Cairo Cafés

Sarah's Cupcakes: Delicious Baked Treats in Heliopolis
Published On: 11/08/2014

Sarah's Cupcakes, located in a hushed Heliopolis side-street, is quite unlike its surroundings. The interior is almost deafeningly colourful. We were struck immediately by the greens, yellows and oranges of the sugar, sprinkles and glitter. But don't let the name fool you. Cupcakes are not all that Sarah has to offer. Also on the menu are cookies-on-a-stick, cake-pops, tarts and cakes. Many of these items are targeted specifically at children, which makes Sarah's shop an ideal caterer for children's birthday parties. In fact, a whole stand in one corner of the store is dedicated to birthday essentials - namely, an exhaustive variety of candles. In terms of cupcakes, Sarah has all the classics covered: carrot with cream cheese frosting, lemon meringue, blueberry cheesecake, chocolate, vanilla (with various kinds of icing), Oreo cookie, Twix, Mars, Ferrero Rocher as well as a few more unusual combinations, including caramel-apple, banana-caramel, and M&Ms with milk chocolate (all for 10LE, customized cupcakes for 15LE). Cupcakes are also available in 'big-mini' (5LE). Despite being smaller in size, they retain a thick base ensuring they offer more than just one bite of delight. We were consistently impressed by the frosting, which was beautifully presented, albeit so generously piled on the base that the cupcakes risked becoming a little top-heavy. Nonetheless, Sarah has successfully evaded the plague of sickening sweetness terrorising the nation's yield of frosting. All we could really complain about was the inevitable sugary splotch on the tips of our noses. But what really sets Sarah's Cupcakes apart is their design. Even the most basic vanilla cupcake becomes interesting when topped with a sugary Hello Kitty, Smurf or Cookie Monster - all in shocking pinks, blues and greens. Equally adorable were the black and white, wedding-themed army of tuxedo-cupcakes. The overall attention to detail was very impressive, and Sarah's clever use of colour, texture and glitter makes her designs nothing short of glamorous. And we all know that a pretty cupcake is instantly tastier. Her other products are equally sleek. Our favourite were the chocolate cake-pops (5LE), crunchy and colourful on the outside and deliciously fudgey on the inside. Customised cakes are also on offer, ranging between 100LE-125LE for a small cake, and 250LE-350LE for the larger size, the exact figure depending on the number of layers and intricacy of the design. The products are freshly made, on location. Leftovers are delivered to a local orphanage once every two days. Sarah will also soon be running cooking and baking classes for kids, in the comfort of her own kitchen facilities. She hopes to extend this to adults. Somewhat more niche is the plan to offer sushi courses. No doubt, these will prove successful. After all, there are few things Cairenes love more than sushi and cupcakes.

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Mashour: Surprising Cafe in Talaat Harb Mall in Downtown Cairo
Published On: 10/08/2014

We love finding venues where we don't expect them, and this particular one we're sure is in a spot most have never considered going to. Situated in the ground floor of Talaat Harb Mall in Downtown Cairo, Mashour is a treat after hours of sifting between retail outlets, jewellery kiosks and shoe shops taking up the whole seven floors of the mall. Mashour is a pleasant, highly spacious and fully air-conditioned cafe serving drinks and small desserts. The environment and atmosphere is comfortable and, despite the chatter of customers, it's a nice place to enjoy with friends whilst relishing in it's delightful beverages. Immaculate tiled flooring, surprisingly stylish tables and red cushioned seating make up this venue which is made even more decorative and serene by it's leafy green plants dotted here and there.  The tables and chairs are generously spaced out in this large area, which is ideal when the bar fills up, especially during the football season as everyone gathers around the large flat screen TV; seating is also available just outside of Mashour for those busy days, though there is no air-conditioning and it can be a little uncomfortable. Drinking at Mashour is a pleasant occasion although the menu is somewhat limited. This cafe offers a mixture of hot and cold beverages; one tea with lemon costs 7.50LE and one strong double espresso costs 13.50LE.  Canned drinks are available too but are a little expensive with a can  costing 8.75LE and a can of Red Bull reaching to an excruciating 20.00LE. Mashour do have a range of exotic cocktails presented on the menu, too, though upon further study of the items listed, we realised that they were more of a light dessert.  We ordered one chocolate milkshake at 13.75LE, which arrived in a tall generous glass and was topped with delicious fluffy foam, one Florida Juice at 12.00LE and, finally, one Cream Caramel at 10.95LE.  The juice and the cream caramel were of an average standard considering their high prices - though the milkshake was particularly creamy and enjoyable with a strong chocolaty taste. The service was fast and friendly with drinks served by waiters dressed in smart white shirts and black trousers, and the manager was particularly helpful in suggesting drinks from the menu.  However, it is a shame about the prices, which seem a little steep; you pay for the venue and not the drinks.  On the plus side, Mashour do provide several additional services than the average bars and cafés, a large flat screen television at the front, free Wifi and Shisha are amongst the pros. Though Mashour serves only drinks and light desserts, there are many other food outlets very close by on the ground floor serving a variety of fast foods to be enjoyed within the large eating area in the centre of this small oasis.

