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Sidi Abdel Rahman, Alexandria, Egypt.
Andrea: North Coast Grills for the Summer
With the original restaurant open in the Marrioteya area of Haram, the owners of Andrea have always liked to maintain a presence on the North Coast - inside the Haciendas compound near Sidi Abdel Rahman to be precise.
The restaurant, revered by the majority of Egyptians, has been serving grilled chicken dishes, traditional salads and mezzas for over 20 years. Its staple Egyptian cuisine and rustic décor has always managed to appeal to a range of tastes - both locals and tourists. Driving up to Haciendas, the entrance to the restaurant is on the outside of the gates, just up a slope. Walking in, you go up a flight of stairs made of uneven rock that’s surrounded by greenery. To the right, you will find ladies sitting cross-legged, baking fresh loaves, and onwards you go to enter the seating area.
An outdoor space, the design of the Andrea is simple yet equally edgy. Bright, almost neon, colours adorn the walls and canvas sheets make up the ceiling. Tables are set up on different floor levels, flowers and greenery fill in the spaces. There’s an earthiness to the approach that is pleasing on the eye and welcoming.
A pretty direct menu of appetisers that includes dishes such as chicken livers, vine leaves, kofta and cold dips, the main courses are essentially chicken ones: half a grilled chicken, boneless chicken and shish tawouk - other meats are available but upon special request. Starting with a baladi salad (10LE), we also ordered tehina (8LE), kofta, vine leaves, yoghurt (8LE) and sambousak to begin. The salad was fresh with a nice amount of dressing; it goes very well with some tehina and their warm baladi bread. The sambousak was fantastic with a crispy shell and an oozing soft cheese centre. The kofta was well seasoned, though they would have been nicer had they been slightly crispy on the outside. The vine leaves were also good but come with meat inside in case this is not your thing.
While we munched on our starters, the boneless chicken (50LE) was served to us from a bigger plate carrying other grilled items. We were promised French fries with the chicken and were disappointed not to get any, however we did get a taste from the ones served with the kofta which were homemade and full of taste. The chicken itself was delicious in flavour and perfectly cooked, but for a ‘boneless’ dish, it sadly had quite a few cartilage and small bones that needed to be avoided.
Andrea serves beer which adds to the ambience of a relaxed outdoor meal after a day by the beach. Their dessert menu remains simple; you have the choice between a watermelon slice or ice cream.
The service at Andrea is generally alert and efficient, despite the fact that we needed to ask for the tehina several times. If you are a frequent customer, all the better, because then you can call out to the staff by name, and will probably even be greeted by owner Omar Rateb himself.
Reliable, dependable and consistent; Andrea is also good because of its value for money. For three people, a full meal and several beers, the bill was just shy of 400LE.
With plenty of new restaurants opening as fast as lightning and raising the bar for fine dining in Cairo, the interest in fast food venues is waning – even burger and pizza places are putting more focus on being gourmet. But, located on Zamalek’s busy 26th of July Street, roasted chicken specialist, Chick Shack, proves that the fast food concept is still popular in Cairo.
Not to be confused in any way with popular American chain, Shake Shack, the eatery’s name attracted some negative attention, but it all played into its publicity. The name is where the similarities end, though; Chick Shack stands out with a unique interior and playful vibe of its own. Some of its standout features include its ringed chandelier, an interesting choice of cold colours and a wall made of A-Treat soda boxes, not to mention the quirky staff uniforms made-up of buttoned-to-the-top shirts, grey trousers, suspenders and hats that Michael Jackson would have been proud of.
The menu is quite simple, with roasted chicken as the main attraction, though other items include Lasagna (34LE), Potato Wedges (8LE), or Tropical Salad (18LE) and can work as side dishes.
We started our meal with Shack Salad (28.50LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went with Half Chicken Meal (55LE) and Chicken Cannelloni (27LE).
A mixture of grilled chicken, green apple cubes, corn, bell pepper, pomegranate and mayo dressing, the Shack Salad was an interesting concoction. We loved the tart taste from the green apple which worked well with the pomegranate and the sweet-corn, but the chicken itself was overcooked and very tough.
Now, let's move to what we actually came for: roasted chicken. Served with sautéed vegetables which had a remarkable garlicky flavour and possibly the best spicy basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and bursting with Mexican spices, the roasted chicken was well-marinated and had a zesty flavour which popped in every single bite. However, the chicken itself was a little bit undercooked but definitely not raw, and even though it was very tasty, the skin wasn’t as crispy as we would've hoped.
We were worried about the ready-to-serve Chicken Cannelloni, but it was surprisingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and peppers which had flavours similar to fajitas, the cannelloni was well-cooked and had a generous amount of cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sloppy presentation aside, the cannelloni made for a great vehicle for the chicken.
Overall, there was little to complain about at Chick Shack. The venue stands out as one of the healthier fast food places in Cairo; one that also boasts fantastic service, great staff and a friendly atmosphere. The only downside is that there are no desserts to speak of – but with the concept built on a ready-to-serve approach, maybe a soft serve ice cream machine would be a perfect fit. But that’s just us.