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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.
Forming an international cuisine menu can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, restaurants have more freedom to showcase their creativity and variety, but on the other hand, even when the restaurant aspires to offer variety, the real devil becomes in the consistency of execution. The Food Republic (TFR), a corner restaurant located in Cairo Festival City’s restaurant area, unfortunately falls into that category.
Comprised of outdoor and indoor dining areas, TFR boasts a blend of modern classic style with wooden chairs, beige buttoned sofas, photos of diners hung on wooden walls and simple light bulbs dangling from the ceiling with ropes. The indoor area has glass windows which gives a panoramic view of the mall.
We started our meal with the TFR Arancini (35 LE) as an appetiser, followed by the interestingly named The Caveman Burger (85 LE), as well as Grilled Chicken with Rosemary Sauce (72 LE) and Chicken Cordon Bleu (75 LE).
Arriving twenty minutes later, the TFR Arancini were three deep fried rice croquettes mixed with mozzarella, parmesan cheese and mushrooms, accompanied with a small bowl of sweet chili sauce.
Crunchy on the outside, mushy and soft on the inside with rice as its main component and mixture of cheese, the arancini had a delightful taste complimented by the sweet chilli sauce, but there was no mushroom flavour.
Coming in a glass cutting board with a side of potato wedges, the Caveman Burger is one of the biggest burgers we’ve seen in a long time and completely stole the show with its enticing double-patty and overall presentation.
Infused with chilli tomato jam, romesco sauce – nut and pepper-based sauce – along with onions, pickles, mozzarella, emmental cheese and sweet chilli sauce, it seemed that all the ingredients of the burger were wrestling for supremacy. While the burger itself had a pleasant homemade taste, the tomato-based ingredients gave an overall tangy and sour taste which overpowered all other flavours.
The wedges, on the other hand, were a little too salty, but had a great overall taste with the paprika seasoning, a great crunchy exterior and a lovely softer interior.
Served in wooden trays, with sautéed vegetables and white rice, the grilled chicken was bland it taste and was barely improved with the rosemary sauce it came with. The sautéed vegetables side needed some more seasoning and flavour, while the white rice had red kidney beans which didn’t work with the rest of the dish.
Arriving as a huge cylindrical-shaped pill cut in half, the Chicken Cordon Bleu had a brown breaded crust and was stuffed with crispy beef bacon. The chicken had a well-seasoned overall taste, with a welcome hint of garlic and, while the bacon gave an extra punch, the brown crust didn’t hold itself and started crumbling as soon as we sliced into it. The dish came with crunchy potatoes wedges covered with cheese – as requested— and some mashed potatoes which were lumpy and had an unusual egg flavour.
We wrapped things up with Chocolate Bomb (49LE); one of the Food Republic’s signature dessert. A big chocolate ball containing a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a small cube of brownie, surrounded by kiwi and drizzled with melting hot chocolate sauce, the dessert was more of a show than it was a dessert. Though the chocolate itself had a sweet taste which was complimented by the kiwis’ sourness, the ice cream quickly melted from the hot chocolate sauce and the brownie was hard to cut into.
Our experience at the Food Republic was rather underwhelming. On the one hand, some of the items like the arancini balls and the burger showed potential, but on the other hand, most of the items were not properly executed and the staff were distracted by the Al Ahly and AS Roma’s football match – which we forgive them for, this time only.