Cairo Cafés

Al Ahwa: Contemporary-Balady Café In Zamalek
Published On: 25/02/2014

Since cafés in Cairo are at the top of the list of places to go for either an intimate rendezvous or large social gathering, newly established names are expected to provide a completely novel concept to stand out. On Zamalek's Taha Hussein Street, burlesque café, Al Ahwa, attempts to put a modern twist on the traditional 'ahwa', by making it accessible to a young, modish crowd. The café is a two-storey venue that provides a complete view of the street by a totally glass entrance. The interior is an unnerving mismatch of powder blue walls, silk-screens of classic photographs, and a mixture of clashing pink, green and yellow wooden chairs. At the time of our visit, the top floor was not yet open to the public, so we were left with the task of finding a table on the cramped ground floor. With limited seating options, between being seated next to the only available bathroom and underneath the deafening sound system, we decided to sit near to the front of the café, conveniently located next to the counter's heavy-duty blender. Greeted by a genial waiter dressed in trendy traditional garb, we were handed our menus to browse through. It appears that the eatery is gearing towards a more gourmet approach; the menu is expansive, with sections for breakfast, soups, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, tawagen, finger food, desserts, and beverages. We decided to start with the Al Ahwa combo mini (30LE), a choco banana shake (24LE) and a glass of fresh lemon juice (13LE). While the combo platter took a while before it was served, the delay was forgiven as soon as we picked up one of the crispy cheese sambuseks. In addition to the delicious turnovers, the platter also included cheese sticks, Doritos ashelazma dressed with a mildly spicy, homemade salsa and disappointingly bland onion rings. Encouraged, we opted for a meat shawerma sandwich (24LE) and a tagen fattah (20LE). Arriving hot and looking a treat, both dishes were delivered only a short time after ordering. Although the sandwiches were generously portioned, the strips of meat had a tendency to pull when biting in, which turned the meal into a gruelling affair. Split into halves, the shawerma came with a side of fries, salad, and deliciously zesty pickles. Meanwhile, the fattah was delivered in a decorated clay tagen with crispy bread squares, deliciously sautéed onions and a large helping of mild tomeya, garnished with parsley leaves. While not exactly spectacular, the fattah was both hearty and appetising. The choco banana shake and lemon juice were eventually served during the meal. Thick with only a hint of chocolate, the shake was a decadent blend that complemented the aromatic meal. The lemon juice, on the other hand, was frothy and incredibly refreshing, with a burst of citrus flavours. Finally, for dessert, we settled for a caramel cheesecake (18LE), latte (19LE) and Turkish coffee (9LE). As soon as we took a bite from the cheesecake, we immediately fell in love. The sticky sweetness of the caramel melted into the frosty filling of the cake and created a perfect combination of flavours and texture. Both the latte and Turkish coffee were unexceptional, but fairly decent. Al Ahwa doesn't provide much in terms of novelty – or peace and quiet – but once they open up the second floor, the consistent quality and attractive location is sure to pull the crowds through their doors.

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Cherry On Top: Fro-Yo & Cupcakes in Maadi
Published On: 25/02/2014

