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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.
Located on a narrow, hidden road in Sheraton, Heliopolis, Osteria might not be the easiest restaurant to find, especially if you’re not from the area. After getting lost and calling the restaurant for directions, we eventually found our way and were greeted warmly by the waiters who walked us to our seats and passed us our menus.
We found a wide range of options to choose from including salads (26LE-38LE) appetisers (16-53LE) steak (58LE-80LE) seafood (40LE-90LE) chicken (40LE-62LE) and fajitas (46LE-74LE). In true Egyptian chain restaurant style, all main courses are served with two sides of your choosing; sautéed vegetables, French fries or pasta.
We opted for Chicken Cordon Bleu with French fries and penne pasta with white sauce (47 LE) and Country Fried Shrimp, but were delivered the devastating news that the kitchen was out of shrimp and calamari. Instead, we chose a 220g beef fillet with mushroom sauce, sautéed vegetables and penne pasta with white sauce (58 LE). We also opted for an Osteria Appetiser Sampler (40LE) which was made up of four spicy chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and Doritos covered in herbs and mozzarella cheese. The appetiser sampler comes with three different dips and was served hot and, remarkable, within five minutes of ordering it.
Equally as impressive, the main courses took around twenty-five minutes to emerge from the kitchen. Unfortunately, however, the Cordon Bleu was dry and a far cry from the moist chicken cutlet one would expect. In addition, there was a distinct, almost baffling, lack of cheese and the promised smoke beef. Being the positive Petes we are, we were able to at least enjoy the well made and seasoned fries. Already disappointed by the aforementioned shortage of shrimp and calamari, the meal’s saving grace came via the substitute dish of beef fillet. Well cooked and at the very reasonable price of 58LE, it was enjoyable without being spectacular - a slab of beef and no more.
Our check came out to 160 LE which is very reasonable for a dinner for two. The service was both great and quick and the waiters always had a smile on – shame about the execution of the food.