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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.
There’s an intangible charm in simply walking through the roads and winding alleys of Downtown and Old Cairo that many simply become smitten with. It’s a charm that is becoming rarer and rarer around Egypt’s capital, but one that Cairenes have also become more appreciative of in the last few years. In Maadi, hidden restaurant, Harah 9, uses that as an inspiration and tries to recreate the feel of 1930s Cairo.
As soon as you step in, you will find the decoration of boxes engraved with stones, colourful carpets and antique wooden furniture will take you back to an Egyptian cafe from the 1930’s complete with a courtyard as well as two floors of indoor seating.
The interior reflects this mood using colourful carpets and antique – possibly faux antique – wooden furniture.
The menu is primarily built on classic Egyptian dishes and offers the likes of Kabab, Kofta, Tarb, Fattah and Molokhiya. We opted for Sambousak (25LE) from the appetisers as well as well as a Moza with Rice Casserole (85LE) and an order of Kofta and Veal Chops (100LE) for our mains.
We began our culinary exploration with a couple of drinks; a classic Lemon and Mint (20LE), a basic Orange Juice (22LE) and a slightly more peculiar Lemon and Kiwi (22LE). All three were noticeably fresh, with the lemon and kiwi being a particularly tasty combination.
Moving onto the food, we found the Sambousak to be fresh, hot and quite tasty, retaining just the right amount of crunch you would want it to. The Moza Casserole featured delicious seasoned rice, although you can have Fattah instead; unfortunately, the meat was cooked a little unevenly and left us in a game of Russian roulette.
The Kofta and Veal Chops, meanwhile, are served with your choice of rice, fries or vegetables. The Kofta was fantastic; cooked and seasoned to perfection, there was little to complain about. However, the Veal Chops didn not fare as well; they were extremely fatty and, essentially, difficult to eat.
For dessert, we wanted to try the Crème Brûlée, but we were told it was unavailable. Shelving our disappointment at testing the kitchen’s mettle at what is a notoriously tricky dish to pull off, we instead opted the gluttonous-sounding Sweet Potato with Caramel Sauce (30LE). Served in a cup with whipped cream, the dessert was hot and every bit as sweet and delicious as you’d expect. In fact, it was just as good when it became cold.
Harah 9’s staff were incredibly friendly – and patient to our indecisions and questions – and despite some faults with the foods, we left feeling satisfied with the dishes. As a whole, though, Harah 9’s decor and ambiance lends it better to being a cafe or hang-out spot..