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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Sea Horse Club: Nile-Side Fetar Buffet in Maadi
In a city like Cairo, open fetar buffets are sought out by hungry fasters; its the feeling of choice and freedom that does it . There is, of course, a downside if it happens to be crowded and your access to food hindered. Either way, we decided to take our chances and check out what the Sea Horse Club buffet in Maadi had to offer.
The well-known restaurant is located on the Maadi Corniche, just before the flyover, across from Nile Badrawi Hospital. Looking very similar to a club, the restaurant is extended along the Nile, with several different seating areas. The main area is closest to the waterfront, while other seating spots are available to the side and are covered, slightly further away from the water and elevated. Walking in, we were hit with the fresh smell of baked balady bread being prepared on the spot.
Making reservation is easy and can be done on the same day by phone. The full meal costs 125LE per person and you need to be there a mere 15 minutes before eating time. The place is festive with Ramadan-themed decor and music creating a welcoming atmosphere. Sea Horse Club is very family appropriate and is also suitable for large groups or events such as an annual office fetar; it is particularly pleasant at sunset when the colours of the Nile come to life.
The buffet consisted of a range of salads and cold mezzas such as fattoush salad, vine leaves and sambousak; the soup offered was cream of chicken with vermicelli. Other available dishes were rice with cinnamon and liver, basmati rice with curry, stuffed vegetables, lasagne, eggplant casserole, as well as a variety of grilled meats. The food was tasty and enjoyable; the vine leaves in particular were good and we appreciated the shift in cuisines by offering lasagne. However, despite the vast selection and endless choices there was nothing very special or original about the buffet.
Turning our attention to the dessert display, we found the oven-made mahalabeya to be great and the zalabya was exceptional. There was a choice of fruit which included watermelon and cantaloupe but we wished there had been a wider selection.
The meal includes a single Ramadan drink and a small bottle of water, so if you wish to have a cup of tea or a Coke after your meal, you will have to pay for it separately.
Sea Horse Club has been around for years and their location by the Nile is ideal, but the price of the meal is a little high for what they offer in terms of food and service. That being said, we have no regrets in choosing this restaurant for fetar.
Good seafood restaurants in Cairo are hard to find, particularly ones so close to one of the Seven Wonders of the World; the Great Pyramids of Giza. Making the most of their proximity and, as a result, their incredible pyramid view, Caviar boasts full length windows across its entire front side making it a tempting tourist trap.
The décor is typically Egyptian; golden hieroglyphics and scenes of ancient times are spread across one wall, whilst vintage photographs of Egypt are pasted onto several rectangular pillars. Dark marble surfaces and green foliage add to the old-fashioned feel of the restaurant.
Being the only couple amongst two large parties of tourists, we were given a choice of tables but were soon forgotten about. We reminded the waiter that we needed some menus before scouring their wide variety of seafood dishes; seafood soups (30LE), hot and cold appetisers (35LE-50LE), salads (40-45LE), fish fillets, pastas (55LE-65LE) and risottos (35LE-45LE).
The drinks menu is small but adequate, boasting fresh juices (20LE), smoothies (20-25LE), sodas (15LE) and a selection of hot drinks (15LE). We indulged in one Florida smoothie (25LE) and a non-alcoholic mojito (20LE). Both were deliciously fresh; the Florida smoothie was thick with large, real fruit pieces, whilst the mojito was sweet and smooth but lacked any sort of soda, essentially turning it into a standard lemon and mint juice.
To start, we opted for some shrimp fingers with a cocktail dip (35LE) before moving onto a shrimp risotto (40LE) and Cotoletta bolognese fillet (80LE).
We wouldn’t have minded about the long wait that we endured had we been given a bread basket or even a bottle of water to help pass the time. After we requested a large bottle of mineral water (20LE), the waiter simply placed it on the table, unopened.
All the food eventually appeared together, with the shrimp fingers arriving without any cocktail sauce. After reminding the staff, the sauce soon materialised, but was instead a creamy, delectable tartar dip; a switch we didn’t mind too much.
The shrimp fingers looked a little like kofta but were much softer, spongy and on the tasty side of interesting. The risotto was the best of the dishes with al dante, sticky rice, rolled in a flavourful tomato sauce with a subtle, shrimp aftertaste. Unfortunately though, we only found four small shrimp in the entire serving.
The Cotoletta bolognese fillet turned out to be several pieces of deep-fried battered fish, topped with a tiny amount of melted mozzarella and far too many sesame seeds. Despite the fish itself having a melt in the mouth texture, the batter was soggy and the whole thing tasted of little else other than oil. It was served with a side of chewy calamari and undercooked mushrooms in a tasteless white sauce.
Other than being so close to the Great Pyramids that you can almost touch them, our visit didn't yield value for money in terms of either the service or food. They've got their juices and risottos just about right though.