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6th of October City, Cairo, Egypt.
Hash Coffee Company: Café By Day, Restaurant By Night in Cairo's Mall of Arabia
We sat outside in something like an English pub-garden terrace with wooden decking and furniture, plants and TV screens. Inside they’d plumed for a vaguely 60s look, with comfy chairs and sofas, or bar stools to sit at; seeing as in the daytime Hash functions as a coffee lounge. Patrons who choose to eat inside have the added pleasure of being able to watch the chefs prepare their food at the back of the restaurant.
London is not best known for its culinary excellence so we weren’t surprised to find that the menu struggled to keep up with the London theme. Big Ben and a beaming Beefeater were on the front cover, but inside the menu we can only assume they were attempting to reflect London’s multiculturalism. The appetisers included Thai and Mexican dishes but we opted for the English pub favourite, onion rings (15LE), which turned out to be plenty to share amongst friends.
We were offered a good selection of burgers and pasta dishes, which included meat and seafood options, plus a few vegetarian meals. The England motif came to the fore on the ‘English Grilled Steak’ page of the menu, although quite what was English about them was unclear, as the beef, we were proudly told, was Australian.
Apparently, Londoners are huge cheese fanatics, as a great many of the meals were described as ‘cheesy’ - shrimp and steaks included. In a delightful addition to the menu, Hash had a selection of British favourites, including a jazzed up version of the humble hot pot. For 69.99LE you can satisfy your English cravings with a chicken and cheese hotpot-pie, or try good old fashioned fish and chips (59.99LE).
We tucked into a Swiss mushroom bacon burger (44.99LE), and southern chicken and beef fajitas (69.99LE). Again, the portions were huge; the burger was more of a truckers challenge than an afternoon snack and the fajitas were bursting with plenty of meat, garnish and salad. To the credit of Australia’s finest, the beef was good in both dishes and the chicken strips for the fajitas were tender and well cooked.
The burger was the beef, cheese, mushroom, bacon tower we expected, and together with chips and a small salad, it made for a hearty meal. The fajitas came in their composite parts ready to be constructed into a meal, but the pile upon pile of relish and salad complicated matters. We received the meat in a sizzling steel pan atop mixed peppers and roasted vegetables.
The restaurant offers free soft drink refills, which were well received, but their latte proved to be not much more than steamed milk. All the waiters were very keen to please and the shisha we had was well attended, if a little bland itself.
London, it is not, but for a few English treats, Hash doesn’t do a bad job of trying to mix up the standard menu usually found at these places. If we find ourselves suddenly overcome with desire for a hotpot, we know where to head.
The eclectic and unpredictable Cairo dining scene can be unforgiving when it comes to value-for-money; while we have plenty of good restaurants across the city, they all come with a rather hefty cheque at the end of your meal. This is a problem at the end of the month, when cash is low – quite often, standards become low, too.
In Maadi, the brains behind Cuba Cabana have opened sister restaurant, I Mix. With a menu of mostly generic international dishes, the first thing you will notice is it is significantly cheaper than its counterparts.
It’s important to note that I Mix is strictly delivery-only – an increasingly common preference for food entrepreneurs in Egypt – and acts as a cheaper alternative to its sister restaurants.
Of the seemingly rudimentary options, we opted for a Caesar Salad (18.99LE), as well as a Waldorf Salad (18.99LE), alongside or Beef Escalope (39.99LE) and Chicken Pane (32.99LE) and a side of French Fries (8.99LE).
The delivery time was decent and our food arrived satisfyingly hot.
The salads came in round plastic boxes with the dressing packaged separately. The Caesar Salad was the usual lettuce and croutons affair, but with the addition of olives, which overpowered everything, including the already scarce lettuce.
Unfortunately, the Waldorf Salad wasn’t much better. With lettuce, watercress, apples, pineapples, cherry tomatoes, raisins and walnuts, we opted to try one of the restaurant’s vinaigrettes – what came was a strange dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise which didn’t compliment the salad at all. Without the dressing the salad was far too sweet.
So, the salads were a bit of disappointment, but, thankfully, the mains fared relatively better.
The Beef Escalope was cooked well, though unremarkable in taste, while the pasta-with-red-sauce side suffered from a flat sauce despite the use of oregano.
Coming with tasty white basmati rice, sautéed vegetables – including fresh mushrooms seared in butter – and a creamy lemon sauce, the Chicken Pane was a surprising hit. The chicken itself was well-cooked, well-fried – retaining a pleasing crunch – and packed plenty of flavour. On top of that, the portion was ample, especially considering its more than reasonable price.
While the food at I-Mix is unlikely to wow, it’ll definitely impress you in terms of buck-for-bang – keep the number on speed dial for when your wallet is thin.