Cairo Cafés

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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TBS - The Bakery Shop: Fresh Brunch at Sheikh Zayed's Arkan Plaza
Published On: 16/12/2014

Brunch: the wonderful, yet slightly obscure to this region, concept of a meal that fits between breakfast and lunch. It's the perfect meal for lazy, laid back days and TBS, perhaps one of Egypt's finest bakery chains, seems to be the perfect place to feed our mid-day rumbling bellies. The branch at Sheikh Zayed's Arkan Plaza presents TBS's signature modern design of basic off-white and wooden brown colour scheme complimented by immaculate glass windows that allow the light to ever so brightly seep into the adequately sized bakery. The minute we walked in, our nostrils were gleefully attacked by the delicious scent of fresh baking and our eyes went straight to the fridges and displays boasting a wide array of edible eye-candy. Our server greeted us and waited patiently while we tried to make up our minds on what to order. With regards to what TBS has to offer, its menu is composed of many sweet and savoury croissant variations (7.75LE to 11.25LE/piece), alongside different types of baguettes, toast, tarts (9LE-12LE/piece), Danishes (9LE), muffins (7LE-9.50LE), cronuts (9.50LE), cookies, mini pizzas and donuts (8LE.25-10.50LE). TBS has also very recently launched some new pastry items including Raspberry and Blueberry tarts (12LE), the vegetable (10LE) and chicken (13.75LE tarts), as well as sun-dried tomato, spicy feta and mint feta puffs (8.25LE). You can also customize your own sandwich, by picking your own baguette and fillings. Of course, you can also enjoy a freshly-squeezed juice or some coffee with your treats. As you can see, the options are plentiful. After taking slightly too long to figure out what to choose, the server swiftly boxed and packaged everything neatly. The first bite we took was of the Multi Cereal Croissant (8.25LE), which tasted light, decadent and better than any white croissant we've ever had - healthy options can actually taste good, after all. After that, we dug our teeth into the Rix Milano (9.25LE), which is basically a dough-wrapped sausage, and it tasted just as fresh as the former. The Mini Pizza (7LE) was also quite delicious, though tasted very similar to the Rix Milano. The Almond Croissant (8LE) was quite delightful, sweet and topped with slivered Almonds, but needed a tad more filling, as did the Pain Au Chocolat (9.25LE). TBS seems to have successfully retained its quality whereever it has gone, with everything tasting exceptionally fresh. Moreover, the servers were, as always, welcoming and efficient and the place was spotless and neat, giving us all the more reason to come back.

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El Dokan: 'Balady-Chic' Fountain-Side Restaurant & Cafe in Cairo Festival City
Published On: 12/12/2014

When it comes mall dining, there's a strange phenomenon that continues to grow across the occasionally bemusing Cairo dining scene. Why so many restaurants try to present a fine-dining, full-out food experience in busy and bustling shopping complex is a mystery. The more successful ones are the ones that allow you to grab a quick, uncomplicated bite - which is exactly what we had in mind when we approached El Dokan in New Cairo. Located right by the dancing fountain in Cairo Festival City Mall, El Dokan's seating is exclusively outdoor, but still quite comfy and cosy. We were greeted by a waiter at the entrance and seated right away. At the time of our visit, the place was bustling with customers, yet in no way felt too crowded, thanks to a sensibly spaced layout. Our waiter laid out our menus in front of us and we began scanning what turned out to be rather typical balady-chic options. From a variety of Foul platters (9.50LE-26LE), to various Falafel (8.5LE-11LE), egg creations and jazzed-up cheese options, including some delicious sounding grilled halloumi cheese (35LE), El Dokan offers the usual basics but manages to spice them up a bit by offering variations of them. For more main course suited dishes, El Dokan offers an array of feteer, Mana'eesh (37LE-50LE), Shawerma, Koshary (20LE) and Hawashi (25LE), amongst some other Egyptian cuisine-inspired options. We placed our order and had our drinks – green tea (16LE) and regular tea (13LE) – arrive before our food.  Said food, however, arrived a few minutes later and we couldn't wait to dig in. The tomeya (20LE) came in a generous helping accompanied by a balady bread basket and tasted scrumptious enough to be eaten  straight off the plate with a fork. The Labneh with Zaatar (20LE) was also light, creamy and definitely delicious. The Chicken Shawerma platter (45LE) featured thin, unrolled Syrian bread layered beneath chicken chunk, and was cooked and seasoned well, but arriving a bit cold. The Beef Shawerma Sandwich (40LE) was also quite delightful, but had the same issue of not being hot. Once we informed our waiter of the problem, however, he apologised on the spot and offered to reheat our dishes, which took little to no time and saved us some disappointment. All in all, El Dokan is a pleasant and charming hangout spot, which is partly owed to its prime location by the dancing fountain. The food initially arriving cold was a definite pet peeve, but our waiter managed to save the day by efficiently handling the issue. Though many will point to the fact that the whole balady-chic approach has been exhausted, the fact of the matter is that it's not going away anytime soon and at least El Dokan does it well.

