Cairo Cafés

Basilli's Town Lounge: Kitschy, Comfy Cafe in Downtown Cairo
Published On: 03/09/2014

Located in the heart of Downtown Cairo, this unique café possesses the essence of a gallery both inside and out due to its maze-like layout and unique interior design. Basilli's Town Lounge is made up of three spacious rooms each adorned with with kitschy décor including images of famous actresses, singers and writers, too - everyone from Elvis Presley and William Shakespeare, to Abdelhalim Hafez and Souad Hosni. Upon seating ourselves we were provided with Basilli's menu which isfairly simple, specialising mostly in drinks, though several choices of ice cream were available including a Banana Split which consisted of a whole banana topped with vanilla ice-cream and fruity syrup. Upon placing our order we were told the coffee machine was out of order which significantly reduced our choices.  We did, however, find pleasure in Basilli's selection of cocktails and fruit juices and opted to try its signature cocktail, the Basilli Cocktail (16LE); a mixture of mango, banana, ginger and vanilla.  This proved to be a delicious concoction with a rather thick consistency from the banana and mango. We couldn't taste the vanilla, however, but the ginger gave it a zesty kick. We also ordered one Strawberry Juice (10LE) and one Kiwi Juice (11LE); the strawberry juice was sweet and thick with real strawberry pieces and served in a tall stylish glass with a thick straw enabling us to suck up those large chunks of strawberry. The kiwi juice, on the other hand, appeared to be lacking in kiwi flavour and had a hint of bitterness from the lemon juice used.  The presentation was pleasing, though, served in a tall glass identical to that of the strawberry juice and decorated with slices of kiwi delicately attached to the glass on the inside.  Well worth the money. The overall prices in Basilli arepleasantly cheap, the service was adequate and the choice of drinks was decent. Though not particularly refined, it's hard not to be charmed by the unique style.  One room in particular caught our attention, as the chairs and tables were in the style of chopped wood and, even though it did not have any relevance to the overall theme of the café, it was a pleasant added touch.  All three of the rooms are comfortable, spacious and fully air-conditioned; in addition to this, there is also the option to sit outside and enjoy the weather.

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Cafe Etoile: Cosy Cafe in Heliopolis’ Noisy Tivoli Dome
Published On: 27/08/2014

Anyone who's ever been to Heliopolis' Tivoli Dome knows exactly how crowded it can get. With so many shops crammed into such a small space, and a large influx of people rushing to celebrate the arrival of the weekend, one cannot even fathom the possibility of finding a quiet spot to have a conversation there. Café Etoile, however, provided exactly that. We were greeted at the entrance by a pleasant waiter who offered us both outdoor and indoor seating. Wanting to sit down somewhere we can talk and avoid the large crowds' clamour, we chose to sit indoors. We all immediately called dibs on and sunk into the comfortable couches. The waiter instantly placed our menus in front of us and gave us our space to make our choices. In the mood for dessert and tea, we ordered a strawberry drizzled cheesecake (27.90 LE), an Etoile Tarte (31.90LE) and some soothing Green Tea. The menu featured some typical main courses but nothing you wouldn't find in any other Cairo cafe. The drinks, however, were offered in abundance and we kept catching glances of the waiters carrying around some colourful and refreshing-looking smoothies. Our cheesecake and tarte arrived quite swiftly alongside our tea and we simply could not wait to dig into their sugary goodness. The cheesecake was, despite its strangely small size, deliciously creamy and deceptively light with sweet Strawberry jam on top. The Tarte, however, was not as pleasing; the base did not have that distinct crumbly yet fluffy tarte texture and tasted like stale, crunchy pancakes. We also found the banana-caramel mixture covering the base a overwhelmingly sweet. Mixed with the vanilla ice cream, however, the overall taste was a bit more balanced and tolerable. The Green Tea was served in a metal tea pot which kept leaking water from the side and was, in our humble opinion, all together uncalled for. To recap, our experience at Café Etoile, gooey tarte aside, was quite a pleasant one. Our waiter was pretty efficient, refilling our water every now and then, and did not, for a second, completely disappear. Thus, we found the overall service to be stellar. The prices were also reasonable and there was no minimum charge, as is the case with many other cafes in Tivoli Dome. Moreover, we found the general ambiance to be rather calm in a usually chaotic and noisy place.

