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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.
When it comes dining in Cairo, the pairing of the words 'restaurant' and 'cafe' is one that we've come to approach with caution. Though at the very base of both meanings of the words the two should meld seamlessly into one another, it often results in the restaurant element suffering. Occasionally, however, some places buck the trend - as is the case with one of Maadi's newest eateries, Casa Lingo.
With a gorgeous courtyard area painted in shades of grey complimented by a lot of greenery, glass panels and stone cladding, Casa Lingo definitely looks the part. Both indoor and outdoor areas carry the same grey colour scheme with brighter coloured cushions on the chairs and couches. In short, the venue is extremely comfortable and even features extensive activities for your kids.
As we walked in through the courtyard, a waiter greeted us warmly and led us to an empty table where we found our menus. Covering everything from warm drinks and appetisers to main courses and desserts, the menu is both large and varied.
To get an all-around sense of the appetisers, we opted for a Lovely Sharing Oriental Appetisers platter (94LE) which features Sambousak, Kobeba, Oriental Sausages, Chicken Liver as well as Tehina and Baba Ghanoug. From the mains, we opted for the Shrimp Curry (84LE) and the Beef Steak (89LE).
The appetiser platter was served relatively quickly while we waited for our mains. Along with a fresh bread basket, the slightly overpriced platter was in fact quite delicious. The sambousak and kobeba had a perfect crisp, while the chicken liver was just the right amount of tangy.
During our wait, we noticed that the shishas being served smelled particularly tasty, which adds another dimension of laidback venue to Casa Lingo.
A few minutes later our waiter stepped outside with our food. The plates looked quite scrumptious, with the Shrimp Curry smelling particularly good. Served with a side of yellow basmati rice and sautéed vegetables, the poached shrimp tasted fresh and delicious. The curry itself wasn’t as thick as some of the ones we’ve tried, but in this particular case it worked in the dish’s favour.
In regards to the Beef Steak, we were encouraged by the fact that our waiter asked how we wanted it cooked; it's still somewhat of a rarity outside of restaurants that specialise in steak. We asked for it to be cooked medium and that's exactly what we got. The steak wasn’t covered in gravy, but had just enough to give you something to mix the fluffy white rice with. The meat was tender and just the right colour on the inside.
We love new venues because they try their hardest at offering the best service and quality food. While our experience at Casa Lingo was superb, we can only hope it doesn’t fall into the same rut of cutting corners that most new restaurants do.