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Coppermelt: Quality Desserts & Cakes at Chic New Cairo Patisserie
Published On: 07/12/2014

With colder weather come the ridiculously deep cravings for comfort food; winter seems to turn us into chronic sugar-craving maniacs. Thankfully, Egypt has a long, sordid love-affair with sweets and desserts and there's no shortage of new purveyors of such treats. One of the newest is Coppermelt, which touts itself as a cafe and restaurant - a label that does it disservice and doesn't indicate how expertly made their desserts and baked-goods are. Located in a rather peculiar spot on New Cairo's only instantly identifiable street, Road 90, Coppermelt gives off a rather postmodern European feel. Boasting endearing Christmas decorations and props at the time of our visit, there's no better trigger to gorging on sweets than the festive season. Its interior carried a chic vibe, with a grey and subtle copper-colour scheme and the place is exceptionally and immaculately organised. We were greeted by a pleasant server who graciously introduced us to what the charming patisserie had to offer, and took us around for a mini tour. Starting off at the dessert side, we saw bright, intricate cakes (165LE-175LE) with a Blueberry-Lychee looking particularly alluring. The colourful cake bites (6.5LE/ piece) display came next and our server gave us each a 'bite' to try; the Red Velvet and Chocolate- Peanut Butter bites were heavenly and melted right in our mouths. We saw some more displays of flavoured meringue, cookies (3LE-17 LE/ per cookie), brownies (12LE/per piece) and potted dirt cakes (25LE), as well as traditional Oriental sweets (150LE/ kilo). Another interesting dessert creation we found was the Blueberry Mehalabeya (19LE). Moving on to some of the savoury options, Coppermelt offers an array of sandwiches and bagels stuffed with salmon, chicken, roast beef and many other options (20LE-25LE). We also spotted some mini pizzas and bread loafs in all colours, shapes and sizes. After our tour, we had to make the painfully limiting decision of what to order. After some serious thought, we went for some red velvet cookies (8LE/cookie), some chocolate brownies, a piece of red velvet sponge cake (8LE) and a vanilla dirt cake (25LE), which were quickly wrapped up in chic little boxes. To say the desserts were phenomenal is an understatement; the cookies were chewy, not too sugary and filled with white chocolate chips, while the chocolate brownies were also quite decadent, yet still attained a certain lightness to them despite bursting with dark chocolate chips. Moreover, the dirt cake was quite creamy and mouth-watering and the red velvet sponge cake was delicious despite tasting like it needed a bit of a kick, probably due to its lack of any frosting. There's a very good chance we'll hibernate throughout the winter season at Coppermelt. With such well-ordered displays, friendly service and delicious treats, Coppermelt is an excellent addition to New Cairo.

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Win! Group Dinner at Ayadina Lebanese Restaurant!

If you browse the Cairo 360 restaurants section for Lebanese restaurants, you'll find that most carry a very similar sentiment. You see, there are so many Lebanese eateries in Cairo these days that the scene has become somewhat saturated and there are very few restaurants that stand out – in short