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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.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and we’re not about to argue that – but unless you have the time before work or school to really make something off your first food-intake of the day, you end up going through the motions. Even if you choose to venture out, breakfast menus across Cairo are, more often than not, pretty basic – there’s no such problem with Ben & Florentine’s breakfast menu, though.
The Canadian chain had originally opened in New Cairo and, seemingly, its popularity has lead to the opening of a second branch on Maadi’s ever-changing Road 9.
As a venue, Ben & Florentine is small, housing only five tables overlooking the colourful, busy street. The menu brings together the type of items you would expect of ‘international cuisine’ – think sandwiches, burgers, pastas, pizzas etc. Visiting bright and early(ish), however, our focus was very much on breakfast – a breakfast we’d heard much about and covers almost 3 pages of the menu. The options are plentiful – ranging from simple eggs Benedict, to breakfast combos, to three-egg omelettes.
We kicked off what we were hoping would be a top-notch breakfast with a simple cappuccino (18LE), which was much more bitter than a cappuccino should be – it could have done with a bit more milk. But onto the main event of our breakfast, we ordered the Two Eggs Etc – a reasonably simple dish that comes with toast and beef bacon – the latter of which was, unfortunately, quite dry. What didn’t disappoint, though, was the portion of Ben & Florentine’s famous oven-baked fries, which were cooked perfectly to an outer crunch and an inner softness. Other than that, the eggs themselves were good, if unremarkable – they were cooked well and that’s all you can really ask for from eggs.
We also tried the Three Musketeers crepe (48LE), which pulls together beef sausages, cheddar and mozzarella – as well as more of those fries. This time, however, the fires were hard and dry – a disappointment if there ever was one, when you consider how good the ones with the eggs were. The crepe itself, meanwhile, was simple but delicious, with both the sausages and crepe cooked perfectly.
We sealed our breakfast with Ben & Florentine’s Raspberry Mojito (25LE) – the epitome of refreshing. Using lemonade and raspberry syrup, the real kick was in the fresh lemon and mint garnish, which – because of the basic other ingredients – added a subtle but noticeable dimension to the flavour.
Overall, we left the new branch of Ben & Florentine satisfied; though nothing wowed us, it delivered on its promise – a decent, wholesome breakfast.