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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.
Normally, we would shy away from any venue located in the heart of Citystars - dining at a mall isn’t exactly comfortable, thanks to the staggering noise. However, our visit to Gaby's turned out to be was an all-round top-notch experience. Located in front of the Citystars' VIP Cinema, Gaby's takes up a two-storey space with simple decorative details inspired by a homely ambiance that also manages to somehow feel bright and lively.
We began our meal with the gargantuan Bits and Dips Appetiser (110LE) which includes mussels, crispy bonbons, sojouk sambousak, spicy chicken wings and nachos, alongside some whole-wheat bread and bâton salé with a cheese dip. The mussels were perfectly seasoned, boasting a nicely balanced flavour, while the crispy bonbons – fried mashed potato balls stuffed with spinach, as well as cheddar and mozzarella cheese – were tender and full of flavour.
Personally, we love sojouk and we love sambousak, so naturally, expectations were high for the sojouk samousak. Covered in BBQ sauce, the outer crust was crispy and light – a perfect foil for the delicious mashed sojouk, which was made all the better by the vegetables included in the mix. Unfortunately, the spicy chicken wings were not as spicy as we’d hoped, though they were pleasingly tender.
Despite the amount of food in the starter platter, we were still keen to test the mettle of the main dishes and went for Chicken Portobello Roll (95LE) and Steak & Fries (129LE), with the former coming in the form of four chicken rolls stuffed with mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese and topped with pepper sauce. Alongside it was potato wedges, chips and broccoli, which made it look all the more mouth-watering. The pepper sauce was mild enough that it didn’t completely whitewash the rest of the flavours, while the mushrooms were a particular highlight, lending the already tender chicken some more juices. The only slight on the dish was that it could have done with more of the Swiss cheese.
One of two steak dishes on the menu, the Steak & Fries comes as three thinner-sliced pieces of meat, served with a rich mushroom sauce and a side of mashed potatoes. Cooked a little more than the requested medium, there was a little chew to every bite, but it was seasoned nicely and the sauce served to hide some of its faults.
We also dipped into Gaby's selection of signature drinks, opting for a Caramel Freeze (30LE), which combines pineapple juice, fresh banana and caramel syrup, with vanilla ice cream. The taste of the banana and caramel dominated the drink, while the pineapple was light, giving just the right amount of acidic kick. Our second drink, the Bloody Lemonade (24LE), wasn’t so balanced. The simple combination of lemonade and pomegranate was light on the pomegranate, leaving us a little underwhelmed.
The highlight of our meal, however, was a glorious Chocolate Soufflé (45LE). Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was cooked perfectly with the gooey chocolate centre oozing out and into the ice cream for a perfect combination of hot and cold.
Despite several little faults ruining otherwise very good dishes, we left Gaby’s feeling satisfied and a little surprised. Despite its mall setting, it actually does a good job of creating its own atmosphere.