Cairo Cafés

Bel Gelato: Authentic Italian Gelato in Heliopolis
Published On: 17/03/2015

Operating for just under a year, Bel Gelato has very quickly made itself a favourite in Heliopolis. The light-as-air Italian delicacy, offered in an abundance of flavours at Bel Gelato, has a light, fluffy consistency to differentiate it from conventional ice cream. Whereas ice cream tends to be more on the dense, creamy side, good quality gelato needs to retain an equally rich flavour within a wispier consistency. Located just off of one of Heliopolis' most distinctive main streets, Bel Gelato's huge deep blue sign is hard to miss. The venue itself is not tremendously spacious, with a single table to boast, yet is brightly lit and immaculately polished. Greeting us with a welcoming smile and a quick chat about the place, our server quickly explained the flavours available during the time of our visit. With both fruity and creamy flavours, Bel Gelato offers upwards of twenty different  options to choose from, that come in small (15LE), medium (25LE) and large (30LE) sizes, either in a cup or a cone. Of the fruit flavours, we found the Tropical Cocktail, Passion Fruit Mango, Wild Strawberries and Cinnamon Green Apple to be the most intriguing, with some of the other peculiur flavours including, Oreo, Pistachio, Hazelnut, Coffee and Jelly Cola - true story. One of the types that immediately caught our attention, however, was the Carpicof flavour; a blend of pistachio, coffee and caramel that we found a tad too strong in taste, with all the distinctive flavours clashing somewhat. Finally deciding on a couple of flavours, we went for a small scoop of Tiramisu and another of Stracciatella. The former tasted like a frothier, more frozen version of the traditional Italian dessert, whereas the latter was a blend of cream with crunchy bits of Belgian chocolate. Both were equally as rich in flavour, with minimal sugar and quality ingredients. Bel Gelato also offers more Italian delicacies than just plain gelato including Bombolone (10LE) - basically the Italian version of a sugar-dusted stuffed donut - as well as Panino Gelato (25LE) - gelato-topped brioche bread - and Italian pie, Crostata (15LE-35LE). All in all, Bel Gelato was everything we hoped it would be, thanks to its use of quality ingredients, as well as its cheery staff who managed to both be casually friendly and professional at the same time. We'll definitely be heading back over there to get over whatever is left of our late blooming winter blues.

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D Waffles: Tasty Waffles at Reasonable Prices in Downtown Cairo
Published On: 16/03/2015

Opening just over two months ago in Downtown Cairo, D Waffles is already luring in customers with its delightful and sweet spongy desserts.  It's a quite small venue – essentially a kiosk with a few seats, high stools and narrow tables attached to the wall – but from a sweet-toothed Cairene's perspective, its arrival to Downtown is an exceedingly pleasant one.  Here they serve up the warmest, spongiest waffles with a generous choice of tasty toppings and at reasonable prices, too. The choice of toppings are displayed behind a glass counter and range from marshmallows, flavoured syrups, chocolate chips and crushed biscuits, to a range of fruit, including kiwi, strawberry and blackberries. During our short wait, the smell of the waffles being cooked was absolutely sensational; they are heated in a special machine and it is possible to watch as the staff decorates it with your choice of toppings.  The most expensive item on the menu, and one of our orders, costs 25LE and consists of one large circular waffle topped with four different toppings of your choice.  It's served up in four slices, like a pizza; one slice was drizzled in warm Nutella and white-chocolate sauce; the second slice was covered with sliced strawberries and drizzled with even more Nutella; while the third was doused in blueberry compote and the fourth was with white chocolate chips and white chocolate sauce.  This was by far the best waffle we've eaten in some time We also opted to try the simple waffle with a topping of Nutella only which came in two sizes: the special at 15LE and the regular at 13LE.  In addition, there is a small range of drinks available, all costing 15LE and divided into two varieties: milkshakes or smoothies.  The milkshake menu offers Oreo, Twix, Mars Bar or Snickers flavours and are topped with whipped cream and crushed biscuits/chocolate pieces.  On the smoothies menu, you can choose from peach, strawberry, banana, mango or cocktail – the latter costing a little more at 18LE.  All drink options are quite heavy and are almost a dessert in themselves, particularly the milkshakes which are thick and creamy with a creamy topping you can eat with a spoon. All-in-all, there's little to dislike about D Waffles – it delivers what it promises and that in itself is an achievement.

