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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Coffee Break: Breakfast & Lunch Buffets in Downtown Katameya Mall, New Cairo
Though the repertoire of restaurants and cafes in Cairo are diverse, there's a distinct lack of all-you-can-eat diners. Situated in the pleasant Downtown Katameya Mall, Coffee Break aims to bring a hint of American culture to the city; along with its varied menu, open buffets for both breakfast (35LE) and lunch (65LE) are offered.
The venue is cosy and welcoming, offering sturdy seats and roomy tables both outdoors and in. Evidently a hot spot for brunch, the venue was jam-packed with local employees, and finding the start of the line transpired to be more of a challenge than it should have been. The buffet seemed to be disorganised, with no set direction for the traffic; needless to say it took longer than it should have to squeeze our way around.
Peering down at the buffet, we saw typical breakfast choices that seemed well-made and appealing. The plain scrambled eggs were most attractive, generously laid with sausage or shakshouka style – mixed with vegetables and spices. There was also an inviting display of the mandatory foul and taameya, as well as fresh green salads and tubs filled with different cheeses. On the sweeter side of things, pancakes, French toast and warm dates were surrounded by large larges of jam and honey, but sadly, no chocolate sauce. The shelf above the buffet was lined with an assortment of breads, cakes and pastries.
Unfortunately, many of the options on offer in the buffet were either finished or near-finished. It's an indication of the popularity of the dishes, but also the struggle of the kitchen in catering for a full house. Another inconvenience we faced was serving salad with spoons as opposed to tongs, which was particularly challenging in the case of leafy greens.
The herby scrambled eggs were fantastically tasty, with fresh vegetable cuts and just the right amount of salt; forking these with the flavourful fool and taameya proved to be a brilliant combination. Unfortunately, the French toast was undercooked, soggy and lacked cinnamon, while the pancakes were messy in appearance and decidedly average but went well with a dollop of black honey. The highlight of our breakfast was the warm, peeled, creamy dates, which sported a sweet caramel flavour. Although we would have liked a second helping, we noticed how this choice was scarcely available.
Orange juice is an essential component of any successful breakfast, but unfortunately the orange juice (10LE) here tasted artificial and had a strange bitterness, akin to local tap water. Upon asking the waiter, we were assured it was 100% natural but was made with summer oranges as opposed to the seasonal variety. After some hesitation, and a long wait, it was eventually replaced with another better, but still mediocre glass.
The Coffee Break experience was average at best, but is a good option for quick and affordable open buffets.
Over the last year or so, new restaurants in Cairo have been introducing more and more exotic cuisines to the dining scene, be it Mongolian or even Peruvian with a Japanese twist, leaving classic favourites like Italian and Asian last week’s news. However, recently opened restaurant, Akli, has gone against the tide and specialises in not only one cuisine, but six, across everything from soups to desserts.
Located off Meccas Street in Dokki, Akli is divided into two zones; the ground floor, which has a exposed glass-wall baking room and shawerma station that wasn’t working at the time of our visit, is made for take-out orders, while the top floor is for dining-in. Besides the unfinished ceiling – which doesn’t seem like it will be finished because the AC duct has already been installed - the interior of the restaurant is on the classic side, with olive green, traditional panelled walls behind ruby buttoned couches. The setup of its tables is also pretty basic, but it actually has a cheerful view of a mini garden. If we were to compare it to another restaurant, Akli has the same spirit of everyone’s favourite, Bon Appetit.
Now let’s talk about the food. Our first flight was to Italy with Spicy Arancini Di Manzo (25LE). Starting from the spot-on creamy texture and the scrumptious golden brown crust, to the melted mozzarella cheese and minced beef, which was bursting with Italian herbs flavours, those four fried Italian rice balls were rather tasty.
Our second stop was at our beloved country with Sojouk (42LE). Lying on a bed of chopped parsley in true 90’s style, the grilled sausage was seasoned well, but it was a bit tough and dry. Overall, though, the appetiser seemed incomplete and needed some kind of a sauce or a dip with it.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Greek Shrimp Saganaki (120LE). Made of perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp in tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, the dish was a good one, but it wasn’t Saganaki. There was too little cheese to the flavour and the tomato sauce didn’t have any Greek flavours and tasted like Egyptian vegetable stew. One the other hand, the side of lemon rice added a good zesty flavour to the dish.
We also tried Adana Kebab (89LE) from the Turkish side of the menu. Two pieces of kofta laying on Lebanese bread and served with tahini dip and basmati rice topped with nuts, the dish didn’t capture anything particularly Turkish. Although the kofta was seasoned well and the rice was light and fluffy, the dish was overpriced – it’s almost exactly the same as Shawarmaister’s Kofta Halabi Platter which costs 45LE.
We finished our meal with the French Nougat Glace (27LE) for dessert; a rectangular slice of flawless vanilla ice cream filled with mini bits of pistachio and dried fruits. It was served with sour cherry syrup with a very sticky consistency, but the dessert as a whole was light and well executed.
There’s something about what Akli is trying to do that you can’t help but appreciate – but it’s not an easy job to perfect six different cuisines in one kitchen. The ambiance of the restaurant will take you back in time when you used to dine in a sporting club with the family and the food was, overall, good but there’s nothing remarkable about it.