Sign in using your account with
Sequoia: Nile-Side Ramadan Buffet in Zamalek
For as long as we can remember, Zamalek’s coolest cats have forever frequented Sequoia, making it one of the most popular café-come-restaurant-come-a place to waste away hours of your day. To some extent, the opening of Left Bank has both rejuvenated and overshadowed the open-air venue, an occurrence that has seemingly thrown the owners into gung-ho mode about Ramadan – they’ve really not pulled any stops.
The colourful décor seems pedestrian at first glimpse, though once the sun has set over the sandy Cairo skyline, everything comes to life. Lamps encased in bird cages of various shapes and sizes hang with no particular design or arrangement, and the space is treated properly. It isn’t cluttered or flamboyant; its proximity to the Nile and the sky sells Sequoia better than any overly designed piece of furniture could ever do.
For Ramadan, Sequoia is offering a buffet fetar at 200LE per person. Though it was far from full at the time of our visit, reservations are recommended.
As you wait for the evening prayer call – the signal to go nuts – water and small, shot-glass-sized Ramadan drinks are brought to your table before one of the Amina K. Design-clad waiters (more on that later) calmly signals that it is time to eat.
After a day of fasting, the sight of all those stainless steel domes of food really gets the adrenaline pumping. Three separate stretches of tables hold feasting delights of all kind. Of the salads, the humous, baba ghanough and tehina were fresh and full of flavour – the perfect way to re-introduce food to your out-of-use taste buds. Other options include some slightly under-pickled Egyptian pickles and an assortment of balady-style salads.
One of said stretches is dedicated to grilled foods; kofta, chicken on the bone and shish tawouk-style chicken cubes are just a few of the options. They also happen to be the best, although take heed; once the food goes cold, which it seemed to do rather rapidly, the grilled meats become tough and lifeless.
The main section offers much more decidedly Egyptian dishes, including that old classic of kawaraa – an unholy use of bone marrow and knuckle meat from the leg of a cow. This slightly off-white, jelly-like dish is definitely an acquired taste, but with a bit of seasoning it’s truly amazing. Other notable foods included vermicelli soup that had a bit too much fat floating in it, some decent stuffed vine leaves, watered-down but garlic-strong molokheya with chicken and perfectly cooked, tender beef liver.
However, the food really falls down on its oriental desserts. Everything seemed a little stale, like it was left uncovered for too long. The only saving grace was the crème caramel, which was chilled and delicious.
The usually attentive, but often distracted, staff are dressed quite peculiarly. Designed by Cairo hotshot Amina K, their outfits consist of a classic white galabeya with colourful pocketed aprons and something that looks like a bikini top and a gun holster.
Either way, Sequioa’s fetar is adequate. The food is good, but it’s the location and ambiance that make it what it is.
During the colder months, the restaurant is covered by a huge white canopy with removable sides to provide shelter from the wind if needs be. The lighting in the evening is provided solely by giant, wooden lanterns with dancing flames that create a cosy and sophisticated ambiance.
Covering an entire half of the menu, is the large selection of drinks; hot or cold and alcoholic or non-alcoholic. After contemplating our choices, we decided on a tropical sounding Sequoia Punch (22LE) and a standard Sprite (15LE). To eat, we ordered a salami pizza (50LE) and one mixed grill (98LE) which we could only assume came with all the usual meats – there are no descriptions of the dishes on the menu.
Rightly confident enough to be named after the place, the Sequoia Punch was a delicious mixture of watermelon and peach juice and should most definitely be served in a larger glass. The pizza base was under-cooked and tasted moderately doughy, however, the flavourful salami did make up for it a little.
The mixed grill on the other hand was simple but tasty, with moist pieces of chicken, tender lamb, hearty kofta and yummy chunky chips. After we'd devoured all of this, and made a couple of queries, the sushi eventually arrived and as always, the fish was generous, fresh and delicious.
For a more personal experience, we'd suggest turning up earlier, before the crowds arrive.