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Häagen-Dazs: Cairo Festival City's Go-To Ice Cream Parlour
Published On: 19/02/2015

Summer in Egypt can be unbearable and the heat is all the excuse we need to self-medicate using the cooling and soothing properties of that delicious thing called ice cream. In colder months – example being the time of publishing – the temptation is just as great, even if motivated more by a visceral yearning for indulgence. One such source of frozen treats is Häagen-Dazs; the worldwide brand has had mixed luck in Cairo – with several braches having closing down – but the branch in New Cairo's Cairo Festival City Mall has a steady stream of customers. The café-like space Häagen-Dazs occupies is quite small, dimly lit with deep maroon walls and a huge display of ice cream favours and pastries. The seating area fairly small and was semi-occupied during the time of our visit. We were greeted by a friendly server who insisted on making us try a few of the flavours before making any decisions. Quite shamelessly, we readily obliged and accepted his cordiality – don't judge. The Raspberry flavour was lusciously tangy, light and tasted fresh yet a little too syrupy; whilst the Hazelnut Caramel Chocolate was mouth-watering, with the addition of caramel to the traditional mainstream hazelnut chocolate flavour elevating its overall taste. The Belgian chocolate was as sinful as it sounds, boasting the intense flavour of high quality, dark Belgian chocolate. We finally settled for a scoop of Caramel Biscuit and Cream and another of Midnight Cookie and Cream (18 LE/scoop) in two freshly baked waffle cones (4 LE/ cone); both did not disappoint. The former was light yet decadent with little crunchy biscuit pieces wrapped within its creamy layers and the latter tasting irresistibly chocolaty. Other dessert options Häagen-Dazs offers include muffins, cookies, cakes, tarts, pies, crepes and waffles, as well as special ice cream creations. We noticed a delicious-looking Blueberry Cheesecake (22 LE) alongside an oversized Double Chocolate Chip Cookie (13 LE). All in all, Häagen-Dazs passes with flying colours thanks to its evident use of high quality ingredients, as well as its amicable staff who went the extra mile to make our visit a pleasant one. Sure, the prices are a bit steeper than those of most ice cream parlours, but some things in life are worth an extra penny – or two. 

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Pottery Café: Popular Zamalek Café Gets Revamped
Published On: 12/02/2015

It's always refreshing when a venue decides to undergo a transformation and renew its concept, and when we heard that Pottery Café's Zamalek branch has done just that, we had to go see it for ourselves. Located on Zamalek's busy Abou El Feda Street, overlooking the Nile, Pottery Café still boasts its two-floor indoor seating and outdoor seating that is, essentially, a few tables and chairs laid out on the sidewalk. The indoor décor seems to have gone from being dimly lit with a darker colour scheme to a brighter, more optimistic design. From brightly coloured pink, green and white furniture to quirky wall art, a breath of life has seriously been blown into the spacious café. Visiting the venue during the weekend meant that the chances of getting an outdoor table were pretty much non-existent and so we automatically picked a table on the second floor right by the window. Swiftly laying out Pottery's traditional, and unchanged menu, our waiter was quick to serve us. Opting for the Fried Chicken with Cheese sandwich (35LE), and the Negresco-style Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta (43LE) for main courses and the Mocha Frappe (27 LE) and Green Tea with Fresh Mint (15LE) for drinks, we awaited our order patiently. The drinks arrived within a few minutes, with the Green Tea boasting fresh mint leaves and the Mocha Frappe arriving, as requested, without whipped cream. The Mocha Frappe tasted quite chocolaty and refreshing yet lacked any distinctive coffee flavour. Our food arrived about thirty minutes after we placed our order and was definitely worth the relatively short wait. The delicious, as well as filling Fried Chicken With Cheese Sandwich came in a baguette cut in half, with pane chicken laden with 2 slices of melted Cheddar of cheese, tomatoes and lettuce and an ample side of French fries. The true show-stopper, however, was the Negresco-style Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta, which comprised of penne pasta drenched in Alfredo sauce containing chicken chunks and mushrooms, and topped with a layer of toasted parmesan and mozzarella cheese. All we can say is that this dish can convert anyone into a pasta addict. In a nutshell, Pottery Café's new interior décor is definitely a step up, as it makes for a much more pleasant and polished ambiance. With quality food that doesn't cause a dent in one's wallet, as well as alert, efficient servers, the café outdoes itself. The one pet peeve though? It's always too crowded.

