Good seafood restaurants in Cairo are, unfortunately, few and far between. Our target for the evening, Al Bahar, happens to be the only seafood restaurant in the prestigious Motamayez district of 6th October City. Being in close proximity to the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, the ease of delivery from the coast means that seafood in the area is even fresher than in the rest of the city.

Striding past the outdoor seating area, we found ourselves in a brightly lit, spacious hall adorned with charming, aquatic themed mosaic walls. While two LCD screens kept us up to date with Egyptian politics, we were seated on grand, wooden chairs with leather padding, tucked underneath marble topped tables.

Humorously, countless spelling mistakes in the menu brought down what was otherwise a promising introduction to the restaurant. We came to learn that 'Al Bahar Rise' was in fact, rice served with mixed 'C food' including, shrimps, mussels and crabs. The harah dip – tehina and hot chilli pepper – was simply titled 'warm'. Though such mistakes were a little disconcerting, the level of cleanliness and the polished demeanour of the staff kept our hopes high for the quality of the food.  

The waiter suggested we choose our fish before making other orders, in order to make up for its lengthy cooking time. Agreeably stepping to the varied, fresh fish display, the patient assistant dutifully pulled on a pair of gloves before patiently answering all of our questions about the different types of fish and cooking styles which included frying, grilling or baking with citrus and oil. As with most fresh fish vendors, prices vary slightly on a daily basis.

We proceeded to order shrimp molokheya (16LE), seabass (110LE/kg), mullet (51LE/kg), half a kilo of mussels (90LE/kg) a plate of shrimp kofta (25LE), tehina (5LE), harah (5LE), baba ghanough (5LE), egg plants (5LE) and kamouniya (5LE) – tomatoes covered with cumin and diced onions. On the side we shared a plate of their signature Al Bahar rice (65LE).

Despite being one of two groups of guests, the food took an incredibly long time to prepare; we were left to wait up to 35 minutes before being served our soup and salads, never mind the seafood. Eaten with steaming hot balady bread, the salads were a wonderful appetiser to our meal. The tehina was thick and bitter tasting, while its harah counter part was refreshingly spicy. Boiled to perfection, the eggplants were stuffed with diced vegetables before being drenched with oil. Our baba ghanough was consistently thick and slightly sour with vinegar. We particularly enjoyed the kamouniya since the tomatoes were generously juicy topped with a wild mix of spices. 

When our meal finally arrived, the long wait was almost instantly forgiven. Each fish was deliciously fresh, soft and effortlessly broke apart, served on its own plate and elegantly decorated with cuts of tomatoes, green peppers and grilled onions. The portion of deep fried shrimp kofta was generously made up of five fingers of minced shrimp. They were only made better when dipped into each of the flavourful salads or the scrumptious garlic-celery sauce of the mussels, which was another highlight of our meal.

Impressively, none of the food was excessively salty nor over cooked. When serving us the aromatic Al Bahar rice, we were charmingly given an extra generous portion; amongst a medley of the flavours, the dishes' most striking ingredient was the crab, which was small but full of chewy, pink meat.

When it came to dessert, we were informed that they offer fresh fruit dishes or Om Ali (15LE). Ordering two bowls of the latter, another long wait and confirmed that the dessert is made fresh for individual orders. Unfortunately, however, it transpired to be a little too sweet and far too full of raisins, but satisfying nonetheless.

And so in the end, the most impressive thing that Al Bahar leaves you with is that an esteemed member of Cairo's seafood dining collective can replicate Alexandria's seafood prowess – despite the long waiting times.