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inSeason: Healthy Cocktails, Salads and Desserts in Zamalek
Published On: 27/07/2014

A long line of restaurants and cafes serving healthy food choices have recently took Cairo by storm. While they approach the concept of healthy food differently – some detail the entire calorie intake and nutritional value, others offer less fatty versions of popular dishes – what's for sure is that these ventures are definitely finding customers. The newest addition is inSeason, having recently opened its doors in Zamalek. We were immediately drawn in by the salad bar, where we found plentiful and healthy choices, including options that aren't usually available at other vendors like asparagus and quinoa. The salads start at 38LE and the eatery also offers baked potatoes for 25LE which you can top with tzatziki sauce, mushrooms or beef bacon. When you think about healthy drinks, you're probably picturing a fruit cocktail with no added sugar or preservatives – but inSeason takes that a step further. If you're well versed in healthy eating, you probably understand the process of 'detoxing.' Your diet consists of purely liquids for a period spanning a few days, the purpose of which is to force out all sorts of toxins from the body. inSeason embraces this concept entirely, offering six different cocktails each of which has a specific dietary purpose. We tried the Lean Mean & Green (25LE) which consists of apples, lemons and ginger, plus cucumbers, arugula, celery, turnips and parsley. Unusual but tasty, the cocktail is labelled as a means of detoxing and helps weight loss. You may also notice that it resembles a light salad dressing in flavour. Our second cocktail was the Metabolism Mega-Drive (25LE) which is rich in vitamin-C, increases your metabolism and strengthens the immune system, consisting of carrots, oranges, pineapples, lemons and ginger. While this is a traditional, or just logically acceptable, drink in terms of contents, the taste of oranges overpowered everything else, though the ginger gave it a bit of kick. We also decided to try desserts andopted for a Crunch Zone (35LE) which consists of a layer of honey in a cup topped with vanilla flavoured yoghurt, cherries, granola and roasted walnuts. Wonderfully delicious and unusual tasting thanks to the light flavoured yoghurt, the cherries were fresh and the granola created a texture mix to balance it all out. We also opted for the Original Greek (8LE); a simple concoction of yoghurt with honey. While we were assured it was fresh, it tasted unfortunately stale. inSeason also offer a range of healthy foods and condiments like virgin olive oil, physalis, kiwi and pumpkin jams, as well as organic fruit and vegetables. While the prices are a little high for the portions, as most ingredients are imported, inSeason is still a strange and unusual experience that's worth a try. You probably won't be a returning customer if you're not as hardcore about your diet, though.

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Maasa: New Oriental Sweets Bakery in Zamalek
Published On: 22/07/2014

Around Cairo's cafes, restaurants and bakeries, Lebanese and Syrian influence remains strong, with the subtle Levantine touches transform Egypt-familiar foods into something a little exotic. When it comes to Oriental sweets, Mandarine Koueidar has dominated the the market in Zamalek for years, even despite new competition such as Al Samadi. New in Zamalek, Maasa has arrived during Ramadan as a challenger to the throne. The venue is quite small and the glass façade only shows refrigerator which has six different kinds of ice cream, although that sight alone is enough to draw you in. We were greeted pleasantly at the door by a man whose accent gave away his Syrian nationality. Oriental sweets vendors usually have strange restrictions on minimum amounts, as a means of forcing you to buy as much as possible of their product – but there's no such obligations here. A kilo of Pistachio Baklava cost 110LE; crunchy, golden and drenched in honey, we expected it to be much sweeter – which was a pleasant surprise. The pistachio is used generously and tasted freshly roasted. We also tried the Pistachio Hareesa, (55LE per kilo), which was tasty, had good form and a good ratio between the pistachio and the coconut flavoured mash. We tried the Basbousa with Almonds which was a little strange. Surprisingly void of sugar, and with a strong crust versus the grainy semolina we're all accustomed to, it didn't quite hit the mark. The Esh El Bolbol (110LE per kilo) on the other hand was roasted perfectly and with plenty of pistachio. Maasa also sell Malban and Nouga. Pistachio Turkish delight will set you back 120LE per kilo, and has a positively distinct taste without overdoing it with the sweetness. Of the previously mentioned ice cream (60LE-90LE per kilo), because it looked very different to what you'd find locally. We opted for the Damascus Mesteka – as mix of pistachio and cream – and it was divine. Levantine ice cream, or Bouza, differs from regular ice cream in that it pulls from the mesteka and has a slightly different texture, which along with the pistachio made it some of the best we've tried. While Maasa is a safe option in a pinch, its offerings are largely conventional – except for the ice cream, of course.

