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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.
When we think of comfort food, our minds usually go to a place where pastas, pizzas and burgers rule – which might explain why we have endless burger joints and Italian restaurants in Cairo. Caruso’s American Cafe fuses those two things – burgers and pizza. It’s an idea that could be a solution to world peace, but sadly it was “nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
Newly open at Galleria Moon Valley in Heliopolis, Caruso’s is divided into two areas; the indoor space is pretty small and feels like a kitchen with wooden units hung on the wall. Besides the seemingly out of place French windows used in the facade of the cafe, the outdoor area didn’t have anything special to it – just a simple generic seating arrangement.
We started our meal with Chilli Cheese Fries (30LE) as an appetiser, but only because the rest of the appetisers weren’t available at the time of our visit. The fries were cooked-well, but the cheddar cheese didn’t melt enough and the Texas chilli wasn’t really Texas chilli, as it had red beans in it – Texas chilli is all about the beef and spices. This was just the beginning of what was a pretty disastrous meal.
We then ordered the Bacon Cheese Pizza Burger (65LE); served with fries and coleslaw, it’s made up of a beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, a slice of cheese and a little bit too much of their special sauce – which had a strong mayo flavour – all filled between two mini pizzas. The concept of mini pizzas as a bun is great, but the dough was thick and chewy and the pizza sauce didn’t work at all with the ‘special sauce’. The beef patty on its own, meanwhile, didn’t have any remarkable flavours and was slightly overcooked. You can’t eat it without making a mess and it dishonoured the great legacies of the pizza and the burger.
We also tried the Skyline Hot Dog (43LE), which is topped with chilli, an unnoticeable amount of shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, peppers and tomatoes. Suffering the same problems as the chilli cheese fries, the spices in the chilli were overwhelming and the cheese didn’t melt, making us wonder what was so special as to make it the signature hotdog, as mentioned in the menu.
Sadly, we had higher expectations for Caruso’s rather un-American Cafe, but the service was poor, the digital tablet menu was very slow (what’s wrong with printed menus?) and a lot of items were unavailable, including all desserts. The pizza burger might have worked as a publicity stunt, but the biggest problem is the confused identity; the food may seem American on paper, but it certainly isn’t American in flavour.