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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.
It’s always interesting re-reviewing Cairo’s restaurants; consistency is a game that few eateries around Egypt’s capital juggle effectively, but it's something that the Zamalek branch of Crave has seemingly managed to maintain.
Founded back in 2004, Crave has become a staple of the local dining scene and has expanded to Maadi, Tivoli Dome, Arkan Mall and City View since its inception. In that time, the casual atmosphere of the restaurant has remained unchanged; there are separate areas for smoking and non-smoking, as well as a comfy couch area, all to the backdrop of a demure and velvety decor and cutlery used as quirky decoration.
Having been around for over a decade, Crave can lay claim to having several signature dishes over the years, including the Zombie Burger and the Chocolate Fondant among others, but regulars often forget how extensive the menus really is, covering sandwiches, burgers, pastas, salads and more. Upon our arrival, a friendly waiter gracefully opened the door for us and another led us to our table before placing menus and filling our glasses with water with a pleasantly casual ease.
From the appetizers section, we opted for Spinach Mushrooms (37.95LE). For our mains, we opted for Veal Parmesan (84.95LE) and Chicken MCM (64.95LE) and for dessert, an order of Mini Cheese Cake (32.95LE).
Our first nibble of the meal came in the form of an appetiser that was every bit as rich and full of flavour as the menu suggested. Arriving around fifteen minutes after placing our order, the Spinach Mushrooms (37.95LE) was quite delightful. Floating in a creamy spinach sauce, the mushrooms were stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese and served with Crave’s special seasoned and buttered bread.
Things only got better with the mains. The Veal Parmesan (84.95LE), covered in tempura and fried to a perfect crisp, was both tasty and generous in portion, though the dish’s side of spaghetti with tomato sauce was, unfortunately, far too greasy.
Our second main was the Chicken MCM (64.95LE); a fried chicken breast topped with mushrooms, onions and melted mozzarella cheese. While it was well seasoned and cooked, the chicken was cut too think – an unusual gripe, maybe, but it was so think, in fact, that it was unevenly cooked. Despite that, the side of fettuccine Alfredo, was much better, boasting noticeably fresh mushrooms and a sauce that was creamy without being too heavy.
Then came many Cairenes’ favourite part of a meal – dessert. Opting for the mini cheesecake (32.95LE), we can confirm that they are every bit as small as they appear in the menu – maybe even smaller. The three cheesecakes came with strawberry syrup, caramel and chocolate and each could easily fit in a tablespoon. While it was satisfying in terms of flavour, they were all incredibly sweet, maybe too sweet for some.
Despite the niggling flaws during the time of our visit, Crave’s strongest characteristic is that it is suitable for either a casual bite or a more formal full-blown meal; the whole experience is laidback, unhurried and unpretentious – all keys to its continuing success.