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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Felfela: Traditional and Tasty Egyptian
If you’re looking for a flavourful, traditional several-course Egyptian meal that won’t cost you an arm and a leg but is nonetheless a step above most hole-in-the-wall eateries in the area, Felfela’s sit-down restaurant is the place to go. The perfect spot for those that appreciate a diverse menu in a casual atmosphere, Felfela is often dismissed as a tourist haunt by many but nothing beats its quality food and very reasonable prices.
Step inside away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Cairo and you’re bound to start chanting ‘Serenity Now’ like it’s your mantra. The interior has bubbling fish tanks on one side of the entrance, and a comfortable dining area made of dark wood and an ornately carved wooden ceiling. Large, potted hanging plants are arranged throughout the venue, and for some odd reason a life-size wooden statue greets visitors at the door; it seems a bit silly but still makes for a charming atmosphere.
It’s best to stick to the basics at Felfela. Ordering any combination of oriental salads is a great way to whet your appetite; and the baba ghanoug and tehina dishes are especially delicious. Different kinds of bread tend to be served on each visit; so it’s recommended that you request your preferred kind, whether it’s soft pita, baladi or toast. The waiters are happy to warm the dipping bread for you if you ask.
In general, the service is good; though it slows to a near halt whenever the restaurant traffic gets heavy.
If you want to play it safe, hamburgers and some pasta dishes are available but undoubtedly the best dishes are the foul Eskanderani (Alexandria-style fava beans), kebda Eskanderani (Alexandria-style liver) and last, but certainly not least, the molokheya or ‘green mallow stew’, as the menu reads. The latter is thick, slightly sticky and compliments a simple plate of rice, French fries or chicken. The tagine dishes are also worth trying; they’re more Egyptian than Moroccan cuisine but nonetheless tasty. Beware of the foul with tehina, though; previous diners have found that the tehina drowns the foul’s flavour. A small selection of beer and wine is also available with your meal.
It may be known as a tourist attraction, but Felfela does offer a solid meal and a nice option for some sit-down foul and taameya.
While many restaurants in Cairo open to great fanfare and hype, it's the test of time that often sends the unsuccessful off to restaurant heaven - being inconsistent is the Cairo's most consistent trait.
Powered by Amer Group, Studio Masr has built quite a reputation over the years and has expanded to over fifteen branches, even including a couple abroad.
But there’s one location in particular that remains somewhat special. The Nile City Boat branch located in Zamalek boasts both a great view and a special mixture of kitsch and Oriental memorabilia.
While most of the Nile-side boat venues are pretty crowded on weekends, we decided to have a midweek lunch, opting to sit in their open air terrace-like area, especially in between seasons when there’s just the right amount of sun and breeze.
The menu hasn’t changed much over the years, offering standard Oriental cuisine and grills including kebab, kofta, veal, lamb and chicken, as well as tagens and appetisers.
Feeling particularly hungry we decided we would order a couple of mezzas, Hummus with Meat and Pine Nuts (32LE) and Chicken Liver with Garlic and Lemon Sauce (32LE), as well as the Studio Masr Grill Shawaya for two (160LE).
This kind of cuisine isn’t generally served very fast, so it was no surprise it took upwards of thirty minutes to arrive.
The appetizess arrived first accompanied by fresh bread baskets. The Hummus was smooth and freshly made rather than canned. The meat was hot off the skillet and the pine nuts were roasted with the meat..
Similarly, the Chicken Liver was nice and zesty and, along with the fresh warm bread, left us eager for more food.
The Studio Masr Grill (160LE), featuring Kebab, Kofta, Veal Cutlets or Lamb Chops, Chicken Breasts and Shish Tawook, was a very decent in portion for two. While the seasoning was delicious all around, the kebab, veal cutlets and chicken breasts were slightly overcooked.
The all-around experience was pretty good, if unspectacular. With a pleasant atmosphere in both this and most of its branches, plus food that needs no market education and that Egyptians love, it’s no surprise a restaurant like Studio Masr has flourished so well over the last few years.