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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.
If there’s one thing that the Cairo restaurant scene is good for, it’s the wide variety of options, suitable for just about every taste and wallet size. Known for its big menu and bigger portions, Spectra continues to be a popular franchise in the city, despite all odds. Their newest branch sits on Mohamed Mazhar Street in Zamalek; decidedly indistinct, this branch fashions the familiar cosy, chalet-style decor, homely artwork and low lighting.
As with each of its counterparts, the mammoth menus offer a vast variety of international appetisers (14.99LE-74.99LE), soups (6.99E-12.99LE), salads (13.99LE-39.99LE), combination platters (68.99LE-279LE), pastas (16.99LE-49.99LE), burgers (24.99LE-44.99LE), risottos (19.50LE-44.50LE) and sandwiches (14.99LE-39.99LE), along with chicken, veal, beef and seafood mains (39.99L-99.99LE). There’s also a separate menu dedicated to juices, cocktails, smoothies and hot drinks (4.99LE-16.99LE) as well as desserts (8.99LE-29.90LE).
For our starters, we opted to share a platter of mini burgers (29.99LE), before moving on to a tuna nicoise salad (26.99LE) and grilled chicken (39.99LE) with penne bolognaise on the side. For drinks, we chose one, surprisingly fruity and flavourful Spectra cocktail (16.99LE), as well as a cherry temple (8.99LE) - a chilled can of Sprite with a generous addition of sweet cherry syrup.
In a fairly short amount of time, our mini burgers arrived, generously portioned to share between two or three people. Encased in small, soft, sesame seeded buns, the patties were thick, juicy and delicious, with crisp pieces of lettuce held in place with cocktail sticks.
Next, our salad was delivered, and we were far from impressed. Despite being made with crunchy greens and vegetables, the potato-mayonnaise was hard and uncooked, whilst the dollop of oily, fishy tuna was little larger than the size of a teaspoon. After our complaint, the dish was returned with more of the same unpalatable tuna, whilst the potato salad was removed completely.
Adding salt to the wound, our grilled chicken was served swimming in an unrequested – and cold – mushroom sauce. Once again, we sent the dish back to the kitchen, and two plain, quality chicken breasts were hastily redelivered. Although not exceptional, our side of bolognaise was surprisingly pleasant, with the al dente penne pasta rolled in the beef and tomato sauce.
For dessert, we ordered a large slice of strawberry cheesecake (19.99LE) which transpired to be thick and creamy, with a tasty topping of sweet strawberry sauce and canned strawberries. Although the biscuit base was practically non-existent, it managed to satisfy our after-meal sweet cravings.
And so in true Spectra fashion, the meals are hit and miss, generously sized and moderately priced.