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Boulevard: Former Zamalek Restaurant & Cafe Moves on to Pastures New in Heliopolis
Published On: 24/11/2015

After originally opening in Zamalek – and then shutting down pretty soon after – Boulevard has tried to wipe the sleight clean with its new a new branch in Heliopolis, a revised menu and a noticeable improvement in the general service and food quality. Hiding in the middle of Heliopolis' suburbs, Boulevard takes a cosy corner on one of the side streets of Tivoli, where it offers an outdoor area with some greenery and an indoor space where you're still connected to the garden and the quiet street through thanks to the all-glass shop front. A late-night visit found us ordering a fiesta of fried food, opting for the Triple Platter (54.99LE) from the appetisers; a platter that includes fried mozzarella sticks, fried chicken strips and even fried fish with marinara, honey and mustard and ketchup, as well as mayonnaise-cocktail dressing. Everything on the platter was fried evenly and perfectly, with the mozzarella sticks arriving molten and crunchy. It took us a little time to differentiate between the fried fish and chicken strips, but once we identified the fish, we were pleasantly surprised; the seasoning was on-point, with the simple combination of salt, pepper and a little bit of chilli giving it a nice kick. There was little to complain about with the chicken, too; they had a perfectly fried, crispy exterior and a soft, well-cooked interior. Moving on to the mains, we had to try the Chicken Milano (68.99LE); fried chicken coated with melted mozzarella and stuffed with a slice of smoked turkey. The mix of all the ingredients made for a flavourful bite, though of the turkey was overshadowed in flavour and the dish could have done with an extra slice or two. Under the waiter's recommendation, we tried the Chicken Taki & Tamarind Meat, which was one of the new items still to be featured on the menu. The dish is made up of a grilled chicken fillet and a medium-sized piece of beef sided with white sauced penne; the pasta, though cooked well, was lacking seasoning. As for the two centrepieces, the tamarind sauce certainly gave the meat a twist in flavour, but wasn't as present as one would think and it was overcooked and slightly chewy. The chicken – which was tiny in comparison to the beef – was well-cooked, although the promised Taki sauce was either missing or completely lacking a discernible taste. Even during its Zamalek period, Boulevard has always been very keen to talk about their cocktails and so, while waiting for our dessert Brownie, we tried the Pink Lemonade (24.99LE) and the Pineapple Cooler Lemonade (24.99LE). Arriving on our table were two appetising 1/2 litre jars, both were, unfortunately, rather unbalanced; the Pineapple Cooler had an excessive amount of blue Curacao added to it, while the Pink Lemonade was a little too sour. Luckily, we ended proceedings on a good note, thanks to the Hot Chocolate Brownie (32.99LE); served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, the brownie was the right amount of moist and was full of flavour without being overly-sweet. With good portions, reasonable service time, a calm setting and friendly staff, Boulevard has certainly improved since it's days in Zamalek – though it's still lacking an x-factor. 


L’Éclair Paris: Cairo’s First Parisian Éclairs Patisserie at Downtown Katameya Mall
Published On: 23/11/2015