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Shahrzad Cafe: Fresh Juices at Simple Cafe in Downtown Cairo's Talaat Harb Mall
Published On: 01/02/2015

Downtown Cairo's Talaat Harb Mall isn't the trendiest place in town, but is overflowing with outlets and all the cafes and restaurants in are situated on the ground floor. Our latest trip was to a cosy little café called Shahrzad. The name, of course,  comes from the famous 1001Nights. With its loud Arabic music, warm colours and dim lighting, Shahrzad Café possesses both the atmosphere of a bar and a café entwined.  It's quite small and dainty inside and actually looks more interesting from a distance, yet all in all the venue is a pleasantly comfortable one with a tantalising drinks menu. Whether it's hot drinks, cold drinks or a deliciously sweet cocktail, Shahrzad's menu provides it all.  We ordered Strawberry Juice at (13.75LE); Turkish Coffee (8.50LE) and a Shahrzad Cocktail (14.75LE) which was an interesting mix mixture of kiwi, banana milk and vanilla ice cream.  Firstly the strawberry juice tasted incredibly fresh and contained chunky strawberry pieces; the glass was generously sized too.  The Turkish coffee was strong and robust just –  as it should be – yet the Shahrzad cocktail, though generously sized and looking quite delicious, wasn't as enjoyable as anticipated; the sweetness of the banana milk and vanilla ice-cream just didn't go down well with the sourness of the kiwi.  However, overall the prices aren't bad. There's  a vast range of drinks to try, however, and the list of cocktails kept us entertained with their unusual names and bizarre mixes, like the Romeo and Juliet; a mixture of mango; banana milk and banana pieces.  They also offer canned drinks though these are expensive compared to outside: popular non-alcoholic malt beverage, Byril, costs 10.75LE, while soft drinks are sold at a typically high 9.75LE. Desserts are available too, though they're primarily different flavours of ice cream mixed with fruit or topped with chocolate sauce: the famous Banana Split, which is three scoops of vanilla ice cream, banana slices topped with chocolate sauce, is available for 20.75LE. The final page of the menu consists of shisha and, being reeled in by the exotic flavours, we opted to try the strawberry flavour at a very reasonable 9.25LE as well as the cocktail flavour which cost a rather high 20.75LE.  In the context of other places that serve shisha, they aren't bad prices, but both tasted of a similarly generic fruitiness and were pretty indistinguishable from each other. When the cheque arrived, we had been charged for a bottle of water we hadn't opened. To the waiter's credit, he quickly deducted the item – but make sure to revise your cheque nonetheless. There's little here that will truly wow you, but Shahrzad offers a pleasant menu and comfortable atmosphere with decent prices. 

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Dukes: Delicious Baked Goods at Heliopolis Patisserie
Published On: 31/01/2015

Bakeries are in no short supply around Cairo and while roaming the streets of Heliopolis, we came across a city favourite - Dukes. With its slick black and white facade and reputation for delicious dirt cakes, it was time to drop in and see how the years have treated this venue. Upon entry, we found a large glass display of colourful selection of gateaux, dirt cakes, tarts, macaroons and giant cupcakes. Additionally, Dukes also serves soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetable casseroles, pasta and main courses, alongside bread, mini pizzas and other baked goodies. After much contemplation, we opted for the Black Forest Gateaux (15LE), Chocolate Dirt Cake (25LE), Charlotte Gateaux (15LE), and a Mini Smoked Salmon Cake (12LE). The only table at the venue was occupied, so we took our orders to go. The Mini Smoked Salmon Cakes were pretty simple and was layered in thin white bread with salmon paste in between, and covered entirely with smoked salmon slices. While the portion was tiny in comparison to its price, the fresh salmon and surprisingly flavourful salmon paste wa quite a treat. The Black Forest, a rectangular cake with multiple layers of chocolate topped with whipped cream, had a satisfying amount of chocolate, but the excessive cream overpowered everything and made things quite messy. We recommend the Chocolate Dirt Cake to true chocoholics instead. The combination of moist chocolate and thin layered cake was the highlight; we only wish the decorative flowers on top were edible as well. The Charlotte Chateaux, meanwhile, was a fruity masterpiece, consisting of a creamy cheesecake filling, topped with slices of strawberries, and engulfed in a pink sugar icing that holds it all together. The flavours complement each other perfectly into a delicious piece of gateaux. Unable to try anything else in fear of a sugar coma, we stopped there. Dukes is definitely one of the top patisseries in town thanks to its huge andcreative menu; it's a shame there isn't any space to enjoy the food there, though.

