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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.
Is there no end to new restaurants in Cairo? Feteera opened at the beginning of March and like many of the brand new eateries which pop up out of nowhere in Zamalek, it looks to be a hip joint from the outside. However, Fateera avoids being pretentious; its walls may be adorned with indie pop art images, but its main feature is a huge stone oven at the back – which, far from being a mere gimmick, turned out to be a wonder when it comes to cooking pies.
In Egypt, feteera can translate into anything from ‘pie' or 'pancake' to 'pizza' – balady-style – so those new to the dish may be curious as to what they'll receive. Although the menu reads ‘pie’, the selection of toppings suggests pizza, and as we waited for our ‘feteera’ to arrive we were further perplexed as we watched the chef sculpt the dough into an assortment of shapes, looking suspiciously like a pancake.
On offer from Feteera’s menu are vegetarian, cheese, seafood and chicken or meat dishes, plus additional toppings which are available for between 2LE-11LE.We ordered a Chicken and Pesto Pie (52LE) and a Mushroom Roll (25LE).
When the food arrived, it was piping hot, but we were still none-the-wiser about what to call it. We can best describe it as a crispy pancake stuffed with pizza-style fillings, so the best word for this creation may indeed be: pie. The Chicken and Pesto Pie was creamy and delicious, offering a good balance of flavour with plenty of chicken to fill the 12 inch dish. The pastry was cooked beautifully and formed a light flakey casing for the chewy cheesy center. Slightly worrying were the grease stains left at the bottom of the dish and after our cutlery failed to live up to the job, using our fingers to eat the pie turned out to be messy business.
The roll was a crispy pancake wrap, such as to rival Lebanon’s manouche. It contained roasted peppers, which despite not having been specified on the menu were a warming addition to what was otherwise a very plain snack. The mushrooms were slightly undercooked and hadn’t properly infused with the other flavours and despite the encouraging chunks of garlic and olives, all were tasteless. The roll proved to be too doughy and plain, losing all its taste despite the crunchy chewy texture we bit into at first boded well.
For dessert we treated ourselves to the Mars wrap (28LE) and a Banana and Peanut Butter wrap (29LE). Feteera could have been more generous with the amount of chocolate but the peanut butter and banana combination was a triumph, if we do say so ourselves. It tasted buttery and soft, filled with just the right amount of ripe banana.
Though feteer with toppings is nothing new, this Egyptian pie house gets the thumbs up from us for bringing a traditional Egyptian dish up to date, allowing diners to fill up on an authentic dish with a modern Zamalek twist.
Two can eat for under 100LE as long as no drinks are