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Zooba: New Zamalek Restaurant Making Egyptian Food Trendy
Your daily doses of foul, taameya and koshary are found on pretty much every street corner in the city; in Zamalek though, they are a bit more difficult to come across because of all the sushi restaurants, cupcake shops and whatnot taking over. But there is good news for all out there who are craving typical, wholesome, Egyptian food in Zamalek. Newly opened Zooba, located on 26th of July Street, is possibly the hippest local food outlet ever.
Zooba, right next to Café Mex, is easy to spot with its bright blue doors and lovely display of flowers and plants. Zooba’s logo has two birds sitting together underneath an umbrella and can even be found on the tree in front of the shop. The restaurant has the coolest design we have seen in a long time –best described as ‘balady chic’. There is a self-serve fridge to the left as soon as you enter; in true Egyptian style Zooba only has water and fresh juices. Juice wise, you can choose from exciting mixes such as strawberry basil (12LE) and mango rosemary (13LE) that are packaged in delightful bottles. In the fridge there are also salads in shakers, such as lentil salad (13LE), or pick up some foul sprouts (5.50LE) or termis (5.50LE) to go. You can also pick up jars of olive labna (22LE), coriander besara (16LE) or tomato besara (16LE). At the other end of the shop is a counter with a selection of koshary, roasted sweet potato and soup. There are cute baskets you can use to collect your goodies in and while Zooba is essentially a take away place, you are welcome to take a seat at the community table if you prefer to eat there.
All the food at Zooba is prepared fresh and right in front of you. Feeling excited, we decided to go all out and try the beef kibda (28LE), hawashi (14LE), a large koshary (17LE), taameya (17LE), foul with tahina (15.50LE), lentil soup (11LE) and fried potatoes (4.50LE). All the food comes in funky coloured packaging with the name written in Arabic and English. The lentil soup came with baladi bread croutons and was deliciously creamy and tasted fresh and homemade. The koshary was delicious too and we managed to finish the entire bowl even though it was huge. The foul with tehina was tasty with a rich consistency; it was enjoyable but we did feel the tehina flavour was a bit lost. The taameya was very impressive; they weren’t over fried and the inside was soft and perfectly moist. The best thing though, without a doubt, was the hawashi. The meat was excellently grilled with perfect seasoning; the bread around the meat had the right amount of grease and we couldn’t help but order a second portion. The fried potatoes came in a newspaper cone, just like they have them in any local market.
The bread at Zooba is also worthy of a mention; apart from the regular bread they also have some that is baked with spinach or beetroot, giving each a green or red colour, respectively. We ended our dinner with roasted sweet potato that comes filled with equally roasted marshmallows (6LE) and as we expected, you can’t go wrong anything that contains marshmallows.
Everything about Zooba charmed us; the food is great, the staff is friendly and helpful, even the bathroom design is appealing with hilarious bucket-shaped sink and a mirrored wall inside the toilet. There is also good news for people with allergies, as the menus specify whether a meal contains dairy or nuts. Every detail at Zooba has been taken care of and we absolutely love them for that. Bravo!
Whilst most of the newer restaurants in Cairo claim to serve up authentic Egyptian meals, nothing quite compares to the delights of longstanding, local koshary establishments. Downtown Cairo is packed with cheap and delicious koshary restaurants with fast, friendly service where you can opt to dine in or take away.
Building up an almost unrivalled reputation, just two blocks from Tahrir Square, Abou Tarek’s restaurant is spread over two floors; a necessity due to its popularity and bustle.
However, the décor is a little more flamboyant than most koshary outlets, with artificial greenery and several large, tropical fish tanks, tempting customers to sit and eat. Downstairs, there’s also a television if you like a little entertainment while you dine.
The generous bowls of koshary start from as little as 3LE, though it is possible to purchase a range of sizes for just a few pounds more. For 10LE, big eaters will be afforded a humungous portion. Of course, no koshary meal would be complete without the essential garlic dressing, da'a, and chilli sauce, both of which Abou Tarek do fantastically.
There is also a small range of canned drinks (4LE) and mineral water (2LE) to wash down that delightful meal.
We waited less than five minutes for two bowls of delicious koshary which werw not only served quickly, but also with a smile from the locals who run the establishment – just another one of the special, very vital ingredients that really do make a difference.
Though koshary is the main focus, should you have room for dessert, sweet, creamy rice pudding is amongst the options, and cost a mere 3LE per serving.
Serving some of the best-tasting koshary in the heart of Downtown Cairo, Abou Tarek has once again proved to be a must-go for all koshary fans.