As we edge closer and closer to summer, Cairo's cafes will undoubtedly see an increase in ice-cream and frozen yoghurt sales - it's a pretty simple equation, actually. With the success of their first branch in Heliopolis shopping mall, Citystars, Cherry on Top has opened another on Maadi's Road 9. Wedged in between numerous little eateries, the shop's bright pink and white fascia does well to stand out on the busy street. Reflected on the inside, the small shop is spotless, with fun decor and a gleaming glass display cabinet stretched across the back. With just a couple of seating options, takeaway is encouraged. Their menu is a carbon copy of their other branch's; natural and flavoured frozen yogurt is available (16LE-57LE), along with cupcakes (20LE), mini cupcakes (4LE), cookies and a range of cherry treats (15LE-34LE), including crepe (15LE-18LE), fruit salad (24LE), parfait (33LE) and naughty frozen yogurt (25LE-35LE) – frozen yogurt topped with a cupcake. Smoothies are also available, blending frozen yogurt and a choice of toppings.    The staff was both friendly and informative, notifying us that Cherry on Top boast a total of 25 frozen yogurt flavours, rotated into sets of four. At the time of our visit, fat free mango and natural flavours were available, along with low-fat Cinnabon and marshmallow; we were given a shot of each before ordering. The Cinnabon flavour was teeth-grittingly sweet but surprisingly accurate in taste, whilst the marshmallow flavour was a little more subtle. The mango was deliciously fruity, while the natural was a sure favourite, with the typical, slightly sour aftertaste.   We opted for a small cup of natural, creamy frozen yogurt (28LE), with three, fresh chocolaty toppings from their wide variety of sweets and toppings; crispy Kitkat chunks, Oreo crumble and M&Ms. Unfortunately, the limited range of fruit pieces appeared a little withered and were running low. We also opted for a red velvet cookie (5LE), one signature vanilla cupcake (20LE) and two mini cupcakes – Oreo and Nutella flavour (4LE/each). With a soft, crumbly texture, the red velvet cookie tasted more like generic biscuit that red velvet, but was delectable none-the-less. The vanilla cupcake intrigued us with its bright green icing, decorated to resemble a flower. Sugary and fluffy, the icing was the most delicious part, whilst the thick sponge was a little tasteless. The mini Oreo cupcake was a little burst of chocolaty goodness, while the Nutella cupcake was average and lacking in any real flavour at best, topped with a milk chocolate icing, rather than the expected dollop of rich, sticky nutella. Whilst Cherry On Top still provide refreshing frozen yogurt to sweltering customers, we couldn't help but feel their cupcakes were somewhat unremarkable this time around.

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Sugar & Spice: Colourful Café at Citystars, Heliopolis
Published On: 10/02/2014

Cairo's mammoth shopping malls strive to provide something for everyone, and many focus on their restaurants and cafes, as much as they do on their shops. Heliopolis' Citystars has expanded its dining options with the still-under-construction Mosaique Dining Zone already boasting some of the most interesting eateries. One such place, Sugar & Spice, is a mom-and-pop styled café with a charming, kitschy farmhouse theme. Decorated with mismatching chairs and couches, upholstered using green or purple paint, the café exudes an air of contemporary comfort. Opting to sit near the fourth story railing, we were immediately greeted by a friendly waiter who presented the creative menu to browse. Skimming through the various selections, Sugar & Spice has numerous categories typical to any up-town café. Whilst the dishes under each category were kept to a conservative few, the options range from salads to pastas and sandwiches, with an enticing sweet pastry menu. Drinks are also plentiful, with almost every possible option for fresh fruit juice, cocktails and hot drinks along with a list of specialty drinks. To start, we decided on a light brunch consisting of a pasta salad (34.95LE) and lemon and mint juice (19.95LE). The pasta salad transpired to be a light but filling mixture of large button mushrooms, sliced kalamata olives, succulent cherry tomatoes and al dente fusilli pasta. The dressing drizzled over the salad was a zesty blend of balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, and an abundance of lemon juice. The lemon and mint juice was served in a large glass with an artistic garnish of a lemon slice and mint leaves. Tart, yet not enough to pucker from, the frothy mix was a refreshing accompaniment. To finish off our delectable meal, we ordered an American coffee (16LE) – a bold blend that surprisingly tasted much better than the typical brew found in most cafés. We were saved from the task of selecting our dessert by our waiter who eagerly offered to surprise us. He returned with a large mason jar, aptly named Goodie Jar (38.95LE), filled with sinfully decadent layers of rich chocolate cake, thick fudge topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, we immediately admitted defeat. Digging into the treat was an experience all on its own, with every bite laced with gooey chocolate, complimented by the smooth texture of vanilla ice cream. Sugar & Spice impressed with attentive and cheery waiting staff, quality food, the chef's attention to details and generous portions served in a cute, relaxed setting.

