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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.
T.G.I Friday’s has been a long-time family favourite among Cairo’s restaurants. The combination of food with a Nile-side view and a play area for kids makes it a convenient option for parents.
During Ramadan, where tensions and hassles of getting food are multiplied tenfold, this convenience is of the utmost importance.
To streamline the process of dining out for Ramadan, Friday’s offers a Ramadan menu where you can pick between choices of soup, salad, appetizers, main courses and desserts, all for 130LE. Call in ahead, make a reservation and tell them what you want to eat from that menu; fairly simple stuff.
If you notice while you’re at a place like Friday’s, the smallest table will have a party of 5 or 6. The biggest table will go up to 20. A long list of problems can arise from big parties so our review was very concerned with how the staff would tackle that situation.
When we arrived, the soups and salads were already on the table, and the service was quick and helpful, and completely prepared to switch out anything you didn’t like - more on why that’s not necessarily a good thing shortly.
Our party had 15 people, who ordered almost everything on the menu. We opted for Minestrone soup, Steak Veggie Soup, Caeser Salad, Summer Garden Salad, Fried Mozzarella, Buffalo Wings, Combo Fajitas, Fisherman’s Platter, Oreo Madness and Apple Caramel.
The soups were unfortunately bland, but that could be remedied with a pinch salt and a squeeze of lemon. The salads, meanwhile, tasted like they had been made hours ago.
The appetisers were a little inconsistent; while the Buffalo Wings were tasty and quite spicy, the mozzarella wasn’t served hot enough and lost its molten texture.
The main courses were served promptly after the appetisers, with the waiters eagerly clearing the table of plates and glasses. The Fajita Combo, with both beef and chicken and served with a plate of guacamole, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo, yellow rice and tortillas, was equally disappointing. The meats were overcooked and the guacamole was stale.
The Fisherman’s Platter didn’t spend five minutes on our table before we returned it for smelling extremely pungent. The waiters were more than happy to replace it with our choice of Mushroom Steak.
Average tasting and most certainly overcooked, the Mushroom Steak didn’t fare any better than the Fajita Combo. It was served with cheese mashed potatoes, which were cold, and sautéed vegetables.
The desserts are served after coffee and tea. The Oreo Madness – giant ice cream cookies topped with caramel and chocolate fudge – was decent, but served completely frozen, crystallised and hard to dig into. The Apple Caramel was completely unappealing and somehow managed get the usually reliable combination of apple and caramel completely wrong; the fact that the apple was allegedly roasted added nothing to overall flavour and it was rather bland in taste – in a pre-packaged supermarket kind of way.
While the food was extremely average, the service was excellent. As mentioned earlier, staff very willingly offering to switch out any of the entrees seems like a nice gesture as far as the service is concerned, but with regards to the kitchen, it means you’re mass producing every single dish and they are all average or sometimes even sub-par.