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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.
People have raved about IKEA’s Restaurant for years. With the Swedish home furnishing giant having landed in Cairo at the end of last year, you can be sure they brought along their restaurant which occupies an entire floor at their venue in Cairo Festival City.
IKEA’s food market is known for offering Swedish (or Scandinavian) food and groceries including meatballs and salmon. The meatballs in gravy with mashed potatoes might be their most famous dish so we decided to stop by since we were in the area.
Relatively easy to get to from the inside, we took a set of escalators up to the restaurant which is spaced out like a cafeteria. The concept is interesting; customers take a tray and are served what they want from the buffet. When you’re done, you pay at the cashier. Later you can deposit you’re tray in allocated areas. The idea takes from the same corporate attributes that IKEA employ to reduce end user cost.
So we proceeded to the buffet and opted for the 15 piece portion of Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and gravy (35LE) and Herbed Grilled Chicken with Basmati Rice (39LE). We also tested out the Salmon Cake (12LE) and that's what we dug into first. Basically, it’s a ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with cooked salmon and covered in a layer of fried breading. The cake is hot on the inside and has a nice mix of textures between the tender salmon, creamy potatoes and slight crunch of breading.
While the meat balls were tasty, especially with the gravy, we couldn’t help but feel they were a little stale. It might the fact that we knew they were frozen and sent over from Sweden. The mashed potatoes were creamy and similarly complimented nicely by the gravy.
The Grilled Chicken, made with rosemary in the marinade, had a strong herby aroma and, along with its sauce, created a good harmony with the Basmati Rice, which has a herby flavour of its own.
All in all, a pleasant experience that definitely beats having to go hungry while shopping. Would we ever go there specifically for the restaurant? Unlikely; it’s too far out and there’s all of Cairo Festival City behind you with countless other restaurants. But for what it is - a decent and relatively cheap meal - it definitely works.