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Kahwet Leila: Sohour with a View at the Platform in Maadi
Published On: 17/07/2014

A decent meal in a good location with good weather is an unbeatable, if often unattainable, combination. Ramadan, however, moves the goalposts; the food of a traditional sohour is neither complicated nor difficult, making the whole experience dependant on many other factors. At Kahwet Leila in Maadi's the Platform, you get just that. The Lebanese restaurant serves a set sohour menu at 100LE per person; that package includes Ramadan drinks, manakeesh, eggs, foul and falafel, plus a selection of desserts. The great thing about the Platform is its breezy Nile-side location, paired with its chic aesthetics. Kahwet Leila also serve very decent shisha. Shami flat bread is served with thyme and olive oil for you to snack on until the food arrives. From the sohour menu selection we opted for a Mouajanat Cocktail, Eggs Mfarakeh, Foul with Homos, Foul with Vegetables, Labneh, Falafel and Osmanliyet Leila from the desserts. Frustrations flared almost immediately; the flat bread was cold. Seriously, small things like make a world of a difference. The Foul with Homos didn't particularly stand out –neither did the Foul with Vegetables – and after a few bites we realised why; they both had the artificial taste of a canned product. The Labneh, an excellent dish to cool your stomach after heavy and oily foods like foul, had more salty cheese than labneh, which unfortunately took away from the cooling effect. The Eggs Mfarakeh – scrambled eggs with cut up potato cubes – was equally as lacklustre ,but the Mouajanat Cocktail was the saving grace; around a dozen pieces of different dough and pastries, filled with either cheese, spinach or meat, all fresh, warm and delicious. The Falafel was also much better than the other dishes, made the Levantine way with homos instead of foul, and served hot and crispy. After a brief coffee break we proceeded to the dessert, which we believe may be the best thing on their menu. The Osmanliya – konafa topped with pistachio ice cream and syrup – was the definite hit of the night, and a definite must try for any sweett0othed Cairene. Despite the inconsistency of the quality of the food itself, Kahwet Leila's strengths in sohour lays primarily in its location – perfect for sohour with family or friends.

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Nola Cupcakes: Ramadan-Themed Sweet Treats
Published On: 16/07/2014

Once you reach the halfway point of Ramadan, you will very possibly become bored of traditional food and Eastern sweets. Following the trend that started with someone putting mangos into konafa, Nola Cupcakes has marked Ramadan 2014 with a series of specials. Utilising traditional Ramadan ingredients like dates, konafa, basbousa and more, we opted for a Salted Caramel Date (12LE), Red Velvet Basbousa (13LE), Karkade (13LE), Konafa Nutella (13LE), Konafa Mango (13LE) and a Blueberry cupcake with Ramadan-themed frosting (14LE). There's an immediate problem with Nola's; they are far too sweet and this is a recurring theme in almost all the cupcakes. The Salted Caramel Dates cupcake was a relative success; the dates are mixed into the cake itself, which created a nice textural contrast, but the icing was just a little much. The Red Velvet Basbousa was even more intense, but the flavours just didn't add up leaving you with an excess amount of sugar. The Karkade was the least impressive and the taste of hibiscus was undetectable in both the icing and the cake. The Konafa Nutella was the most surprising of all, because there wasn;t so much of a sugar onslaught.  The konafa, however, lacked any crisp and tasted a little stale. The Konafa Mango suffered similar problems, in addition to tasting of burnt butter.. The last cupcake was a standard blueberry muffin, only with a mountain of icing in different Ramadan themed shapes – ours was a prayer mat and beads. Unless you're a serious fan of icing, you may find yourself sliding most of it off, only to reach an average cupcake with very few blueberry pieces. Overall, this was probably not the best dessert we've had this year. It's probably not the best Nola have done either, but with the growing trend of westernising Oriental desserts, almost all confectionaries and bakeries are jumping on the bandwagon, and to that we say: stop. You can't even find a proper konafa with nuts or cream anymore!