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Kukuruza Gourmet Popcorn: Gastro-Popcorn in Cairo Festival City Mall, New Cairo
Published On: 09/02/2014

Taking over restaurants, cafes and even shops in Cairo, trendy food fads never seem to get old in this city. Attempting to break into the popular, specialty sweet market, new-comer Kukuruza brings gourmet popcorn to New Cairo's newest shopping hot-spot, Cairo Festival City Mall. With branches in some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, their gourmet popcorn can also be seen in Tokyo, Riyadh and the USA. The small, third floor booth is eye-catching, with an olive and black colour scheme giving off a sophisticated, sweet-shop feel. Two, glass fronted cabinets show-off a vast range of different flavoured, colourful popcorns whilst tempting, illustrated menus hang on the walls. The menu is vast, and both small and large (20LE-38LE) sealable bags are available for takeaway. Customers are also able to mix two flavours in one bag (29LE). Flavours include the usual oil & salt and caramel variations (25LE/35LE), but transgress to more exotic, imaginative flavours including maple bacon (28LE/38LE), peppermint cocoa (28LE/38LE), coconut macaroon (28LE/38LE) and cinnamon bun (28LE/38LE). The only flavours that were unavailable at the time of our visit were the savoury, cheese variations. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic, and readily offered us tasters of warm, fresh popcorn pieces. Particularly proud of the fact their popcorn is air popped – rather than cooked using oil or butter – the popcorn is less greasy than those usually seen on the market; it's also healthier, before the added flavourings. We opted for four flavours, mixed in two, small bags (29LE/each); cookies and cream (25LE/35LE per bag), black raspberry with vanilla cream (25LE/35LE), classic caramel (25LE/35LE), and rainbow fruit (25LE/35LE) – a multi-coloured mixture of apple, banana, strawberry and blueberry favours. The popcorn itself was warm and crunchy, with a soft, airy centre whilst each piece was thoroughly coated in its topping. Unlike cinema popcorn, we were thoroughly impressed with the classic caramel, which was coated with rich, sticky caramel. The cookies and cream was an interesting, flavourful creation. Our favourite was undoubtedly the black raspberry and vanilla cream; the black raspberry was sweet and fruity, whilst the cream gave an aftertaste likened to sugary yoghurt. Supposedly made with real fruit, the rainbow fruit mix tasted disappointingly artificial, but was delicious none-the-less, with each piece tasting distinctly of the fruit described. Dangerous for even the smallest of waistlines, Kukuruza's artisan twist on regular popcorn is possibly the coolest – and most addictive – thing since cupcakes. Suitable for just about every occasion, we are eagerly awaiting delivery to help curb our cravings.  

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Les Dames: Sugary Treats at Downtown Katameya Mall, New Cairo
Published On: 22/01/2014