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Rendez-Vous: Classy Cafe in Downtown Cairo's Ramses Hilton Center
Published On: 24/08/2014

Located on the first floor of the Ramses Hilton Center, Rendez-Vous, an elegant open area café simply oozes with class.  It has become exceedingly popular amongst higher class guests, including many Internationals which arrive from the Ramses Hilton right across the street. Equipped with a large flat screen television, air-conditioning and a thrilling 360 degree view of Ramses Hilton Center's shops. Divided into two areas, the main area was for food and the far side for shisha and a small zalabya vendor. The two aromas mixed together quite nicely. Upon seating ourselves we were presented with two stylish brown leather menus, a large one for the food and smaller one for the drinks.  The drinks menu specializes in mostly alcoholic beverages; a mixture of aperitifs, cocktails and beers, with one Heineken costing (39LE). We ordered one Pina Colada at (71LE) which tasted identical to any Pina Colada served at a bar, one Cappuccino at (23LE), which although quite strong, the staff had carefully drizzled the word 'Welcome' in chocolate sauce on its frothy surface – which we found a nice touch.  Finally, we decided to try one of Rendez-Vous's mocktails. Similar to a cocktail minus the alcohol, we opted for one Raspberry Mojito (32LE). Sweet with the thick consistency of a fruit smoothie, and mixed with the strong bitterness of lemon juice and soda water, the Mojito was refreshing.   Also available in the menu are soft drinks, but at excruciatingly high prices reaching 26LE for a can of coke. The food served here is well presented and divided into salads, desserts, an Egyptian corner and an Italian corner, from which we decided to try the Vegetarian Pizza at (42LE), a decent price for a whole pizza which was crispy and brown around the edges with a moist cheesy centre topped with a generous layer of colourful vegetables including broccoli, peppers and mushrooms – a real burst of vegetable flavour. We also opted for one serving of koshary from the Egyptian corner. Served on a white circular plate and moulded into a delicate mountain of pasta, rice, lentils and onions. Although presented nicely, the flavour was pretty much the same as any koshary vendor on the street. The only difference is here it's more expensive. The waiter who served us was an absolute delight too with exceptional protocol, a smart uniform and spoke both English and Arabic.  Being situated in a mall is perfect for those who wish to engage in a little shopping or go the cinema on the top floor.

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Grand Kunafa: Classic Egyptian & Lebanese Desserts in Mohandiseen
Published On: 19/08/2014

Discovering the true essence of life in Cairo involves dipping and diving into the most unlikely of places; looking beyond the garish and the gaudy; finding something completely unexpected. This is often the case with the city's dining scene, across the thousands upon thousands of restaurants, cafes and bakeries. The shops and restaurants change so often it's impossible to keep up and there's something around every corner and in every alleyway. On our most recent tour to Mohandiseen, we came across a small store with a big sign that said 'Grand Kunafa' – almost as a proclamation of sorts. There are two small tables outside, but we recommend you take your food to go because Syria Street isn't the quietest place. Neither is it the most comfortable – in fact, it just isn't the most pedestrian friendly. As the name suggests, the shop specialises in konafa and other classic Oriental sweets – even selling them by the portion. Our first experience was with the smallest size offered was the Konafa with Cheese (20LE). Readily put-together and kept on a metal plate in a fridge, the Konafa goes onto a coal grill for 20 minutes upon ordering. Although this sounds like a lot of time for a simple serving of konafa, our patience was rewarded. The konafa was hot, golden and crispy, covering a thick layer of ricotta cheese. The cheese melted and pulled like a pizza, and the best thing about it was that it wasn't overly greasy. Afterwards, we ordered a small Nabulsiya Extra with Cream and Pistachio (15LE). Divided into four layers, two layers of finely ground konafa has a layer of cream and it's all topped with a pistachio paste. While the Nabulsiya wasn't as good as the coal grilled konafa, we can't deny we enjoyed the taste of the pistachio coupled with the syrup typically used on Oriental sweets. Our last order was a Hareesa with Almonds and Cashews (10LE) which, unfortunately, lacked any flavour at all; flavour that was almost entirely dominated by the nuts. Grand Kunafa isn't the most refined-looking place selling Oriental sweets and desserts. More than most, Cairenes are creatures of habit – especially when it comes to food. Will Grand Kunafa blow your mind? Probably not; but it's easily reachable location makes it a good back-up.

