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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.
A true foodie can find food wherever they go; but only finding good food is what requires digging on the forever unpredictable restaurant scene. After a long shopping spree in New Cairo, we headed over to IKEA’s restaurant on the store's second floor at Cairo Festival City.
Designed to look like a cafeteria, IKEA’s restaurant has a simple grab-a-tray-stand-in-queue setting, introducing a huge variety of simple meals, snacks and drinks for those who want to have simple readymade meals on display.
Eager to try out as many as we can get hands on, we opted for an assortment of appetisers comprised of vegetable spring rolls, chicken tenders and kebbah (2L-3LE per piece) and as our mains, we went for two classic Swedish dishes; the Swedish meatballs (34LE) and salmon lasagne (48LE).
After having a little too much fun mixing soft drinks together at the soft drinks machine (15LE for refillable cup) –and embarrassing ourselves in front of everyone – we were ready to eat.
Starting with the appetisers, the spring rolls had a flaky crust, soft from the inside, but were largely mediocre in taste; the mix of vegetables only came together for a generic veggie flavour, with nothing really standing out. The chicken tenders, on the other hand, had the crunch but were very dry and not completely fresh, while the kebbah was stuffed with juicy minced beef and had a light crispy crust on the outside. Overall, the appetisers were well cooked but they felt more of frozen food which didn’t have any unique flavours.
With flavourful gravy but a rather mushy texture, our meatballs had a mediocre taste and were not packing the meaty flavour we'd hoped for; the mashed potatoes were delightful nonetheless. The salmon lasagne, however, was our favourite. Perfectly cooked and loaded with creamy béchamel sauce, the dish was the best kind of rich, with the spinach adding a fresh flavour and colour. As for the salmon, it was generous, fresh, aromatic and incredibly moist.
For dessert, we ordered what turned out to be a mouth-watering almond chocolate tart (20LE). With multiple layers, including almond crust, custard and whipped cream, IKEA’s tart will make you drool. The almond crust worked really well with the custard, the whipped cream lightened the sweetness and that last layer of melted Daim chocolate full of crunchy caramel almond bits was perfect; it was the best choice we made all day and we include the aformentioned shopping spree in that.
We also came across IKEA’s fast food station selling shawerma and hot dogs; yes, we were full, but we couldn’t possibly leave without having some chicken shawerma (11LE) on the go and a soft ice cream cone (5LE).
Served in Lebanese bread instead of the popular Syrian saj, the chicken was full of flavours; the garlic mayo was light and worked really well with the pickled cucumbers, while we loved how the lettuce gave the overall taste a fresh element. The ice cream cone, meanwhile, was creamy smooth, creamy and the consistency was perfect.
Perhaps the lack of authentic Swedish dishes – especially with the appetisers – was rather disappointing but overall, eating at IKEA’s restaurant isn't as strange as many would have you believe; yes, you're essentially eating at a department store, but the prices are quite reasonable and the atmosphere is as quirky as the shop's reputation.