Capitalising on Egyptians' love of sweets, we're seeing more and more new dessert places and cafes in Cairo. Striving to cater for those on the outskirts of the city, popular confectioner, Les Dames, have secured themselves a branch in the fast-expanding Downtown Katameya  Mall in New Cairo. The venue demands attention with its glass-front, turquoise accents and abundance of cake displays. No seating is provided, suggesting that take-away and delivery is preferred, although surprisingly, no menu is available for those who wish to order over the phone. Whilst the glass display cases at the front are fully stocked, a few of the others were completely bare, leaving a slight feeling of emptiness. Priced by weight, the shop stocks a wide range of oriental sweets, rather flat-looking macaroons, pretty cupcakes, petit fours and biscuits, as well as chocolates. We spotted ready-packaged selections of oriental sweets for 150LE, large, attractive cakes (150LE+/each) and delicious-looking, smaller pastries (10LE+/each). A small range of savoury bites were also on display, as well as a few breakfast croissants, wrapped in cling film. Although a little standoffish at the start, the large number of staff were both friendly and helpful, pulling on disposable gloves before handling any of our choices. We hand-picked a selection of petit-fours and biscuits (27LE/300g), a plate of basboosa (18LE/400g) and two personal-sized pastries; one chocolate and nut creation, and one large biscuit with apricot jam (10LE/each). Customised cakes can be ordered in advance. The basboosa was scrumptiously sticky, with a slight crunch – just as it should be. The chocolate and nut gateau was divine, with a rich chocolate sauce on the outside and a soft, spongy centre. Our giant biscuit was also delicious, with a generous spread of fruity jam on the inside and a liberal coating of icing sugar on top. With hundreds of different petit-fours, we were surprised to find each as tasty and as attractive as the next. The multi-coloured, striped sponge slabs were one of the most interesting, with a hint of marzipan and a sweet chocolate surround. Our only complaint would be that the round, chocolate covered cake-pops were a little dry on the inside, but aromatic nonetheless.   Despite the shop feeling a little empty, the vast range of sweet creations are a safe bet to smoulder any craving, presented in charming boxes, or delivered straight to your door.

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El 7ara: Bustling Alleyway Cafe in Zamalek
Published On: 18/01/2014

For many locals, hitting of the many Cairo cafes is a typical night out. And while the city is saturated with many establishments all attempting to do the same thing differently, some manage to be interesting enough to warrant a visit; El 7ara, on Zamalek's Shagret El Dor Street, does just that. The cafe is located in an open alleyway – hence the name – between two apartment buildings. Aside from the lighting from the meagre floor fixtures and surrounding eateries, El 7ara is completely dark, but not to the point of causing discomfiture. While the busy environment made us assume that service would be hard to come by, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our assigned waiter was both attentive and prompt in appearing when we called. With menus already on the table, we decided on an American coffee (16LE), an El 7ara cocktail (20LE), a blueberry and hibiscus smoothie (25LE) and a banana split (25LE). El 7ara's menu is extensive, with categories dedicated to chilled beverages, hot chocolate, smoothies, frappes, shakes, cocktails, flavoured drinks, desserts and shisha. Bland and frothy, the smoothie tasted like chilled foam and was completely drained of any blueberry or hibiscus flavours. Meanwhile, the banana split was a decadent desert with three scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream wedged between two banana halves. Drizzled in chocolate and caramel syrup, the sweet treat was truly marvellous and made up for the unimpressive smoothie. Up next was the El 7ara cocktail and American coffee. Blended with orange, banana, strawberries and other unidentifiable fruits, the cocktail was a tropical mixture that burst with tangy flavours. The American brew was, in all forms, a standard, tepid coffee, which only disappointed us with the hefty price tag attached. As our orders were cleared from the table, we were diligently informed by our waiter that El 7ara adheres to a 50LE minimum charge per person. Given the choice between ordering from El 7ara's limited dessert and drink menu or its sister venue, 3am 7awawshi, we decided on three orders of barbequed hawawshi (23.50LE) – to go. While a rather pleasant place to visit with friends, El 7ara provides no new concepts or exceptional tastes to warrant the steep prices and unfortunate minimum charge.

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Five Cairo Dessert Places You'll Be Addicted to in 2014
Published On: 07/01/2014

