Cairo Cafés

Dixie Cream: Donuts Chain Hits Downtown Katameya Mall in New Cairo
Published On: 18/09/2014

The all-American, deep-fried, sugary dessert that is the donut isn't exactly common in Egypt, but sometimes you find yourself yearning for its satisfying taste. Dixie Cream may not be the first or only place to offer them in Cairo, but the American franchise comes with quite a reputation. Sitting pretty in Downtown Katameya Mall, the shop looks like your traditional colourful donut joint with a bright yellow, white and blue theme. It offers an adequate outdoor seating area for those who want to enjoy their treat at the venue. We, however, wanted to take ours to go and so we went in to take our pick. The donuts were placed in a large display behind the cashier's booth which, at the time of our visit, was sadly mostly empty with only a few donuts to flaunt. Our server, however, was quite helpful and cheery, telling us that a fresh-out-the-oven batch was available. The place offers a variety of appetizing options, including icing, powdered sugar, glazing and stuffing. They also serve cinnamon buns, apple fritters, and brownies. We opted for three donuts; one with vanilla icing & sprinkles, another with chocolate icing with sprinkles and a chocolate-stuffed donut (all for 13LE each). The waiter immediately aligned them in a to-go box for us and we were on our way, only to discover later that the donuts were stacked over each other making their toppings stick to one another. The donuts all tasted fresh, sweet and predictably heavy. We thought, however, that they were rather ordinary with no distinctive flavour. The icing, whilst looking pretty, needed a bit of a kick in the taste department; a stronger vanilla flavour and a more unique chocolate flavour would have definitely set them apart. The donuts were still, in the end, quite tasty. To wrap up, Dixie Cream did definitely satisfy our donut cravings. The donuts were not, however, unique in taste and lacked an element of creativity. In a city where the cupcake still very much rules, Dixie Donuts won't break that particular dessert-monopoly any time soon.

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Cold Stone Creamery: Mouth Watering Ice Cream in Cairo Festival City
Published On: 07/09/2014

Cairo has no shortage of ice cream parlours. What it does fall short on is ice cream which oozes of pure flavour, rather than oozing artificial flavour. Cold Stone has, in all ways possible, offered us exactly that; delicious, flavourful, icy goodies. The smell of baked waffle cones attracted us from afar in Cairo Festival City mall and we found ourselves immediately heading towards its source; the intimidating and crowded Cold Stone Creamery.  With heaps of people in line ready for their ice cream fix, we almost turned right around, but the colourful display of huge tubs of called out to us. We patiently waited in line and began to inspect the 'creations' menu hanging on the wall. Our attempts to secure a table whilst also waiting in line failed miserably due to the seating area being too small to accommodate all the customers at the time of our visit. We had no choice but to enjoy our ice-cream on the go. Cold Stone offers its ice cream in different sizes; ; 'Like it' (12LE/29LE), 'Love It' (24L/35LE) 'Gotta Have It' (36LE/46LE), 'Mine' (48LE/69LE) and 'Ours' (80LE/110LE), with the 'creations' being more expensive than the regular scoops. As soon as we were in front of the ice cream freezer, the server immediately welcomed us and offered us free samples. We tried all kinds of flavours before settling on Cake Batter, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Mystic scoops with the first two in a cone and the second two in a regular cup.  Our pick from the crazily named creations was the 'Cheesecake Fantasy.' Upon payment, we dug into our ice cream with no hesitation and immediately fell in love with each and every flavour. If you're one of those people who like to lick cake batter of a spoon whilst baking, you'll find the Cake Batter flavour a God-sent gift for your taste buds. The Dark Chocolate flavour was intense, but not too sweet; perfect for true chocoholics. Tasting purely of freshly roasted pistachios, the Pistachio flavour was truly authentic, while the Mystic flavour, a play on Mesteka, was traditionally sugary and delightfully elastic. The true showstopper was, however, the 'Cheesecake Fantasy'; filled with strawberries and biscuit bits, it was truly mouth-watering. All in all, our ice cream cravings were righteously satisfied by everything Cold Stone Creamery had to offer. All the flavours were nothing less than delicious and the staff was also generally friendly and swift. The one let down, however, was our inability to find anywhere to sit and enjoy our ice cream due to the shop's small size and overwhelming crowds.

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Gelato Mio: Delicious Fresh Ice Cream in Zamalek
Published On: 04/09/2014

We love finding out about a new venue in the already densely packed Zamalek. We're even happier when we realise that we'll be coming back. Such is the case with the newest ice cream vendor in town, Gelato Mio. There's no shortage of dairy products or ice cream in Egypt, but of those, so few are good, and of those, so few remain good for very long. We doubt this'll be the case here, as Gelato Mio is run by the good people over at Pizza Mia, whom we've seen consistent quality from since our first review. The store is relatively small, with simple white decor and three small tables that carry two people each. We opted for a small cup that carries two bowls of ice cream (12LE). For our flavours, we picked a classic chocolate, and something more experimental; fig and ricotta. The small bits of fig in the ice cream were plentiful and you had some in every spoonful, which balanced nicely with the ricotta cheese. The Chocolate ice cream was some of the best we've tasted in Cairo; so rich you could forget you were eating ice cream. We also tried the Caramel and Marron Glacé with Milk flavours, which tasted very strongly of milk, but in a good way. The one flavour we disliked, though, was the strawberry cheesecake. Something about it just tasted off, but we couldn't put our finger on it. As for the sorbets and fruit flavours, they are all made from fresh fruit - no artificial flavours. Being fans of lemon sorbets ourselves, we had to try one, and they were refreshing, delicious and just the right amount of sour. The last thing we tried was the Avocado (19LE) which is a bowl of ice cream of your choice - we recommend the fig and ricotta - topped with a shot of concentrated coffee. Who knew our two favourite things in the world could go into one cup. The final verdict? An overall excellent experience and one we repeated the very next day.

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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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Horreya Garden: Quiet & Serene Sanctuary in Zamalek

Visitors and locals have always lamented the lack of green areas in Cairo and, though there are a few, they're uncommon enough that we have all given up hope of easy, accessible public parks and gardens. However, Zamalek's Horrey Garden, stands as one of the most underappreciated and even unknown. T