Cupcakes took Cairo by storm almost five years ago, but with dozens of cupcake specialists and pastry shops trying to bleed everything they can out of the simple baked good – think konafa cupcakes, et al – it's about time for Cairo to latch into a new dessert. Having recently opened in Downtown Katameya Mall in New Cairo, we headed over to L'Éclair Paris, fully open to the possibility of becoming addicts infamous Parisian delicacies. Browsing through the display, of the outdoor-located shop, we were mesmerised by the diversity of flavours ranging, from fruity ones including blueberry, mango, passion fruit and apple crumble, to the more dense chocolate and cream flavours, including Nutella, Kitkat, white chocolate and caramel, vanilla, red velvet and mocha. L'éclair Paris also offers savoury fillings including turkey and cheese, smoked salmon, mixed Cheese, and roast beef and cheese; perfect for breakfast or brunch and they are also available in miniature bites. After initially having a hard time settling on which éclairs to try, we opted for a mishmash of different flavours; a marshmallow vanilla éclair, white chocolate and caramel, mocha, crispy Oreo and chocolate-strawberry (22 LE each). From the savoury choices, we ordered the smoked salmon éclair (35LE) stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese, fresh smoked salmon and capers. Despite being sceptical at first about the savoury éclairs, we were quite surprised by how the ingredients were balanced with the flavour of the dough which was really light and tasty without being too sweet. Generously stuffed with cream flavours, our sweet éclairs were all made of perfectly light, authentic choux dough and tasted absolutely delicious. The marshmallow vanilla one was topped with mini marshmallows and was stuffed with vanilla cream, though one of the highlights was the white chocolate éclair, thanks to its delicious white chocolate croquant pieces, caramel drizzle on top and cream caramel filling. The mocha éclair, was, on the other hand, every coffee-lover's dream come true; it's infused with coffee cream with a tiny coffee cup made of chocolate on top, while the crispy Oreo was somewhat heavy, being stuffed with Oreo cream and crushed Oreos, with the dough discernibly crunchier than all the others. Perhaps the chocolate strawberry éclair was our favourite; strawberry cream filling and its heavenly chocolate coating – we needn't say more. Overall, we had very little to complain about with what L'Éclair had to offer and we left with light surprisingly tummies, thanks to its incredibly light and well-made choux dough. L'Éclair's location can be easily missed by man - it's essentially a large stall - but it's worth seeking out.


Bridge of Spies: Hanks, Spielberg & the Coen Brothers Can't Quite Click in Cold War Drama
Published On: 22/11/2015

Steven Spielberg's latest cinematic offering has ome in the form of a surprisingly tensionless and tame courtroom-drama- come-spy-thriller, Bridge of Spies. Written by newcomer Matt Charman and polished by the always-reliable Coen Brothers, the story, although still effective in terms of mood and acting, is not Spielberg's best thanks to the lack of suspense and overall excitement. Set in the late 1950s, Bridge of Spies takes place during the height of the Cold War and it begins telling its story with the arrest of a suspected Russian spy named, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) who is placed on public trial. In order to make sure that the US justice system appears to be fair, Abel is appointed defence in the form of a hand-picked insurance-lawyer, James Donovan (Hanks), who hasn't quite got to grips with what he's gotten himself into. While it's becoming very clear that everyone - including the judge himself - would like to see Abel hang for his crime, Donovan's idealistic nature compels him to push even harder to ensure that his client receives fair treatment even if it means that his very own reputation as a lawyer could be placed at risk. After a lengthy battle, he manages to keep his client away from the death row, just in time when an U.S military pilot, Frances Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down over the Russian territory in his U-2 spy plane and placed in Russian custody. It's hard not to get excited about a film project which finds one of the most respected and successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Mr. Steven Spielberg, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Coen Brothers - see No Country for Old Men, Fargo. However, even though the film is still relatively engaging, there is very little meat on its narrow and bony structure to stand alongside either Spielberg's or the Coens' past cinematic triumphs. Luckily, Tom Hanks is there to pick up the pieces and the Oscar-winning actor is once again as reliable as ever, while his Russian client, played by talented British stage actor, Mark Rylance, is quietly brilliant and perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the entire film. In the end, the two filmic personalities seem to produce a clash of styles; the blend of Spielberg's old school and grand approach to storytelling and the Coen Brothers' downplayed quirkiness, results in a rather peculiar mix which doesn't always sit right. In addition, the importance - and the horrors - sitting behind its Cold War backdrop is illustrated in a rather lazy and stage-like manner, contrasting Spielberg's typically spot-on detail.


Skalans: Tasty & Affordable Egyptian Street Eats in Heliopolis
Published On: 19/11/2015

