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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Begum: New Indian Restaurant in Maadi
First taking Zamalek by storm, Indian restaurant Nawab has spread its wings and made its way over to Maadi. Located on Road 276, down the street from Red Onion, Begum comes as a treat for Maadi residents who now don’t need to go far for an affordable and tasty Indian meal.
When it comes to atmosphere, Begum lacks it as opposed to its counterpart in Zamalek. Begum was considerably empty, to the extent that we began to wonder whether the restaurant was actually open or if it was still in the furbishing phase.
Begum has the same menu as Nawab; specialising in dishes from North India and the Mughlai area. At the beginning of the menu there is a small introduction explaining the selected name; it turns out that Nawab was a famous Indian ruler and Begum was his wife.
The menu is pretty extensive and it’s easy to get lost in. The shami kebab (34LE) starter consists of two ground lamb patties with mint and while they were full of flavour, the consistency was a bit crumbly and it was on the dry side – a lot of sauce was needed to make up for that.
In general, when choosing a main, you select a dish and then decide on what the meat will be; for example fish, chicken, lamb or vegetables if you don’t eat meat.
A masala dish (65LE) consists of a rich tomato based sauce and we chose to have it with chunks of lamb; the sauce was nice and it came in a generous portion, but we found it a bit too spicy. The lamb had some fat on it as well which didn’t make it more enjoyable. The curry dish (45LE), chosen with fish, consisted of diced white fish and a mix of curry with yoghurt. The fish meat was fried well and the sauce was tasty but it could have been a bit creamier.
The best part about Begum was their delicious naans. The garlic naan (9LE) was drenched in butter and garlic and gave an extra tangy pop when eaten with the curry. The butter naan (9LE) was delicious as well, but if you are inexperienced with the Indian kitchen it is best of to stick with the plain naan (7LE) because there is a lot of ghee used in the dishes; if your stomach is not up to that you might have a very unpleasant evening.
Though the food at Begum is good it doesn’t match up to its Zamalek counterpart - yet.
From Moroccan cuisine specialist, La Palmeraie, and iconic Oriental grill, El Kebabgy, to Le Deck’s Two Michelin star chef-crafted menu, any new restaurant opening at Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah has a lot to live up to. With new Indian restaurant, Manipuri, however, let’s just say that it might be even better than its neighbours.
As soon as we stepped inside Manipuri, we found ourselves in a huge, symmetrical, low-ceiling waiting area with LED lights on the floor leading us to a spacious lobby-like interior of the restaurant. From the table topped with an Indian statue surrounded by jars of legumes, to the humongous sweeping staricase, we felt like we were about to attend Aladdin and Jasmine’s wedding. Divided into two floors, the top floor is dedicated to the bar – which opens at 9PM - while the dining area is on the ground floor, with seats placed exclusively next to the curtained wall which overlooks a great view of the Nile.
While checking out the menu, we were welcomed with a very light and refreshing Mango Yogurt drink infused with a hint of pomegranate syrup, as well as a bowl of nacho-shaped Papadums with sides of exquisite apple chutney and pickled lemon. The complimentary items left us even more excited for what was to come.
With a huge variety on the menu, we felt a bit overwhelmed and lost, before eventually opting for Murg Kadhai (120LE) and Jhagi Lamb Chops (160LE) as our mains.
Boasting boneless chicken swimming in tomato gravy infused with sautéed onions and red, yellow and green bell pepper, the Murg Kadhai was a flawless dish. The chicken was very tender, the tomato gravy was seasoned to perfection and had a fantastic thick consistency which coated the chicken perfectly, while the spiciness of the dish was balanced by the sweetness of the bell peppers and onions.
The Jhagi lamb chops, meanwhile, had a delicious marinade which consists of ginger and coriander, and was served with splashes of three different sauces: coriander, mango ginger and a sauce that was very similar to sweet tamarind chutney. Despite that the lamb being a bit tough, it was bursting with flavours which were further complimented by the coriander sauce, while the mango ginger and the tamarind chutney-like sauce added sweetness to the dish.
We also ordered a side Garlic Naan (15LE) and of Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani (120LE) to share, because, well, what’s an Indian dinner without biryani and naan bread?
The light and fluffy basmati rice was infused with saffron and other aromatic spices and mixed with big chunks of tender boneless chicken, nuts, fine julienne cuts of ginger and a side of spicy tomato gravy and yogurt sauce. We expected the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani to be a side for our mains, but it could easily be a main on its own, but we enjoyed the extra flavours from perfect match of the spicy tomato gravy and the yogurt sauce.
Meanwhile, the garlic naan came in four pieces of buttery slices with a delicate garlic flavour, perfectly crispy edges and that chewy texture you look for in naan bread.
We finished our meal with Hot Gulab Jamun (50LE) for dessert. This classic south Asian dessert is served in an ice cream glass cup filled with saffron syrup, two sweet milk dumplings, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and walnuts. Overall, the sweetness of the dessert was spot-on; the dumplings had that cake-like texture, the walnuts added an occasional crunch and the saffron syrup gave the dessert a terrific aroma.
This was one of the few times were we upset that the meal had ended. Manipuri certainly impressed with its to-die-for flavours, unique and quiet ambiance, crowd-pleasing dishes and excellent value for money. Considering we paid a total of 590LE for all of the above, not only is this one of the best Indian restaurants in Cairo, but it’s also one of the cheapest at a top hotel.