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Ramadan in Cairo 2014: Five Great Shisha Spots in Cairo
Published On: 16/07/2014

Egyptians are an uncomplicated people; we don't ask for much and we'd like to think that we have the capacity to appreciate the small things in life – none more so than that divisive contraption called a shisha. Appreciation for the hookah – as the Yanks have taken to call it – becomes paramount during Ramadan. It's a palate cleanser, of sorts, and the influx of wacky new flavours – the increasingly popular bubblegum flavour is a particularly strange one – has made the water pipe as fashionable as it is widely available across Cairo. Shisha enthusiasts tend to have their favourites when it comes to cafes and lounges, but Ramadan is an occasion that deserves something different. Here are five places that all but guarantee a perfectly trouble-free, restful Ramadan night. 139 Lounge & Terrace New to legendary hotel, Mena House, 139 is nothing short of magical. The lounge – tactfully surrounded by fountains and greenery – is in itself a slick, shiny new hangout spot perfect for late Ramadan nights, but the real pull here is the incredible view of the Pyramids. Baladina Not as well-known as other venues on this list, Baladina's rather kitsch, rural-chic ambiance make it somewhat of a hidden treasure. Located in Sheikh Zayed's Arkan Mall, the café-restaurant keeps things simple in keeping with their quirky, laidback approach to Ramadan. Naguib Mahfouz Cafe & Resturant Finding a little peace and quiet in the colourful Khan El Khalili is a thankless task, but the extent to which Naguib Mahfouz provides such a rare commodity makes it a fantastic place to enjoy shisha and tea. Throw live music and a heavy dose of nostalgia, and you have a perfect Ramadan night out. Wahawi Ramadan Lounge Taking over Le Pacha 1901's rooftop in Zamalek, Wahawi ticks all the boxes. Now in its second year, the Ramadan kheima has proved to be popular with Cairo's younger crowds. With a great view and location, a suitably laidback atmosphere, Wahawi takes you out of the Cairo's usual gaudy Ramadan hubbub.   Wel3a An obvious one, maybe, but Wel3a continues to enjoy success as the peak of the modern shisha culture. Popular all year round for frequenters and residents of Zamalek, its Aboul Feda Street branch enjoys a Nile-side setting, with all manner of shisha flavor on offer.

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Beirut: New Restaurant & Cafe Opens in Downtown for Ramadan
Published On: 11/07/2014

The newest cafe to open on Mohamed Mahmoud Street arrives just in time for Ramadan. Located right next door to Costa, Beirut is quite the little delight. It really is tiny inside, with just three tables on the first floor and five upstairs; but due to opening just recently it's still a fairly quiet and laid back environment, and there are also two tables just outside the entrance. The staff inside are very smiley and cheery, which adds to the pleasant atmosphere and they are all happy to go that extra mile for the customers. The interior design is clean and pleasant with three leather couches and wooden chairs around small glass-topped tables.  There is a television and good air conditioning inside plus a toilet on the second floor.  Arabic cloth designs hang on the walls and from the ceiling creating a homely environment though overall it isn't anything particularly special. To start with we ordered, one fresh lemon juice with mint and one strawberry juice at 10LE each and one green tea costing 5.99LE; coffee and cappuccino are also available as well as an assortment of cold drinks.  All the juices are freshly squeezed which is why the prices for these appear a little high; there is the choice of strawberry, kiwi, guava, peach, watermelon, lemon, lemon with mint and orange and all arrive in a tall, chilled glass.  The lemon juice with mint and the strawberry (which contained real fruit pieces) were among some of the best we've tried in recent times. The food menu consists of beef burgers, chicken burgers, hot dogs and all the typical fast foods as well as small salads to accompany these.  Chicken and beef shawermas are available at 15.99LE.The prices are average and the food is too, but not a bad little diner. The menu states that it is possible to have small parties and business meetings inside though booking is required and highly necessary due to Beirut's small interior.  Shisha is available to smoke inside too. Beirut are happy to declare that they will be open very early and late during Ramadan providing breakfast for all and sohour for all.

