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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.
While restaurants in Cairo open in all corners of the city, there continues to be a concentration of creative, original eateries at the city’s many shopping malls. One such example is Chef’s Market, located in the new Mosaique Dining area of Heliopolis’ Citystars.
The spacious venue is split into three stylish seating areas, with bare brick walls and contemporary-chic decorations overlooking an open kitchen area. One of the brains behind the operation is Wessam Masoud, who aside from being a notable chef, is also host of Kitchen 101 on CBC.
His experience in gastronomy is reflected in the menu; complex and varied, the dishes - and the general mis-en-scene - are inspired by the bustling food markets that are a cornerstone of cooking with our Mediterranean neighbours.
The menu is concise, firmly emphasising quality over quantity, and offers salads and appetisers, along with a selection of beef, poultry and seafood dishes. Fresh juices and hot drinks are also available, along with two types of desserts – as we highly recommend the freshly squeezed tangerine juice (21LE).
The herring, shrimp and roasted beetroot salad (48LE) was fresh, flavourful and overall delicious. Served in a deep bowl, the beetroot was diced along with cuts of cucumber on a bed of lettuce. The herring was plentiful, along with three fresh shrimp, drizzled with a light lemon dressing. Though it’s rare to find dishes across Cairo’s restaurants that use beetroot with anything other than feta cheese, the sweetness of the vegetable balanced the seafood elements perfectly, maintaining both the integrity of the herring and the shrimp.
From the beef section we opted for the tenderloin steak (96LE); perfectly cooked cuts of beef that really did have a melt-in-your-mouth quality. Wrapped in strips of beef bacon and sweet caramelised onions, a remarkably well-suited lemon dressing added a dash of acidity. Served on the side was a portion of spinach and chickpeas, along with a freshly baked potato and zesty pickled tomatoes.
At the recommendation of the waiter, we also enjoyed the unusual pairing of duck breast with fereek and red pepper relish (70LE). The cuts of duck were cooked perfectly – a rarity in Cairo – and the fereek was infused with aromatic spices that made a great canvas for the red pepper relish.
After our meal we were served a complimentary dessert of heavenly custard topped with konafa crumbs, cinnamon and raisins; this signature dessert has mustered quite a reputation, with patrons coming from all over Cairo to Citystars just to enjoy it.
The idea of dining at a mall conjures up images of noisy food-courts and the location doesn’t exactly work in the restaurant’s favour. But despite this, Chef’s Market has exceeded all the expectations its ambitious team set forth on what has been a long, hard, but ultimately fruitful, road.