Sign in using your account with
Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Papillon: Lebanese Cuisine, Mansion-Style
Papillon is a nice, spacious and almost palatial Lebanese restaurant located on 26th July St. in Mohandiseen, across from the Zamalek Sporting Club. The large, peach-coloured building is hard to miss, but doesn’t really give away any clue of what’s inside.
Walking through the rustic wood doors, we were greeted by a lobby of sorts, with comfortable stylish couches gathered around a coffee table, which end up serving as a reception to the dining room up the large marble stairs.
Once up the stairs, the waiter escorted us to one of the large window-side tables in their elegant dining room, and very kindly asked us whether we minded the TV playing on a beautiful wooden bureau, before bringing us the menus.
The view from the traditional wood windows over 26th July St. and the Zamalek Club isn’t as impressive as the interior decor, which is designed in a grand Medieval Italian theme, with decorative paintings hanging on red and peach-coloured walls, an exposed wood beam ceiling, a large marble fireplace, comfortable cushioned high-back armchairs slightly reminiscent of thrones, and chandeliers everywhere.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? This mansion is quite cavernous yet it somehow manages to be cosy, giving diners the feeling that they’re having dinner at their Lebanese great-aunt’s house. Fairouz plays in the background and the large, nicely arranged tables seem ready to host a few families.
We ordered portions of kebbeh, fatoush, boneless chicken, and mixed grill, finishing with crème caramel, as the ‘Lebanese pastries’ and ‘chef’s cake of the day’ weren’t available.
The kebbeh (4.50LE each) were soft, moist, light and flavourful; a nice surprise for a non kebbeh-enthusiast. The fatoush (12LE) was fresh, with perfectly crunchy delicious fried shami bread, and a tasty dressing that was just a tad too sour.
The boneless chicken (55LE) was a large, tender, barbequed portion with special sauce that was almost too filling. However, the mixed grill (65LE and without the chicken for variety’s sake) was a little disappointing. Tender pieces of meat were…tender, but also rich and slightly under-flavoured. The kofta kabab was also rather bland and heavy, and had the distinct taste of meat that proved too much, even for this carnivore.
The crème caramel (12LE) came in a syrupy orange sauce that might have been overpowering. It was a pleasant surprise, though the dessert itself was rather sweet, thick and eggy– but still good.
At 180LE for two including water, we had a good meal in pleasant surroundings and didn’t have much to complain about. The service was quick and polite, prices were average, and portions were alright. We did make a reservation but apart from another party or two, we were alone on a weekday evening, which only enhanced the intimacy in an otherwise vast space.
There’s a general rule on the Cairo restaurant scene that suggests when a restaurant opens a second branch, it affects the overall quality of the original, so we were rather worried when we paid the new branch of Hayda a visit.
Recently opened at Galleria Moon Valley Mall in New Cairo, the interior uses the same famous chairs, pink and turquoise colour scheme, posters of Lebanese stars on the walls, and white Islamic patterns, but on a smaller scale. The venue has two separated indoor areas; the first one has only four tables and a linear table-set-up that looks like an open buffet, while the second is more spacious and has a lot more seats.
We kicked things off with Sambosek Spinach (35LE); four pieces of triangular pastry filled with spinach and walnuts. The pastry had a great crispy crust and a soft interior and the spinach was perfectly seasoned and had a terrific zesty kick to it, while the walnuts added a great crunchy component.
Moving to the mains, we opted first for the Kofta Azmeer (80LE), which came as three pieces of grilled meatballs stuffed with mushrooms and served in a huge bowl filled with tomato sauce and then sprinkled with parsley and cheese. Despite its appeal, the dish was just very disappointing. Served with rice topped with a scarce amount of toasted nuts, the meatballs themselves were very dry, the mushroom centre was very similar to the canned variety and was completely untreated which made the meatballs feel tougher and drier. Meanwhile, there was far too much tomato sauce, which was bland, while the cheese didn’t really add anything.
On the other hand, the Sausage Fatteh (65LE) was considerably better, though not perfect. The sausage itself was seasoned well and had a great texture and the rice was cooked perfectly; but the bread at the bottom was a bit soggy and the fatteh was topped with tahini not yogurt sauce as promised on the menu. Overall though, it was pretty good.
We finished our meal with Konafah Naboulsy (50LE) with Nutella and Bananas. It wasn’t our first time to try Hayda’s outstanding Konafah Naboulsy and thankfully it had the same crispy crunch, the same stretchy cheese and the same spot-on sweetness, but with the addition of the Nutella, which made for a good match with the fruity, fresh bananas. But although those two ingredients worked together, we felt it was a bit too much with the cheese. These kinds of desserts are usually a hit with diners, but it wasn;t exactly the most innovative of combinations – the chocolate, banana and cheese just never came together as a trio.
This summed up our visit at Hayda’s new branch perfectly – it had its ups and downs. We loved the service and the cosy ambiance, but it’s definitely not as striking as the Nile-side Giza branch and, at the time of our visit, there were several issues with the food.