Sign in using your account with
Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Café Riche: Historically Rich, Real Cappuccino
Built in 1908, Café Riche boasts a casual atmosphere laden with nostalgia and deeply entrenched with Egyptian historical significance. Long-time patrons have said that back in its bustling beginning, the café was quite the happening place for intellectuals and artists alike; mulling over endless cups of coffee as they discussed life’s philosophies and politics. Rumour also has it that in 1952, Café Riche was where Abdel Nasser’s regime planned their coup that would soon overthrow King Farouk’s rule.
With history in tow, the café itself is a historical landmark among many in the area, located between Tahrir Square and Talaat Harb Square on Talaat Harb Street. Once you scurry off the busy street and slide through its humble entrance, you’re quickly greeted by friendly staff dressed in traditional garb. Enjoy the café’s eclectic mix of patrons engaging in different activities like reading books, holding meetings, or catching up with friends.
In the narrow main corridor, local artwork lines the walls while the charming table arrangements are composed of the ever-common tiny wooden chairs, checked red and white tablecloths, and as a plus, high quality cloth napkins. Simple, glossy flower vases grace the centre top, complete with one single, fresh flower; tying in a cosy, personal touch. While an adjacent room is just next door, its green fluorescent lighting gives off a strange feel.
They offer a full-scale menu including a variety of espressos, coffees and fresh juices. While the lemon juice (10LE) wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, the cappuccino (12LE) was satisfying with a surprisingly sufficient amount of foam. The mint tea (8LE) came as a sweet arrangement of your own kettle, providing enough water for a few cups. If mint is your thing, you should be pleased; as the mint literally filled the kettle with freshness and a powerful punch of flavour. Beers are also offered, which is rare for a café, with both Stella and Heineken available for 13LE.
Salads, including your traditional Greek, run around 7LE. Chicken platters including shish tawook and similar dishes are offered.
From its historical and convenient location to the tasty, decently priced drinks, Café Riche is definitely the place to go for a relaxing drink or two with friends, or an afternoon spent reading that book you’ve been dying to finish.
Many has waxed lyrical about Shakespeare and Co. in Dubai and when news broke that it was to open in Egypt, those same people waited with bated breath – such excitement at the prospect of a restaurant even had us wondering what all the fuss was.
As the first venue to open in Sheikh Zayed’s Capital Business Park, the restaurant boasts a spacey indoor area, offering smoking and non-smoking sections, and a large cluster of tables and chairs for outdoor seating, as well as a kids’ corner.
As for the décor, well your eyes won’t get bored anytime soon. Sporting a classic Victorian look with the modern lick here and there, the design is a feast for the eyes, with looks like an endless amount of lighting fixtures and chandeliers brightening up the many different furnishings – it’s a pleasing mishmash of materials, patterns, colours and shape, though the wood-panelled ceilings is particularly novel, featuring frames and paintings of old European royalty.
Now onto the meaty stuff – firstly, the service was spot on, though the restaurant, at the time of our visit, wasn’t exactly busy; only one other group was present. Not unlike the décor, Shakespeare and Co’s menu is busy and detailed, with a special Lebanese section on offer.
Of the many appetizers, we settled on crispy calamari (39LE), while for mains, we went for a classic Cordon Bleu (80LE) and a beef tenderloin steak (130LE).
After taking our order, our water arrived promptly with a big bread basket with four different types of bread, all of which were noticeably fresh, and delicious herb and garlic butter – a perfect opening to the meal.
Our appetiser, crispy calamari (39LE), arrived soon after with lemon segments and tartar sauce. The calamari itself was under-seasoned and slightly overcooked, giving a slight pull to the bite. But with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a dash of lemon and dip into the tartar sauce, the different elements came together perfectly to make the dish the highlight of the meal.
The mains didn’t fare as well. Firstly, main dish portions are comparatively small. A beef tenderloin steak (130LE) was ordered it well done, but it came well, well, well done and had an overly charred flavour to it. The dish came with a side of potato gratin which was under-seasoned to the point of being flat in, and largely devoid of, flavour. Peculiarly, the dish also came with a garnish of wasabi – not wasabi garlic sauce, but just wasabi.
We were compelled to order the Cordon Bleu (80LE) after seeing it – and staring at it for a good ten minutes – on the Shakespeare and Co’s Facebook page. What we saw in that photo and what arrived at our table were to very different things, however. Firstly, what was meant to be a side of sautéed vegetables transpired to be one stick of broccoli, one stick of asparagus and a splattering of diced courgette – that was it. The dish also comes with a side of potato cubes and bacon bits that disappointed, too; the potato cubes lacked a desperately needed outer crunch and didn’t stand up to the flavour of the beef bacon. The main element of the dish, the chicken, was even more disappointing; the first cut into the chicken produced a river of oil and one slice of mushroom inside – no cheese as is customary – while the breaded exterior lacked crunch.
To wash it all down, we tried Shakespeare and Co’s pink lemonade (25LE) which is made at the restaurant by adding pomegranate juice and rose water – it was a resounding success, though a little heavy-handed with the rose water. For dessert, meanwhile, we went for a French classic – profiteroles (40LE). Served as three large pieces, each with ice cream sandwiched between each two halves and drizzled with chocolate sauce, tasted noticeably un-fresh, particularly the choux dough.
And so for all the hype and reputation that carried Shakespeare and Co to Cairo at the end of last year, a string of missteps throughout our meal left us disappointed and feeling that the extravagance of the décor and design was hollow.