While a new year signals the beginning of better living and better eating for many, we've chosen to embrace the sugary treats we all invariably crave. But with the likes of Nola Cupcakes positioned as a guaranteed pleaser, it's easy to forget that Egyptians' inherent love for desserts and sweets means that there are plenty of places across Cairo to satisfy even the most demanding sweet-toothed Cairene. Mrs Fields Hidden inside Nile-side venue cluster, Club 33, Zamalek's Mrs Fields and her team are committed to providing fresh, delicious cookies that'll rival your grandmothers' recipes. With the sticky fudge chocolate cookie being a firm favourite at Cairo 360, Mrs Fields provides a welcome alternative to the continuing flood of cupcakes. Paul A big name worldwide, Paul's restaurant and boulangerie offers up authentically French, fresh loaves and flavourful pastries in a charming, relaxed setting. With a choice between a full meal or just dessert and a coffee, Paul is the perfect place for an afternoon of sweet-tooth-indulgence. Classic desserts, perfectly made. Dukes As a firm favourite with Heliopolites, Dukes can be described as quaint, nice, lovely, comfy and many other cutesy words. With presentation held in high regard by the patisserie, the idea of eating with your eyes has never seemed more real than at Dukes. The highlight of their heavenly creations is the pretty as a picture dirt cakes. Dusit Gourmet You can have a top-notch lunch at Dusit Gourmet, but what the Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo's charming eatery really excels at is it desserts. With a wonderful selection of chocolates and cakes available for taking away or eating in, this is still the best place satisfy your sweet-tooth cravings in an ever expanding New Cairo. Tiny Treats One of the newer cupcake shops in Cairo, Tiny Treats has snuck its way on to the list thanks to the bakery's adventurous twists on the little cakes. With bubblegum and Reese's cupcake flavours, Tiny Treats has made an effort to stand out from the crowd and although the appearance of the shop won't wow you, their cupcakes just might. You can find more dessert and cafe reviews here.

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YUM: Fresh Pie & Pastry Delivery in Cairo
Published On: 26/12/2013

Weekdays in this city are usually split between commuting through rush hour and nine hour desk jobs; and with most salary-men being confined to their respective offices, food delivery in Cairo is usually the preferred choice as a means to lunch. However, Cairo has many alternatives to the typical fast food options and most of them provide unique as well as tasty menu selections. Having first opened as a delivery-only eatery on the Cairo-Alex Desert Road, YUM now operates out of a second venue in Mohadndiseen. Offering a wide variety of miniature pies, pasties and rolls, YUM's menu contains everything from chicken and mushroom pies (26.50LE) to veggie pasties (17LE) and BBQ beef rolls (18LE). As for desserts, hungry patrons can choose from the lighter fruity almond slice (18LE) to a denser option of a Chocolate Fudge Caramel Brownie (21LE). After a brief struggle with the operator manning the phone, we placed our order for one pizza pie (28LE), a classic beef pie (24LE), spinach and feta roll (19.50LE) and a zesty lemon crumble (19LE). The pies were packaged neatly in a cardboard carton while the spinach and feta roll was wrapped tightly in a baking sheet and sleeved within a paper bag. Arriving in a small, plastic container, the lemon crumble had also survived the trip without incident. Buttery with a delectable crunch, both pies were cooked to perfection; the pizza pie contained all the ingredients usually found on a pizza in addition to slices of salami and beef pepperoni with molten mozzarella fusing the contents together. The classic beef pie was baked with rich ground beef and visible, yet inoffensive, helping of diced onions. While under-seasoned, the spinach and feta roll, meanwhile, was wrapped within a crumbly pastry with the ratio of spinach and feta complementing each other beautifully. With our savoury treats being so appetising, we were sorely disappointed with the flavour of our lemon crumble. Tasting suspiciously like sweetened soap, the crumble had only the faintest taste of lemon. The texture of the crumble, meanwhile, was just as unappealing as we could taste sugar granules embalmed within the dense amount of shortening used to create the filling. Excluding the subpar dessert, YUM impressed us with their filling, wholesome pies and rolls that provided us with a much desired alternative to usual lunchtime options across Cairo.