No matter how many foreign cuisines come to the Cairo restaurant scene, there's nothing quite like authentic Egyptian food - a sentiment that had us eager to try recently opened Heliopolis eatery, Skalans. Located in the Sheraton Buildings area, close to Hamada Sheraton – another famous street eats hub in the area serving foul and ta'ameya- Skalans is a small shop with quirky blue garbage cans for chairs and an interior floor designed to look like that of the street. Gaining more popularity by the day, Skalans was already crammed up people at the time of our visit and when we did eventually find seating, we found the chaos left by the people who came to eat before us waiting. Torn between all the drooling choices in the menu – from liver sandwiches, Alexandrian spicy sausage sandwiches (8.50LE-10.50LE each) and Hawawshi (12LE- 23LE), to pastas (19LE) and spicy meat platters (30LE - 32LE), not to mention some grilled cheese sausages – one of Skalans' specialties (10.50LE) – we finally settled on a medium and a large Hawawshi (12LE and 19LE), an Alexandrian sausage sandwich (8.5LE) and two packs of French fries (5LE each). Besides our main bites, we wanted to also try the dessert and between Skalans – a sandwich comprised of cream, honey, jam and halva (halawa) – (8.50LE) and a Nutella dessert – halva with nutella –(8.5LE) we opted for the latter. An hour later, the cashier screamed our number and our food was ready, alongside some complementary pickles. Served in half pita bread portions, our hawawshi was quite tasty; though somewhat greasy, it boasted perfectly seasoned minced meat and good consistency and was surprisingly light. Smothered in Tehina, chopped vegetables and a mere half a sausage, our Alexandrian sausage sandwich was quite disappointing, on the other hand; lacking the traditional Alexandrian pungent, aromatic seasoning, the sandwich was far from flavourful and actually rather bland. Despite the unfamiliar mix, our Nutella-halva blend was perfect; surprisingly light, the two flavours actually worked together and managed to be both creamy and light at the same time. Overall, despite some missteps, such as the slow service and the unnecessary and deafeningly loud music, our visit to Skalans was satisfying enough; just don't expect your visit to be a relaxing one.


Pay the Ghost: Another Painfully Predictable & Forgettable Addition to Nic Cage's Resume
Published On: 18/11/2015

It should come as no surprise that Nicholas Cage has once again found himself in a bit of a career-move pickle; starring in yet another poorly crafted and ultimately absurd feature film as he takes on the horror genre. Whilst working on securing a tenure, literature professor, Mike Lawford (Cage) has been spending a lot of nights away from home, much to the dislike and frustration of his wife, Kirsten (Callies), and their seven-year-old son, Charlie (Fulton), who, as most boys do at this sensitive age, is craving for his father's attention. After one too many disappointments, Mike is hoping to make up for the lost time by taking Charlie to a nearby Halloween street carnival, where Charlie begins to act strangely, asking his father to "pay the ghost" before disappearing. One year later, a now divorced Mike is still on the hunt for Charlie and urges Detective Reynolds (Bent) to keep the investigation open and as another Halloween approaches, Mike begins to experience strange apparitions – including large birds flying overhead and strange figures in the mist. Directed by Uli Edel and written by Dan Kay – who has adapted the story from a novella by Tim Lebbon - there is very little in the story's core that distinguishes it from other, similarly-fashioned ghost tales of revenge such as The Woman in Black or Dead Silence. There's no heart, no oomph no passion and very little narrative suspense or anything that resembles tension hiding underneath its already-cracked surface. Talking about cracked, Cage – an Oscar-winning actor, lest we forget – is surprisingly straight-faced here, with an exception of a few seriously funny wide-eyed moments of disbelief that will have you roaring with laughter rather than empathising with his distraught. Although riddle with issues, the biggest of which are originality and overall execution of what is decent source material, Pay the Ghost is not as a complete time-waster as some of the actor's previous films. But it's still not smart or crafty enough to do much to regenerate and restore the actor's already tarnished flailing career.


Heist: Dull Heist Flick Fails to Take Advantage of Strong Cast
Published On: 17/11/2015

