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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Spinney's: International Supermarket Chain in Cairo
The age-old proverb ‘Size doesn’t matter’ really applies to Egypt’s newest addition to supermarket chains, Spinney’s.
With countless aisles as far as the eye could see, the supermarket's branch at Citystars really does stock almost everything. They carry all the leading brands (and some obscure ones) for all your basic culinary and home needs. Shampoos, detergents, packaged dairy products; you name it – they’ve got it.
A great thing about Spinney’s is that their aisles are strategically arranged; so you won’t have to run from one end of the humungous store to the other for a bottle of water after you’ve finished picking your soda – the most relevant items are stacked together in adjacent aisles.
However, the fresh food sections are disappointing for an international chain: as soon as you hit the produce section, you’re greeted with a disturbing smell of fish, produce and Dettol all wrapped up in one whiff.
While their produce section is huge and offers both local and imported products (you can get the ever-elusive pineapple here), it was hardly impressive. At the time of this reviewer’s visit; the display was muddled and many of the fruits and veggies had some serious bruises. The items here are slightly more expensive than you would get them at a street vendor, and not really all that much better in quality.
Though cheese rarely makes an appearance on their deli counter; Spinney’s does pack an overwhelming variety of local deli meats that you can buy by the kilo (69LE for smoked luncheon). Next to their deli counter is a quaint display of ancient-looking barrels, packed with spices (not all fresh) and pickles, which probably look better than they taste.
If you’re insistent on cheese, Spinney’s carries endless brands of packaged types, mostly local with a couple of imported cheeses like everyone’s favourite rotten blue cheese, straight from Germany (7LE).
Spinney’s also carries a huge collection of home appliances and electronics at the last bunch of aisles at the east side of the store. Most televisions here are either Hisense or Samsung; and while they may not be the best of brands, they are better options for the price-conscious consumer.
This place also has a huge section dedicated to clothing; and while we advise against buying clothes from a wall-mart equivalent, there were a couple of cheap quality polo shirts for around 40LE that seemed acceptable.Just as big as Carrefour but not as good, Spinney’s is a good option if you’re looking for a cheap printer, television or some ‘enlightening’ local cologne.
We can all agree that cooking is not everyone’s cup of tea, despite the fact that making a homemade meal is actually quite easy. But busy work schedules or just general cluelessness when it comes to the kitchen, means that many end up ordering food. Yesterday was one of those days where we just wanted to chill at home and we found out about the frozen food masters, Food Swings.
Food Swings is a one-of-a-kind delivery-based operation providing homemade, frozen food that is either microwaveable, or ready for the fryer, oven, or even the sandwich-maker. The meals can be stored for up to 3 months and to most take between 10 to 30 minutes to heat – something we just had to try. You can make orders via phone or Facebook messaging, with Food Swings delivering to different areas of Cairo on different days – check out the schedule here.
We found only 8 choices from the ‘Frozen on Duty’ section of the menu and 4 types of pizza from the ‘Pizza Madness’ section. However, there was a lot of interesting choices like Mexican Hawawshy (54LE) and Shawerma Pizza (49LE) but we decided to go with the Risotto Balls (32LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we opted for the Large Lasagna (98LE) and the Mexican Chicken Wraps (41LE).
We were super impressed by how cheerful the packaging was, the clear instructions and the use of vacuum packing, as removing the oxygen extends the life span of food and keep it fresh, while also making it much easier to store in your freezer at home.
The risotto balls - all 17 of them – were filled with a good amount of cheese and the risotto itself was rich and creamy, while still retaining a small bite to it like any perfect al-dente risotto should be. As for the crust, it was well-seasoned with Italian spices and had a perfect golden-brown colour – although that’s something we’ll take credit for.
Due to technical issues with our oven - which reminded us to buy a new one - we decided use the microwave for the lasagne. Despite this, the layers of the smooth and creamy béchamel sauce mixed with cheese, well-seasoned beef Bolognese bursting with tomato flavour, and of course their homemade lasagne sheets, left us wondering, what kind of sorcery they used to make frozen food taste so fresh?
Just so we’re clear, we didn’t burn the Mexican chicken wraps; what you see up there are beautiful grill marks. There were 5 wraps to be defrosted in the microwave then heated in a sandwich maker. While the mixture of chicken, red pepper, corn, red beans, green onions, spinach, chilli-pepper and shredded cheddar cheese, looks great on paper, we didn’t feel the presence of cheese at all and the chilli-pepper was just overpowered by the other flavours.
We finished our meal with Cinnamon Caramel Roll Jar (22LE) and no, it’s not microwaveable and we didn’t have to put it in the sandwich maker – this comes readymade. Soft layers of cinnamon rolls are topped with luscious salted caramel sauce, pastry cream and a generous amount of pecans. This dessert would’ve been flawless if they left the pastry cream out, as it was bland in taste and didn’t really belong with the cinnamon and caramel.
Overall, Food Swings is an incredibly practical option and the experience itself is actually pretty fun. The order came on time, the online responses are quick and professional and it’s a great concept that will save time and effort for newlyweds, working moms, or bachelors. It's certainly better than most frozen foods found in supermarkets, but if you're looking something more than that, the variety might dissapoint.