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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Voila Luxury Foods: Cairo's Newest Specialty Foods Shop
Cairo’s penchant for fine dining and gourmet cuisine is no secret; the trend has been given away by the rising number of online and catering venues springing up all over the Capital in recent years.
For those who melt at the mention of imported Gruyère cheeses, exotic spices, fresh herbs, berries and other fine ingredients; online gourmet foods service Voila Luxury Foods has recently opened a shop near the Zamalek Residence Hotel (formerly the Safir Hotel) in Zamalek. This means that if you are tired of clicking through their glossy website, and would rather not brave the crowds surrounding their Mohandiseen branch, and prefer to inspect merchandise in person; the opportunity is now at your fingertips.
Located on Mohamed Mazhar Street, the small shop space is devoted mostly to spices, condiments and pastas. A deli fridge contains sliced salamis, pestos and cheeses, while a freezer is stocked top to bottom with ice cream. Voila is the proud exclusive carrier of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Egypt, which is sold for 49LE a pint and 20LE for a bite-sized 3.5 oz container. Gasp away at the high prices– they are still beaten by the slightly higher rates of Haagen Dazs, which sells for well over 50LE a pint and 24LE for the 3.5 oz containers.
Customers are first greeted by shelves of pastas, from Alb Gold varieties (from around 20LE to around 35LE) displaying large shells, tagliatelle and semeli, strozzapreti, and orecchiette.
You can find a variety of sliced Italian-imported Casamia deli meats, from pepperoni beef salami (around 25LE), sweet beef salami and beef bresaola, vacuum-packed and available for between 25LE and 50LE. Lockfyne smoked salmon is also available for 110LE.
French gourmet provider Terre Exotique is featured prominently in the shop, providing everything from gorgeous, coarse pink Kashmiri diamond sea salt (65LE) to curry and Cajun spices. Glass pots contain salade de fleures, an eclectic mix of dried blossom culinary spices, as well as dried rosebuds.
British label The Fine Cheese Co. provides a modest selection of sharp cheddars. French food company Mill Crèpes boasts boxes of gourmet cocktail crackers; while British label Buitman occupies an entire shelf of croutons, spiced wafers and seasoned, boxed bread snacks. Cottage Delight presents an extensive collection of preserves, from traditional raspberry jam to the more intriguing rhubarb-ginger, for 50LE to 60LE. The label also has a few glass jars of old-fashioned sweets, from boiled lemon drops to striped hard candies.
For savoury preserves, look for the Cottage Delight apple chutney (31LE) and hot mustard (24LE), while Roka cheese stick crackers are available for 26LE.
Rows of colourful sugar sprinkles by Zuk Zak are available in colours from pink to green; the industrial-sized bottles would be perfect for preparing holiday cookies.
We believe that no matter how strict one’s diet is, there will always be a room for a snack. And though the broad sense of the word suggests many deliciously sinful choices, some of them can be equally delicious and healthy; like nuts.
With ‘Leb we Soudany’ being Cairenes’ all-time favourites, a local roastery can be found at every corner. While many of them have a decent range, only a few take it to the next level in offering more than just the basic form of roasted nuts. One of those few places is Abu Auf, which not only offers nuts in all shapes, forms and flavours, but also has a variety of sweets and health-conscious food products.
Over a year ago, we paid the place a visit in Brazil Street branch; despite being impressed by the quality and the quantity of Abu Auf’s products, we couldn’t help but notice how inconveniently small the branch was. So when we came across the other branch that was recently opened in Taha Hussein Street, we weren’t able to resist getting in to see how it looks from inside.
Once we walked in, we noticed how daylight coming from the two large windows complemented the already-delightful interior, with its white walls and wooden shelves. Well-organised, the shop is divided into two compartments.
The first comprises a fridge for raw nuts, and a display for the roasted selection. Four or five pounds more expensive than the raw nuts, Abu Auf boasts a variety of salted and flavoured roasted nuts, from which we opted for BBQ-flavoured almonds (26LE for 100gm), which were fresh, crisp and full of flavour. Not entirely satisfied by the salted pecans (42LE for 100gm), fresh as they were, they were too salty for our liking.
The other compartment had a variety of health-conscious products, Lebanese sweets and a coffee station. In addition to sage tea (17LE per pack), we found different brands of green coffee -ranging from 25LE to 120LE- which is believed to be a supplement for weight loss. And for those who like to replace rice with quinoa, Abu Auf has both red and white quinoa starting from 56LE per pack.
Moving to the shop’s considerably less healthy items; we couldn’t resist trying Abu Auf’s Lebanese sweets. The pistachio malban was outstanding; pleasantly chewy, with a crunch of pistachio here and there. Equally delicious, we found the marzipan exquisite, especially that they added cardamom to it. The only thing we were not big fans of was their costly price, which is 240LE per Kilo, though you can still buy per piece (10LE).
Saving the best for last, we stood in awe in front of the coffee station, where we asked for some medium roast coffee with spices. The shop assistant suggested their best seller, Gold coffee beans (174LE per kilo), whose powerful aroma enticed us to try it as soon as we got home. We can easily say that Abu Auf has the best coffee in town; spicy, dense and refreshing. Now we know where to turn to when we want freshly-ground coffee -in other words, we acquired another expensive habit.
With prices being the only disadvantage of Abu Auf, we fell for Abu Auf’s plan to empty our pockets with its delicious product – we only wanted to see what the new place looked like.