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Waffle Station: Excellent Sweet & Savoury Waffle Creations at Americana Plaza Mall
Published On: 29/01/2015

There's something about going to see a movie that requires constant snacking. At Americana Plaza, the area surrounding the cinema has booths serving everything from ice cream to hotdogs and cupcakes. What really caught our eye, however, was the Waffle Station booth. The menu isn't exactly huge, but offers traditional sweet waffles, as well as savoury sandwiches, alongside milkshakes and coffee. The savoury options all use waffles as bread, including the Cheese Burger (28LE), Chicken and Cheese (27LE), and Club Sandwich (22LE). The desserts include the Sugar and Cinnamon waffle (25LE), Philadelphia Cheese Cake waffle (27LE), Apple and Cinnamon waffle (25LE), or you can create your own where each sauce or topping costs an additional 5LE, and a bowl of ice cream costs 9LE. We opted for the Cheese Burger and Chicken and Cheese  alongside the Sugar and Cinnamon with additional ice cream. When we were reluctant about the Philadelphia Cheese Cake waffle (27LE), the server offered us to try it. We're not too proud to admit that he was right and ordered one as well. The savoury options tasted just as delicious as they looked. Taking a little longer to prepare than the desserts, the Cheese Burger, topped with melted cheese, onions, lettuce, ketchup and mayo, was very tasty yet surprisingly light. Similarly with the Chicken, topped with cheese and lettuce, we couldn't decide our favourite. The chicken was cooked very well, and all the ingredients were fresh, and packaged very neatly. While neither of them was particularly filling, we still thoroughly enjoyed them. The desserts were simply incredible. Topped with walnuts, icing and ice cream, the Sugar and Cinnamon waffle, was our favourite between the desserts. The Philadelphia Cheese Cake topped with berry sauce, despite the novelty, just couldn't fare up to the Sugar and Cinnamon. We found Waffle Station to be a very enjoyable experience. It's not easy to create something delicious with minimal ingredients, let alone create something new.

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Pottery Café: Laid Back Branch of Popular Café in New Cairo’s Meeting Point
Published On: 24/01/2015

Egypt's endless collection of cafés seems to have a single identifier: excessive noise. While occcasions often call for the hustle and bustle of a Cairo cafe, one needs to hang out somewhere hushed and more relaxed every now and again for the sake of one's sanity. Located in one of New Cairo's Meeting Point, Pottery Cafe offers a small indoor seating area, as well as a less attractive, semi-indoor, tent-covered seating area.  Opting for the indoor seating area, we took our seats amongst the almost exclusively white interior, with the exception of a single, brightly coloured wall. The café was neither packed, nor noisy in any way during our visit, making for a generally tranquil ambiance. A waiter made his way to us a couple of minutes later, with menus in hand. For those not familiar with the popular chain, Pottery Café surprisingly offers an adequate selection of dishes, considering it does not label itself as a restaurant. From salads, pizzas, pastas, fajitas, steaks, sandwiches and burgers to basic desserts, one can definitely assemble a filling meal here. As for drinks, everything from frappes, smoothies, milkshakes and juices are offered. As soon as we made up our mind, our waiter came by and immediately jotted down our order, arriving back with it about 30 minutes later. Our margarita pizza (33LE) came with the requested toppings of black olives (10LE) and mushrooms (6LE) and was satisfactory yet unspectacular, as was the Quattro Formaggi pizza (42LE). Both were cooked well and without any disastrous faults, but simply lacked any flair or points of interest, so to speak. The Fettuccini Alfredo pasta (39LE) was, on the other hand, quite lip-smacking with the cream sauce having just the right consistency and the penne pasta being well-cooked. It did, however, lack a considerable amount of chicken cubes. In a nutshell, though branding itself as a café, Pottery Café does a sufficient job at offering an ample array of food options. Though the pizzas were, at best, average, the pasta was quite delectable. And, lest we forget, the café's general quietness is refreshing and its service to be on point.