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Di'macaron: Bite-Sized Macaroons at Citystars, Heliopolis
Published On: 17/12/2013

With the latest food fads fading in and out of Cairo's eclectic cafe and dessert scene, we were fairly unsurprised to discover the opening of Di'macaron at Heliopolis' Citystars. Specialising solely in the little, circular pieces of heaven – otherwise known as macaroons – their small booth sits in the walkway between Zara and Mango. The soothing colours of their geometric logo contrast against the otherwise minimalist colour scheme and being in the middle of the busy mall, predictably, no seating is offered. The glass display cabinet shows off a variety of eight different flavours, ready to be packaged in an assortment of attractive gift boxes. Cute, tiny boxes of two (12LE), boxes holding eight (40LE), boxes of 20 (100LE) and boxes of 40 (200LE) are available. At the time of our visit, a promotional discount was running on the two largest options. Also on display was a large pyramid of macaroons, implying that they can also cater for large parties. We opted for a box of eight covering one of each of the asic flavours; strawberry, chocolate, date, vanilla, caramel, pistachio, blueberry and coffee. Each biscuit was smaller than those generally offered by well-known competitors, as well as having overly soft outer shells which lacked the usual crunch. Despite this, each macaroon was deliciously fresh, with a modest amount of gooey filling. The vanilla and pistachio choices were particularly subtle in their flavouring, as was the bright pink strawberry option. On the other hand, the chocolate was milky and rich whilst the coffee was authentically bitter and bitterly authentic. Despite the obvious artificial colouring and flavouring, the blueberry was one of the most interesting. The caramel was deliciously sweet, and the date flavour tasted as though it had been made with real fruit. Although not exceptional, Di'macaron serve up fresh and tasty variations of the sought after dessert. This, along with a charming appearance and attractive gift boxes makes for a safe option when shopping for macaroons – and only macaroons.       

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Nola: Cairo's Favourite Cupcakes Still Going Strong in Korba, Heliopolis
Published On: 15/12/2013

Despite the unfortunate closure of its Zamalek branch, Nola Cupcakes has going strong in Maadi, and more recently, at its Heliopolis branch, located in the architecturally stunning Korba district. Instantly recognisable by Nola's uniform vintage floral logo, the shop stands out from the more demure cafes and eateries on the street. Stepping in, we had trouble manoeuvring through the crowded ground floor where the massive cupcake counter occupies most of the space. With only a few high tables and barstools offered for customers eating in, the walk-in orders far surpassed those wishing to be seated and we hadn't waited long before the barista turned his attention to us. While none of the cupcakes on display were clearly labelled, the assistant was well-informed on their flavours. We ordered a wide variety of the treats on display, making up a box of six cupcakes containing the infamous red velvet (10.50LE), one blueberry cheesecake (10LE), an apple pie inspired option (11LE), a heavenly all-chocolate cake (12LE), chocolate peanut butter (12LE) and a cinnamon roll creation (13LE). Each cupcake was impeccably presented, and each has frosting unique to the special ingredients of each individual cake. With creamy whipped frosting sprinkled with red powder, the red velvet cupcake was incredibly moist and light, with immensely flavourful frosting highlighting each mouthful. Thick and viscid, the chocolate and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes were heavier than we had originally perceived and, while good on their own, they were obviously not baked to be eaten in succession. The most interesting, in both texture and flavour of the batch, were the unusual apple pie and cinnamon roll cupcakes. Filled with gooey, warm apple and cinnamon filling, the apple pie was a fantastic treat perfect for the winter months. The cinnamon roll was adorned with a miniature version of the pastry atop a thick cinnamon swirl. While there were no surprises baked within the cupcake, the sweet dessert was a tasty replica of the popular breakfast option. The blueberry cheesecake was also decorated with what you'd typically find on a pie; a sweetened cheese frosting with a blueberry jam. While not entirely special, the cupcake was sweet without being sickly. Nola has a powerful presence in Cairo, adhering to the cities' dessert cravings. Though not the best ever, all the confectionaries baked in Nola's oven are unique in taste and are obviously lovingly created.

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Wasleens: Bridging the Gap Between Egypt's Youth & the Business Sector

Youth in Egypt have, for as long as anyone can remember, existed under a dark cloud of disenfranchisement. This is no more apparent than in that always difficult phase of moving from the tattered shelters of education to the big, bad world. While this translates most explicitly into an unemployment