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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.
There’s a certain charm to this restaurant that it carried through from its old venue in Degla. Little Swiss and the charming owner Charlotte have been the centre of Swiss Cuisine in Egypt. Having not seen the new venue that they moved to about a year ago, we decided to pass by for cheesy goodness.
Located on Road 18 just past Spectra and Roastery, Little Swiss has taken up a decently sized apartment on the first floor of a residential building. You walk into a courtyard and up a flight of stairs into a very cozy, wooden-cabin-in-the-mountains type of interior, with the charming black and white cow print being the centerpiece of the décor. While the red candles provide dim romantic lighting, the music is unfortunately protruding and works against everything else that sets the mood.
As always, Charlotte will stop by your table to greet you and check if you’re familiar with Swiss cuisine. We already knew what we wanted, so the friendly waiter, dressed in red to match everything else, took our order.
From the appetizers, we opted for Fillet Pfannli (35LE), a small plate with bite sized chunks of fillet baked in the oven. With a strong salty flavour, and very tender consistency, the Pfannli was both delicious and inviting of more yummy food.
Next was the Mushroom Cheese Fondue (145LE), which your waiter will ask you if you want with or without white wine. Traditionally, fondue is made with wine and gives it a bit of a kick in terms of flavour, but it’s still delicious should you choose to opt out. Little Swiss has always been secretive about what exactly goes into the fondue, our taste buds might be wrong, but we could taste Emmental and Gruyère. Served with a bowl of bread bits that you hook onto the end of a long fork and dip, there’s little in life a pot of melted cheese can’t fix. Should you have one such issue, the next entrees will clear them right up.
The Beef Fillet Table Grill (130LE) consists of raw slices of beef fillet which you can place on a hotplate that’s plugged into a nearby outlet. The meat is served with homemade sauces and some herbs you can marinate it with. While this ordeal can seem a little inconvenient, cooking the meat takes very little time and leaves with you with hot, tender and delicious pieces of meat.
Still not full? That calls for some Chocolate Fondue (75LE). Available in dark or milk chocolate, the Toblerone bars are melted in a small pot and served with marshmallows, cake, apples, grapes, pineapples and bananas for your dipping pleasure.
While the food is certainly delicious at Little Swiss, everything is a little on the expensive side, which makes it a very difficult for this otherwise great restaurant to become a regular dining spot. Otherwise, it’s a great place to take a date or to spoil yourself every now and then.