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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Sea Gull: Reasonably Priced Seafood, Excellent Mezzas
One of the many excellent restaurants catering to Cairo’s lovers of all things fishy, Sea Gull is not to be missed. Situated on the Nile side of the Agouza Corniche, the seafood restaurant is very large, with row upon row of long rectangular tables almost right on the Nile. Sea Gull has sections for both indoor and outdoor dining; the latter is particularly recommended if the weather is nice or if you want to smoke a shisha. With a place this large in size; you don’t need to make reservations.
Seafood restaurants in Cairo often have the best salads and mezzas, and Sea Gull is no exception. Our company ordered a full selection of salads to keep us busy before the main course, and we were thrilled with the quality. The baba ghanoush and the tomeya are beyond excellent, as is the tehina. Everything else was accompanied by large loaves of piping hot baladi bread and left us deeply impressed as well.
At Sea Gull, you select your main course from a display of different fish on ice. The attendant (who appears to be the chef that prepares the fish as well) is particularly helpful with recommendations to assist you in selecting from the bewildering array of fresh fish and shellfish.
We ordered a selection of grilled mullet (boory in Arabic) and sea bass (aroos in Arabic), in addition to a kilogram of fried shrimp, and we waited for the feast to begin. We were not disappointed; the fish was obviously very fresh, and the seasoning was just perfect, while the shrimp was divine. Fried in a crispy batter, it is definitely not to be missed.
The only drawback to the restaurant (even though this drawback depends on your perspective), is that Sea Gull is a very family-oriented place. In Cairo, this means that children will be running amuck all over the place. This is great if you have kids of your own or you are with a bunch of friends just out to eat, but it can be a disadvantage if you’re with more intimate company or having a business meal, for example.
Nonetheless, Sea Gull is definitely recommended. A pleasant surprise occurred when we asked for the check. There were four of us although only three actually ate (the fourth member of our company had shisha and a beer), and the check came out to around 700 LE, which is not too bad for a high-quality seafood restaurant in Cairo; considering that our order included a kilo of shrimp.
If you’re familiar with the Egyptian dining scene, you’ll know that sustainability is not really our strong point – quality is hit and miss, and sometimes even restaurants that have solid reputations and have been around for ages can disappoint. Case in point: if you’re a regular Gouna dinner, you may find yourself disappointed with what’s offered these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised – and relieved – to discover that the Smokery at El Gouna Yacht Club lives up to its billing.
Located towards the far end of Abu Tig Marina (on the opposite side of the new Marina to Mori Sushi, et al), the Smokery is situated right next to the marina’s lighthouse, so of course we chose to sit outdoors and admire the view despite the sweltering August heat. Craving something cold and salty, we completely bypassed their mise-en-bouche selection (35LE to 250LE) of cheese bites and fried seafood nibbles, and we went straight for their Salmon Fiesta; a selection of salmon bites including chunks of raw salmon steak, smoked salmon wraps and salmon sushi wrapped in seaweed. By the time we’d finished this generous dish and the tasty smoked fish dip they’d brought along with breadsticks, we all stared at each other in dismay. We were full. And we hadn’t even got to the main course yet.
Ignoring our stomachs and better judgement, we continued forth, and not ones to break with tradition, we ordered more salmon mains: the grilled salmon steak served with veggie nicoise and basil (around 140LE), the salmon carpaccio (85LE) and, for a change, the shrimp tempura. By this point, we were honestly frothing at the mouth from overeating, but you could hardly blame us: the salmon was so delicious and astoundingly fresh, we realised that all the other salmons we’d ever had now paled in comparison. If anything, we found that we could happily eat the Smokery salmon raw or smoked, with barely any garnish or side dishes necessarily.
Not ones to give up easily or wisely, we ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we spooned – groaning at the effort – into our tired mouths. Despite the suffocating heat, the hot chocolate was a welcome change to the salmon, although the portion could have been better. Yes, despite eating ourselves sick, the chocolate could have been bigger.
With impeccable, attentive service and a lovely outdoor setting, the Smokery makes for a quiet, classy dining destination in Gouna when you don’t want to have the DJ music and Friday night festival bands hammering into your ears. For four appetisers, two mains, one dessert and two glasses of wine, the bill totalled around 900LE; not exactly cheap but nonetheless a quality and refreshing dining experience in Gouna.