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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.
As one of the first of its kind in Cairo, Dandy Mega Mall might not be the coolest spot in town, but continues to attract shoppers in the area. Smaller than its peers, Dandy isn’t exactly a place that suggests decent dining experiences await, but Café Du Jardin certainly has a charm about it.
A small bistro with soothing décor, Café Du Jardin is a nice alternative for those who like to step away from the fast food outlets offered at the mall’s food court, with its versatile selection of French and European cuisine.
The restaurant boasts has a kitschy aesthetic, painted in mint and white, decorated with artificial plants and white chairs, with small flower pots on the windows in pastel colours – it doesn’t quite seem real at first.
Among the dishes offered in the restaurant’s small menu, tuna and salmon tartar, beef stroganoff and fish fillet with lemon butter sauce stood out. Strangely, the menu didn’t feature any soups, but after inquiring with the friendly staff, we found out that seafood soup (22LE) and a mushroom cream (22LE) soup are available – we opted for the latter and had little complaint despite it being unremarkable.
Looking for a quick, light bite, we picked Cashew Chicken (60LE), which comprised of stir-fried chicken slices spiked with coloured peppers, coriander and ginger and served with angel hair pasta. We also went for a chicken Caesar salad (40LE).
The salad was, in short, disappointing; the chicken was cooked well, the lettuce was fresh and the croutons crunchy, but the dressing was way off - it was far too over-slated and the use of black pepper was rather heavy-handed, too.
Hoping for better results with our main course, the cashew chicken was quite tasty; seasoned and cooked well, the only thing it was missing was, well, anything else. It was all a bit one-note and just needed an extra dimension – maybe a side that can break the monotony of what was, overall, a solid if uncreative and flat dish.
There was little room left for drinks and dessert, that’s when we opted for some refreshing lemon mint juice and orange juice (16LE each), which were refreshing, moderately sweetened and all-round excellent. Of the dessert items, meanwhile, we tried the caramel-banana crepe (32LE). Again, there were few complaints with the dessert – it was cooked well and subsequently tasted as you’d expect – but, like the rest of our meal, there was nothing that stood out and elevated it and it desperately needed it. In this particular case, the caramel was dying out for something sharp, maybe acidic, to cut through it.
With all this in mind, one can’t help but think Café Du Jardin has focused more on creating a cute, quaint aesthetic than putting together a menu that will keep you wanting to come back for more. Having seen and sampled their menu, we left with very little reason to return.