Sign in using your account with
Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Sennara: Reputable Seafood Restaurant in Heliopolis
Surrounded by two seas and the Nile River, it's no wonder that fish eateries in Egypt offer a plethora of different fish dishes. Generally airing on the side of caution when it comes to seafood restaurants in Cairo, word-of-mouth recommendations led us to try out Sennara in Heliopolis. Situated to the side of the Gabaly Hotel on El Hegaz Street, the run-down, dingy stairwell leading to the entrance of the restaurant was less than impressive.
As seems to be the norm for seafood restaurants, the décor was somewhat traditional and old fashioned, with copious numbers of plants, including the odd corners that seemed to have been transformed into small indoor gardens; one was even complete with a colourful garden bench. Reclaimed ship steering wheels act as light fittings, and the red and yellow colour scheme could undeniably do with an overhaul; however, we were optimistic that the fish would most probably be better than their interior tastes, and we weren't disappointed.
Plenty of whole, fresh fish are displayed on ice for diners to handpick; alternatively, the menu boasts a huge range of seafood options, from straight-forward grills and fried fish, to pastas, soups and rice dishes. The prices for most dishes vary day-to-day, depending on the fish's size and availability.
The drinks menu is a simple list of sodas, fresh juices and a couple of hot drinks. We requested a small amount of sugar in our fresh lemon juice, which turned out to be a perfect bitter-sweet blend, whilst our Coca Cola was served ice-cold.
For our starters, we went for the Sennara seafood soup (30LE), a shrimp cocktail (30LE), and from their small selection of appetisers, a bitter tehina alongside a delicious baba ghanough (5LE each). The Sennara seafood soup was a nice, creamy surprise, with an unfortunate amount of pepper but a very generous mixture of seafood pieces, including a few tasty prawns and some wholesome calamari. The shrimp cocktail was even better, with lots of small, fresh shrimp drowning in an liberal amount of marie-rose sauce. Our bread basket (7LE) was huge, sporting warm, fluffy white and brown balady bread topped with sesame seeds.
Being a large party, we ordered a buffet style dinner, complete with lobster (300LE per kilo), clams (80LE per kilo), fried calamari (90LE per kilo), king shrimp (300LE per kilo), some Sennara rice (25LE) and grilled sole (160LE per kilo) with butter and lemon sauce. Despite being slightly chewy, the lobster was delicious, served out of its shell and marinated with a few vegetables in a butter sauce. The fried calamari was a deep golden-brown and delectable, whilst the king shrimp had a large amount of tender meat on them. The tender grilled sole fish was served whole, with a light and subtle, buttery sauce. The rice platter was also delocious, brilliantly seasoned with an assortment of bite-size fish pieces. Throughout the meal, the waiters courteously changed our plates for clean ones when it became apparent we needed them.
After our meal, finger bowls were dutifully brought to the table, along with a mind-boggling, expanding towel – you'll have to see it to believe it! However, the dessert menu leaves much to be desired, although we didn't necessarily need anything more to eat. We reached the conclusion that the lack of anything else, pointed to the fact Sennara is dedicated solely to its fish dishes.
Sennara's reputation precedes it, and despite appearances, the quality of the fish dishes, along with attentive service, really does speak for itself.
If you’re familiar with the Egyptian dining scene, you’ll know that sustainability is not really our strong point – quality is hit and miss, and sometimes even restaurants that have solid reputations and have been around for ages can disappoint. Case in point: if you’re a regular Gouna dinner, you may find yourself disappointed with what’s offered these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised – and relieved – to discover that the Smokery at El Gouna Yacht Club lives up to its billing.
Located towards the far end of Abu Tig Marina (on the opposite side of the new Marina to Mori Sushi, et al), the Smokery is situated right next to the marina’s lighthouse, so of course we chose to sit outdoors and admire the view despite the sweltering August heat. Craving something cold and salty, we completely bypassed their mise-en-bouche selection (35LE to 250LE) of cheese bites and fried seafood nibbles, and we went straight for their Salmon Fiesta; a selection of salmon bites including chunks of raw salmon steak, smoked salmon wraps and salmon sushi wrapped in seaweed. By the time we’d finished this generous dish and the tasty smoked fish dip they’d brought along with breadsticks, we all stared at each other in dismay. We were full. And we hadn’t even got to the main course yet.
Ignoring our stomachs and better judgement, we continued forth, and not ones to break with tradition, we ordered more salmon mains: the grilled salmon steak served with veggie nicoise and basil (around 140LE), the salmon carpaccio (85LE) and, for a change, the shrimp tempura. By this point, we were honestly frothing at the mouth from overeating, but you could hardly blame us: the salmon was so delicious and astoundingly fresh, we realised that all the other salmons we’d ever had now paled in comparison. If anything, we found that we could happily eat the Smokery salmon raw or smoked, with barely any garnish or side dishes necessarily.
Not ones to give up easily or wisely, we ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we spooned – groaning at the effort – into our tired mouths. Despite the suffocating heat, the hot chocolate was a welcome change to the salmon, although the portion could have been better. Yes, despite eating ourselves sick, the chocolate could have been bigger.
With impeccable, attentive service and a lovely outdoor setting, the Smokery makes for a quiet, classy dining destination in Gouna when you don’t want to have the DJ music and Friday night festival bands hammering into your ears. For four appetisers, two mains, one dessert and two glasses of wine, the bill totalled around 900LE; not exactly cheap but nonetheless a quality and refreshing dining experience in Gouna.