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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Eatery: Make Your Own Food, Learn How to Cook or Just Simply Eat at Cairo Festival City Restaurant
2015 was a proverbial volcanic explosion of a year for restaurants in Cairo, with many names emerging. Inevitably, some were more successful than others; competition is fierce, but Eatery has come out shining. More than just a restaurant, this culinary hub is also a cooking school and potentially every foodie's dream, offering you a chance to book a station at the restaurant to prepare, and of course then eat, food made by your own fare hands – check out the Cairo 360 tip for more.
Located at Cairo Festival City, the venue stands out with its simple interior, the smell of the herbs they grow in-house and the plants which add a natural feel to the transparent barrier between the kitchen and diner, which in turn serves to make this a one-of-a-kind experience – not to mention the phenomenal wall with a collection of Illy machines.
We started the meal with a Fresh Vietnamese Rice Paper Spring Rolls (55LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went for Beef Basil (138LE) and Stuffed Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach (65LE).
Starting with the appetiser, we loved the taste and texture diversity in what was an exquisite meal-opener; the freshness of the herbs and the kick of mint we got in every bite were the highlights, though the shrimp was somewhat overpowered. Presented on a black-stone-like board, the rice paper rolls are served with two dipping sauces; a luscious teriyaki sauce and a mixture of simple syrup, vinegar and onion, both of whose flavours worked perfectly with the fresh herbs in the rolls.
After a great start, we were expecting the same quality in the mains and let's just say it was far from disappointing. Again with impressive presentation, the beef basil was served with coconut rice, which was just as good as the beef; it was light and fluffy and the kick of the coconut milk gave it a unique flavour. Moving to the beef, the basil didn't just give the dish a mouth-watering aroma, but it worked really well with the spicy chilli pepper and the knife skills of the chef were shown in the thin and equally cut meat which was cooked well while retaining its juices.
Eatery makes its pasta fresh and in-house – a real test of a restaurant's quality. What we received for our second dish was tender and thin-skinned ravioli stuffed with the famous Italian combo of ricotta cheese and spinach, served on top of a sage flavoured butter sauce that elevated the cream ricotta and the noticeably fresh spinach.
We finished our meal with a remarkable Banana Bread dessert (60LE) which perfectly demonstrated the Eatery kitchen's adeptness at utilising the flavour profile of every single ingredient before adding it. Bursting with banana flavour, the banana bread was a little bit dense, but it worked perfectly with the creamy and buttery flavour of the accompanying mascarpone cheese and fruity flavours of the poached pear and grape syrup.
All in all, dining at Eatery was a near-flawless experience. The atmosphere was unique and comfy, the perfectly executed food was very simple but with subtle touches of flair and the staff offered fantastic service.
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.