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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.
Over the last few years, Lebanese cuisine has continued to take over Cairo’s dining scene at a rapid rate, owing to Egyptian’s love of regional variations of Oriental food. Unfortunately, there’s little outside of that and the standard western cuisines that are rife. That’s why we were immediately taken aback by Yerevan - an Armenian restaurant.
Located on the ground floor in phase two of Heliopolis shopping mall, Citystars, the venue has a simple and casual elegance with neutral colours melding in with dark woods and touches of colour that do a good job from taking you away from the hustle of the mall. Going into the restaurant, we noticed the wood oven where all their bread and pastries are baked.
After going through the menu, we realised that, although Armenian cuisine is similar Lebanese, every dish had a significant twist to it. Despite every Armenian word on the menu being translated, we still had to turn to the helpful staff for guidance. From the appetisers we opted for the Armenian Vine Leaves (35LE), the Armenian Makanek (43LE) and the Mix Mouajanat (40LE).
We were first served some complimentary delicious Baba Ghanoug dip with steaming freshly baked bread. The appetisers then followed shortly after, starting with the cold vine leaves, which were moist and topped with some pomegranate seeds, giving them a sweet taste. Smothered in a perfect sweet pomegranate sauce, the Armenian Maknek, meanwhile, was outstanding and was complimented perfectly by the warm bread. The Mix Moujanat was an array of minced meat kebbeh and pastries including cheese puffs, Pastrami Cheese rolls and Armenian Hats.
Said pastries were all made of fresh tasty dough and a cheesy filling with the Armenian Hats standing out thanks to a stuffing mixture of cheese, olives, onions and spicy sauce topped with yet more pomegranate seeds.
We also tried the Mixed Shawerma (55LE), Mante (70LE) and Fishne Kufte (87LE). The friendly waiters promptly brought the mains after we were done with the appetisers. The Shawerma Plate came as four small sandwiches stuffed with chicken, beef, cheese and soujouk served with French fries and mouth-watering tomeya. The stuffing of the sandwiches was succulent which made up for the dry and slightly burnt bread.
The Mante, a traditional Armenian dish, came as small pastry shells stuffed with minced meat, drenched in tomato garlic sauce and topped with yoghurt. The sauce and the minced meat stuffing were very well seasoned, though the shells themselves were slightly dry and chewy. The Kufte plate featured four pieces of round kofta meat on a bead of crunchy bread bits with Fishne sauce – an Armenian yoghurt sumac sauce – but unfortunately, the over-cooked kofta pieces brought the dish down.
However, the appetisers were markedly better than the mains and the portions of the former are relatively small. All in all, though, Yerevan’s – and Armenian cuisine’s – middle ground of providing discerning Cairene diners familiar dishes with unfamiliar twists suggests that the restaurant should do well and is a unique edition to Citystars.