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Red Mango: US Frozen Yoghurt Chain Comes to Citystars
Published On: 17/08/2014

Frozen yoghurt; the one refreshing, relatively healthy but madly over-priced snack we all have a love-hate relationship with. We're always up for an icy cup of this delicious treat and so when American franchise, Red Mango, came to town, we rushed to get a taste. Located in the Mosaique Dining Zone, the shop is somewhat secluded from Citystars' usual hustle and bustle. The whole design and colour scheme of the place is definitely different from the usual bright, multi-coloured ones other frozen yoghurt stores have. The seating area's quite adequate, boasting a few tables, and the store was generally not crowded. Upon finding out that this was our first visit, the staff kindly informed us about all the items on the surprisingly big menu. Red Mango not only offers frozen yoghurt, but also fro-yo smoothies, parfaits, fresh fruit juices, organic coffees, frappes, and sweet and savoury waffles. Most items on the menu are low-fat and low in calories, making it perfect for health-conscious foodies. The staff didn't stop there; they also offered us samples of all frozen yoghurt flavours. Disappointingly, though, Red Mango only offers six  flavours in Egypt, despite it offering upwards of twenty different flavours in the US. The original flavour tasted predictably bland, and quite honestly unappealing. The Pomegranate, Strawberry and Green Apple flavours all tasted extremely similar and pretty dull for our taste buds. However, the Mango flavour was delightfully sweet and the strongest of the fruit flavours. We finally settled on a Vanilla Madagascar with four toppings (32LE); mangoes, cherries, granola and crushed almonds. Other topping choices include everything from cereal, walnuts, crushed Oreos, and M&Ms to refreshing kiwi, cherries, mangoes, watermelon and grapes. The Vanilla Madagascar flavour was a simple, yet rather luscious, concoction. Made with a mixture of vanilla yoghurt and cinnamon, which complimented each other greatly, it was a refreshing and delicious new flavour that we recommend you try. As for the toppings, the mangos were fresh and tasty, while the granola was toasted to a lovely crisp. The slivered almonds, however, were tasteless, but the real shocker was the un-pitted cherries, which left us with unwanted seeds in our mouths and aching teeth. All in all, the Red Mango presents an adequate frozen yoghurt experience - neither wow-ing nor hugely disappointing us. At best, it was average. This is mainly caused by the fact that only one flavour out of the six stood out. There's also the fact that for just a small cup of frozen dairy, you end up paying a lot.

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Freshi Ice Sticks: Refreshing Frozen Treats in Citystars
Published On: 13/08/2014

Conveniently located all over malls in Cairo, chances are, you've passed by a Freshi kiosk whilst tearing your way through the summer sales at your nearest shopping complex. Being die-hard shopaholics and lovers of a good bargain ourselves, we've seen them everywhere. The striking red kiosk is hard to miss with its and bright yellow logo and huge array of colourful popsicles that can easily be seen from a distance. After a long day on your feet going from store to store, this ice-cold treat was very welcome. We stopped by and inquired about the flavours of the popsicles which all, much to our delight, cost only 12LE. The vendor was extremely friendly, funny and happy to tell us about all the flavours they offer – which were plentiful. From the sinfully chocolatey Nutella to light fruit cocktails and absolutely sugar-free, diet-friendly yoghurt, Strawberry and Chocolate flavours, a diet is no excuse here. They also offer more creative options like Cheesecake, Oreo and Cappuccino. On the vendor's recommendations, we went for the Raspberry-Yoghurt flavour and the sugar-free Strawberry flavour – we were not disappointed. Seeing as how there is no seating area, we gladly took our popsicles to-go and enjoyed them as we strolled around the mall. The Raspberry-Yoghurt flavour was light, creamy and delicious, but the raspberry-yoghurt ratio, however, was rather unbalanced and the yoghurt dominated most of the flavour. The Strawberry popsicle really took us by surprise; we honestly felt like we were biting into fresh, frozen strawberries. It did not, at all, taste like bland diet food and it was quite hard to believe that something this good was absolutely guilt-free. All in all, Freshi was a delightful discovery as it offers fresh, light, and affordable treats and can be found in countless malls all over Cairo. The staff was pleasant and helpful and the popsicles tasted just as amazing as they looked. We will definitely be going back again for more of the flavours.

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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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Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum: Fitting Tribute to One of Egypt's Most Influential Artists

Although Cairo-born sculptor, Mahmoud Mukhtar, passed away some eighty years ago, both his memory and his work continue to live on and prosper in the Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum located in Zamalek close to Cairo Opera House. Before entering the home of Mukhtar's exquisite collection, there's a beautiful