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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!
Unlike so many of the international hotels in Cairo, the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah bucks the trend of its competitors’ inability to sustain quality and consistency in their food and beverage outlets. The hotel has it all, offering Cairenes options for nightlife in the form of Buddha Bar, one of the best swimming pool day-use options in the city, the extravegant So Spa, and even a swanky salon. These facilities, however, are just a prelude to the delights that await you at the hotel’s restaurants – namely, El Kebabgy.
Located right along the banks of the Nile, seating is predominantly assembled as an outdoor space, giving diners a pretty spectacular, if windy, view. The restaurant is often busy, so making reservations is highly recommended, lest you be left waiting beside the clay bread ovens and be teased by the wholesome aroma.
There’s nothing too complicated about dining at El Kebabgy; though the menu is pretty ample, you absolutely cannot visit this place and not go for the mixed grill (125LE). But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
No Oriental meal is complete without a spread of cold mezza (40LE) and El Kebabgy goes all out with hommos, tehina, baba ghanough, taboula, fattoush and spiced cheese, all with a bottomless basket of freshly made balady bread. Dipping at the fresh dishes makes for a great way to get the old enzymes going, though unfortunately, tomeya is not included and comes as a separate dish for 20LE. It is, however, in no uncertain terms, well worth the extra money; it’s the perfect accompaniment to the restaurant’s grilled meats.
Said grilled meats come sizzling on rather kitsch charcoal grills, where diners can continue the cooking process as they please. Chicken, kofta, kabab and lamb chops come as part of this magnificent package, and all are succulent, tender and full of flavour – just be weary of leaving it on the grill for too long. Outside of the mixed grill, the grilled veal liver (65LE) is an absolute must. If you can get the grilling right, you’re in for a treat; it comes in very generous portions and you’ll feel like you’re digging into a big meaty steak.
The only downside to our last visit was the service. Overwhelmed, slow and generally hateful of their lives, the staff members have a way of making you feel like you’ve offended them in some way; in a restaurant that feeds all the senses, it really does make a difference to the overall dining experience.
Thankfully, however, these shortcomings are not severe enough to diminish the crux of an evening of wining and dining at El Kebabgy; the food.