilled chicken with crisp and salty French fries are quite up to par. A specialty of theirs and one that you’ll be hard pressed to find equally as good anywhere else is the grilled quail—if you’ve never tried this bird, now’s a good time as any.
Driving up Mokattam’s winding road may not be most people’s cup of tea and is something of a trek, but it’s worth it for the change of scenery and guaranteed quality food in a fun atmosphere. The bill will also be modest enough that you can spurge on a night out on the town afterwards, guilt free.
With plenty of new restaurants opening as fast as lightning and raising the bar for fine dining in Cairo, the interest in fast food venues is waning – even burger and pizza places are putting more focus on being gourmet. But, located on Zamalek’s busy 26th of July Street, roasted chicken specialist, Chick Shack, proves that the fast food concept is still popular in Cairo.
Not to be confused in any way with popular American chain, Shake Shack, the eatery’s name attracted some negative attention, but it all played into its publicity. The name is where the similarities end, though; Chick Shack stands out with a unique interior and playful vibe of its own. Some of its standout features include its ringed chandelier, an interesting choice of cold colours and a wall made of A-Treat soda boxes, not to mention the quirky staff uniforms made-up of buttoned-to-the-top shirts, grey trousers, suspenders and hats that Michael Jackson would have been proud of.
The menu is quite simple, with roasted chicken as the main attraction, though other items include Lasagna (34LE), Potato Wedges (8LE), or Tropical Salad (18LE) and can work as side dishes.
We started our meal with Shack Salad (28.50LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went with Half Chicken Meal (55LE) and Chicken Cannelloni (27LE).
A mixture of grilled chicken, green apple cubes, corn, bell pepper, pomegranate and mayo dressing, the Shack Salad was an interesting concoction. We loved the tart taste from the green apple which worked well with the pomegranate and the sweet-corn, but the chicken itself was overcooked and very tough.
Now, let's move to what we actually came for: roasted chicken. Served with sautéed vegetables which had a remarkable garlicky flavour and possibly the best spicy basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and bursting with Mexican spices, the roasted chicken was well-marinated and had a zesty flavour which popped in every single bite. However, the chicken itself was a little bit undercooked but definitely not raw, and even though it was very tasty, the skin wasn’t as crispy as we would've hoped.
We were worried about the ready-to-serve Chicken Cannelloni, but it was surprisingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and peppers which had flavours similar to fajitas, the cannelloni was well-cooked and had a generous amount of cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sloppy presentation aside, the cannelloni made for a great vehicle for the chicken.
Overall, there was little to complain about at Chick Shack. The venue stands out as one of the healthier fast food places in Cairo; one that also boasts fantastic service, great staff and a friendly atmosphere. The only downside is that there are no desserts to speak of – but with the concept built on a ready-to-serve approach, maybe a soft serve ice cream machine would be a perfect fit. But that’s just us.