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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.
Fast food restaurants in Cairo are aplenty, drawing in crowds of hungry customers. As a world-wide franchise, Chipstix have found success from offering various, fried fast food snacks; including their signature Chipstix skewers (10LE) – deep fried potato chips, spiralled and skewered on a stick.
In addition to their branch at Zamalek’s El Gezirah Club, one of their bright orange kiosks has recently joined the ranks at New Cairo’s Downtown Katameya Mall, offering shoppers carb-heavy goodies while they’re on the go. Set amidst the abundance of casual eateries, with no seating, takeaway is encouraged; eating while walking around a shopping mall struck as a little impractical, whilst sloppy packaging makes it difficult to carry home, should you wish to do so.
The member of staff serving us was unfortunately quite surly and unenthusiastic, taking his time to prepare our order. Notably, the staff were kitted out with disposable gloves, though neither the grills nor the deep fat fryers looked particularly clean.
According to their paper menus, the seeds for the potatoes used in their Chipstix skewers and fries are imported from Holland, negate the oil-absorption, therefore making them less greasy than usual potatoes after frying. Also on their menu is corn on the cob (12LE), fried chicken (14LE) or beef (11LE) corn dogs, and sweet options of baked chocolate (12LE) or waffle stix (11LE). Drinks are limited to sodas (3.50LE) and water (3LE).
The Chipstix skewers come in sixteen unusual savoury flavours, including seafood, Portuguese peri-peri and Worcester sauce. We opted for a more regular salt and pepper flavour (10LE), and watched as the staff liberally sprinkled the powder mix over our potato skewer. Fried with the skin left on, the potato was well-cooked to a golden brown with a strong salt and pepper taste. Promises aside – given the cooking method – a predictable amount of oil could still be tasted.
We also ordered a portion of crispy, thin-cut Chipstix fries (8LE) and delicious, fresh corn on the cob (12LE) doused in butter. Due to the unavailability of baked chocolate, we went for a waffle stix; prepared with a thick batter, the lashing of Nutella created a tasty, but unremarkable, sweet treat.
If you’re really hungry and need a quick, cheap snack, Chipstix offers an interesting, but unexceptional, twist on usual fried potato products.