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Cookies 'N More: Delivery Only Home-Baked Goodies
Published On: 18/06/2014

There's no better way to end a craving than to stuff your face with a batch of cookies.  Cookies 'N More - Cairo's newest homemade goodies and delivery only bakery - is here to treat us with many unique baked-goods to satisfy our sugary appetite. While offering a variety of cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins and biscotti, all baked with fresh ingredients, Cookies 'N More also serve healthier options made with whole wheat flour, oats, fruits, nuts and vegetables as well as gluten free products. All orders are delivered in dozen packs or more; we opted for the Gingersnaps Cookies (40LE), the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (50LE), Chocolate Chip Cookies (50LE), as well as the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies (50LE) and a batch of 12 Chocolate Brownies (70LE). Orders should be taken a day in advance, since our order was taken right on the spot, it took longer than expected to arrive. Since Cookies 'N More are a delivery only service, we expected more from the packaging; a disappointing and unattractive carton box wrapped with tape. However, inside the box each batch of our order was wrapped in plastic paper -  like Christmas cookies. But don't let the packaging fool you. We dug into the Chocolate Chip Cookies first, and were surprised by how well they were baked; perfectly crunchy on the outside and delightfully chewy on the inside, with the right amount of chunky chocolate chips. Although in taste they feel exactly like a typical chocolate chip cookie, straight out of a box, nothing recognizsably different, except a few butter smears left on our fingers, yet the chocolate chips themselves were ideal; not too sweet nor bitter, whether homemade or product branded they deserve a thumbs up. While Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies are not really a standard order, the healthy sweet snacks are always a good saviour for those on a diet and looking for something tasty with a few calories. Cookies N' Mores' Oatmeal Cookies were the ideal healthy snack; although, they lacked raisins and had a little too much oatmeal. The Gingersnaps, a mixture of ginger and cinnamon, are not for non-ginger fans. The cookie is baked just the same as the others, but the ginger and cinnamon leave a strong after taste that you will find undesirable if you don't like ginger. Worth mentioning are the Chocolate Brownies, exceptionally large in proportion, with a crusty surface and a chewy fluffy core the brownies were impressive. While most brownies leave us fully stuffed almost feeling sick with chocolaty sweetness, Cookies 'N Mores' brownies were light and easy on the chocolate, you could have a hundred of those and still feel feathery. To eat all that and still go for the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies was a suicidal mission, if you want to shut off your sweet cravings, one bite of these and you're good to go. Full of all kinds of chocolate on the inside, and with chocolate chip chunks on the outside, the cookie is only fitting for true chocolate fanatics.  Overall Cookies 'N More did not fail to impress, while they wouldn't be our every day choice when it comes to baked goods, we would still recommend them for special occasions. 

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Cairo 360 Editor's Choice Awards 2014: Bakery & Confectionery Awards
Published On: 15/06/2014

In Egypt, there's a baker around every corner. From the local forn to the more established sweets chains, there's nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread, or the first bite of cupcake. Egyptians' famous sweet tooth and the recent waves of creativity amongst the city's trendier bakeries means that there's no shortage of bakers and confectioners; but only a select few are committed to producing quality; here are the winners of the Cairo 360 Editor's Choice Awards in the Bakery & Confectionery category. Crumbs Cupcakes & More Another of the original troop of cupcake stores, Crumbs holds a loyal following. Not as in the public eye as some of its peers, Crumbs lets its baked goods do all the talking, with their service of customised cupcakes for parties and events being a particular hit with Cairenes.  Delight Offering both classic and playful tarts and cakes, Delight has become synonymous with its products as a go-to for special occasions or even just to indulge your sweet-tooth in a slice of sweetly goodness. Mandarine Koueidar An institution unto itself in Cairo, Madaerine Koueidar's busier periods might come during Ramadan, but throughout the year, the chain is unparalleled when it comes to churning out classic Oriental sweets and other equally enticing treats - try their sorbet. NOLA Cupcakes While Cairo's cupcake obsession might have simmered a little in the last six months or so, there's still nothing better than fresh, scrumptious cupcake for any occasion - or no occassion at all. NOLA, despite vacating their first branch in Zamalek, has proven time and time again to be the leader of the pack. Tiny Treats Cupcakes In a city that holds onto fads and trends with the skin of its teeth, originality is a scarce commodity. Tiny Treats hasn't been around as long as some ofthe other names on this list, butt their inventive cupcake flavours, including a surprisingly delicious bubblegum cupcake.  For a full rundown on all the Cairo 360 Editor's Choice Award winners, click here.

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Cairo 360 Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

The Cairo 360 team has today taken on the ALS Bucket Challenge and we've challenged a few of our good friends to follow suit. A group of our bravest souls were on hand to make a donation and contribute to an online craze that has seen people from across the world dump buckets of ice and water over t