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Rigoletto: Classic Egyptian Ice Cream Chain Opens Shabby New Branch in Maadi
Published On: 21/01/2015

When it comes to confectionaries and buying sweets in Egypt, people rarely stray from what they've tried and tested. Every time your parents visit someone and bring konafa, basboosa or gateau, we can guarantee it's always from the same vendor - Egyptians are a habitual people. Egypt's oldest ice cream vendor, Rigoletto, is no different. Having been around since the late 1980s, Rigoletto is known for not just the ice cream, but for cakes and other goodies as well. With a new branch on Road 233 in Maadi, we thought we would go check it out. Now, if you have never tried Rigoletto before, this particular venue will not entice you to. Extremely underwhelming, the venue consists of white walls, a cake fridge and an ice cream fridge. There is no décor and there's no ambiance. Now, most vendors could never pull that off, but when you have an extremely well known brand, nobody really cares about what the store looks like, so long as the sweets are still good. So without further fuss we opted for a slice of Cheesecake (14LE) and two scoops of Vanilla Croquant Ice Cream (16LE). The full size cheesecakes cost either 80LE or 100LE depending on the size, while the ice cream can also come in 150ml boxes (10LE) or 1L boxes (55LE). Our server swiftly prepared our orders offering to top the cheesecake with strawberry syrup for an additional 5LE. We agreed and took our desserts to the car, because there's nowhere to sit. The Cheesecake was very delicious and had an interesting consistency that worked particularly well with the crust. The syrup might be too sweet for some, especially since the taste of cream cheese isn't very striking, so it isn't for the faint hearted. The Vanilla Croquant Ice Cream was a pleasure as well. Topped with caramel and hazelnuts, the blend of flavors and textures gives a new dimension to the creamy ice cream. While the brand name carries a reputation and a loyalty, resting on your laurels is a dangerous game to play; there's so much competition these days that this new branch of Rigoletto may find that, despite, their consistent quality, the trendier brands might trump them in the long run.

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Nola Cupcakes: Popular Cupcake Store Opens Up in Cairo Festival City Mall
Published On: 06/01/2015

It's definitely hard to keep impressing after being around for quite some time, but Nola somehow seems to be constantly on top of its game. If it isn't a new branch popping up, it's some new creation; they always have some kind of surprise up their sleeve for us. Located in Cairo Festival City Mall, Nola's newest branch boasts its signature Mint-dominated colour scheme and whimsical, Alice-In-Wonderland-Like interior. With huge cupcake displays to the left and an adequate seating area consisting of white, floral chairs and tables to the right, the place feels quite cosy yet chic. The dangling chandelier and bright lighting of the place also add a nice touch, as well as the blackboard with the menu sprawled on it in colourful chalk. Walking in and taking a quick look at the cupcake displays, we were greeted by one of the two servers present at the time. Friendly, informative and quite amicable, he helped us choose flavours that best suited our mood. Offering cupcakes (8.5-14 LE) in all imaginable flavours, Nola doesn't stop at that, with several flavours of Cronuts (12-15 LE), as well as Cheesecake Cups (14-15 LE) available. The cupcakes are also offered in three sizes: regular, mini (31.5 LE/7 pieces) and grand. Opting for quite a mixture of the regular-sized cupcakes, we went for the Pralines N' Cream (13 LE),  Red Velvet (10.5 LE), Chocolate Peanut Butter (12 LE), Chocolate (12 LE) and Blueberry (10 LE) ones. Our verdict? All of them, without an exception, tasted fresh, creamy and absolutely lip-smacking. Our favourites, however, were the Pralines N' Cream and the Chocolate Peanut Butter, whose frostings were unbelievably decadent.   In a nutshell, being one of the main initiators of the cupcake trend in Egypt, Nola is definitely held on a pedestal when it comes to us always expecting the best of the best from them. Judging by the lovely staff, the breath-taking design of the place and the undeniable freshness of the cupcakes, Nola both met and exceeded our expectations.

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Cairo Weekend Guide: Back2Gold, Heart Soul & Mind, Lots of Live Music & More!

Hello Cairo! The weather in Egypt's capital continues to play with out emotions as we countdown the weeks till 'Sahel Season' and other beachside tomfoolery. In the meantime, though, Cairo has plenty to keep even the most demanding of people entertained, including live music, parties, exhibitions a