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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.
Koshary, foul, taameya are the foods most synonymous with Egypt, but rarely does anyone bring up feteer – a classic Egyptian dish that can be traced back for many generations. With several versions covering sweet and savoury, as well as the traditional Feteer Meshaltet, restaurants who focus on Feteer can target a very wide audience and get creative.
In Maadi, one such eatery by the name of Feteera can be found on Road 233. With one man behind the counter both taking orders and preparing them, the restaurant itself is tiny, meaning eating-in isn’t exactly the most comfortable of experience.
But feteer is a food best eaten at home where you can get messy without the judgemental eyes of fellow diners. The menu features both feteer and pizza, alongside the Rocket Menu – feteer wrapped into a sandwich.
We opted for a Minced Meat Rocket (15LE) and an Alexandrian Sausage Rocket (15LE), as well as an Alexandrian Hawawshi (15LE).
Serving time was quick and the Rocket Feteer consisted of three wraps per order in Styrofoam plates. Using feteer essentially as bread is an obvious but novel use of it, but the stuffing itself did little to help either sandwich. Firstly, because it was so scarce, and secondly, the meats – especially the minced beef – were overcooked to gaminess. In addition, the feteer itself was greasy and soggy.
The Hawawshi, which we originally thought was just a Rocket stuffing, turned out to be a full sized hawawshi with a peculiar non-bread but also non-feteer dough. Whatever this hawawshi was trying to be, it missed the mark entirely, thanks primarily, once again, to overcooked meet.
While Feteera’s creative use of feteer is commendable, the fetter itself didn’t impress, often being far too greasy. Another factor that undermined the food is the overcooked meet that, when combined with disappointing feteer, didn’t leave much to enjoy. There’s always a danger when meddling with a classic – especially when the fundamentals aren’t executed correctly. The biggest problem with Feteera, ultimately, is that behind the innovative variations, the feteer itself left much to be desired, so anything built on top of that is doomed to fall short.