Sign in using your account with
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!
There’s nothing quite like the warmth of an authentic Egyptian dinner brewing in a kitchen. It’s a complex, almost ethereal, equation that many Cairo restaurants have tried to replicate and the latest to do so is La Fandi in Maadi.
The small venue is located in the dining complex, the Courtyard, houses a total of ten tables and has found its home in a cosy corner, where it’s managed to cultivate an even cosier atmosphere, drawing on 1960s Egypt for inspiration. Small touches like an old-timey radio, mason jars of pickled vegetables and old-school wooden chairs, tables and chairs hit the spot.
Like all cafes and restaurants at the Courtyard, La Fandi has outdoor and indoor seating arrangements, separated by the restaurant’s glass front.
At the time of our visit, two staff members were holding the fort, both of whom were more than welcoming. The menu is a little more intricate than one might assume, offering breakfast (till 11AM), a rather enticing selections of appetisers – referred to as na2na2a, or ‘snacking’ – as well as traditional Egyptian sandwiches and some creative hawawshi variations.
From the appetisers, we ordered some potato wedges with a special ‘Egyptian seasoning’ (10LE), an Alexandrian liver sandwich in saj bread (33LE), a roasted eggplant, tomato and arugula sandwich (15LE) and, most interestingly of all, hawawshi with pickled lemon (30LE).
The food took no less than 30 minutes to arrive, which is a little on get than you’d expect when considering the straightforward build of the each item; however, the staff assured us that the long waiting time is down to the fact that everything is made from scratch – including the bread.
Everything arrived wrapped nicely – fast-food style – and labelled. We dived into the potato wedges first, which were crispy and golden on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside, the special seasoning was more of a dressing, made up of tehina and sesame seeds, which all came together perfectly.
The hawawshi was next on our radar and it too was a little different to the traditional hawawshi you get elsewhere. The meat was noticeably fresh, lean and with next-to-no-fat, leaving the pickled lemon to still the proverbial show. The Alexandrian liver sandwich was just as successful, meanwhile; the liver was noticeably fresh and, unlike many similar sandwiches that see the peppers and the seasoning dominate the overall flavour, it was full of flavour. Not everything was perfect, though; the roasted eggplant was rather off. The eggplant itself was devoid of any flavour – to the extent that we opened up to sandwich to make sure – to find one slice of it, with the addition of mozzarella cheese. Though we welcome all and any creativity in food, the tomatoes clashed with the rest of the ingredients and, overall, it was really under-seasoned.
The modern spin on classic Egyptian food has been done many times over the last few years to mixed success; La Fandi follows suit to a certain extent, but largely plays within the box of the country’s traditional foods. This is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness, but overall, we’d have no qualms in returning for a quick na2na2a, so to speak.