Written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams, ingenuity and common sense seem to be missing from Scott Mann's unoriginal and generic low-budget thriller, Heist –and it's a problem that not even the great Robert De Niro can do anything about. After a seemingly violent intro, we are introduced to The Pope (De Niro in one of his sleepiest roles to date); a feared casino owner who rules over his business and his people with an iron fist, alongside his equally fearful right-hand-man and enforcer, Dog (Chestnut). Working as Swan Casino's blackjack card dealer is Vaughn (Morgan); an ex-military man trying to earn enough money to pay off his young daughter's medical bills due to her ongoing cancer treatments. Faced with a deadline to come up with $300,000 or his daughter loses her spot in hospital, Vaughn finds himself embroiled in some funny-business with casino security guard, Cox (Bautista), who along with a team of robbers, is planning to rob the Pope. With elements taken from other - better - movies such as Speed - there's a lot of time spent on a hijacked speeding bus - John Q and even Ocean's Eleven, there's very little creativity or vision in Heist – everything just feels very routine. The dialogue is poor - some of the lines will most definitely fall under the 'some of the most ridiculous things said in movie history' category - and the attempt of inducing any substance or emotional depth is quickly derailed by the story's loose approach to reason and logic. It's yet another disappointing turn from the Oscar-winning actor, Robert De Niro - it's becoming difficult to believe that this is the same actor who played Jake La Motta in Raging Bull or Vito Corleone in The Godfather - who once again sleepwalks through the motions of a 'ruthless' casino owner who is forced to mend burned bridges when faced with his own mortality. Morgan, on the other hand, gives a slightly stronger offering while everyone else, including Bautista and Carano, are as bland and flavourless as the very film that they've found themselves in. 


Nino's: Zamalek's Newest Bakery & Dessert Shop
Published On: 16/11/2015

If you tried to count how many bakeries and dessert shops there are in Zamalek, you'll quickly run out of fingers – and possibly toes. But Cairenes have a notorious collective sweet-tooth that is seemingly passed on generation to generation, and the latest store to capitalise on this inherited love of all things sweet comes in the form of Nino's – a name that was spotted at many bazaars and food events in the past. Located on Al Mansour Mohamed Street, the aesthetic of the venue combines kitsch - think traditional wooden ahwa chairs - and the fluffiness of a cupcake shop – think pinks, whites and photos of baked goodies. Like many venues of its kind, in-store seating is minimal; there's one table on the right of the entrance and a bar with high chairs on the left, with the counter facing the shop-front. Browsing the display case and ordering was a little more difficult than it should have been; none of the items were labelled with prices or names, prompting us to ask a million and one questions to the one staff member holding down the fort. We eventually dived headfirst in the jar-stored cakes – one containing chocolate cake and the other containing chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla cream (25LE each). We also tried a Nutella cupcake (15LE) as well as a chocolate and vanilla cupcake (15LE) and a brownie (10LE) – yeah, we were hungry that day. Unfortunately, all the items had one thing in common – they were dry, which was especially strange with the jar-cakes, whose layered build would suggest that they would be moist. Dryness aside, the chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla cream cake jar stood as the highlight. The slight saltiness of the peanut butter was a perfect foil for the sweetness of the chocolate and the creaminess of the vanilla. The plain chocolate cake was just a little too sweet and the chocolate cream contained un-caramelised sugar, giving it an unpleasant graininess. The issue with dryness, meanwhile, effected the brownie most; it lacked that very specific moist chewiness and was actually a little crumbly – and the same could be said for the cupcakes. There was little difference between the Nutella and chocolate-vanilla and the latter's blue icing tasted heavily artificial. Overall, we couldn't help but be disappointed at the time of our visit to Nino's. Visually, it ticks all the boxes, the items are incredibly alluring and the rise of Nino's as a pop-up stall to full-blown shop should be commended; however, the shop needs several tweaks before it can really make an impact – all the ingredients are there.


Baladina: Authentic Egyptian Restaurant Finds a Home at Westown Hub
Published On: 15/11/2015

Since opening its first branch in Sheikh Zayed's Arkan Mall, Baladina has come to foster a reputation for serving truly authentic Egyptian dishes – a reputation that is made all the more impressive when you consider the number of restaurants in Cairo that claim likewise. The restaurant's success has led to the opening of additional branches, including one in Maadi's the Platform, with the most recent finding a home in Beverly Hill's Westown Hub. The new branch replicates the restaurant's rural Egyptian aesthetic to a tee; the waiters donning traditional galabeyas is the most striking of the eatery's trademarks. As a venue, Baladina offers both indoor and outdoor seating as per all of the venues in Westown Hub and as soon as we were seated, we received two menus – one for food and the other for drinks, with the latter offering everything from teas and coffees, to juices, smoothies and even traditional Oriental drinks such as hibiscus, tamarind, et al. As for the food menu, the set-up is as you'd expect – hot and cold appetisers, salads and soups are available, though the grill and tajin sections are where things get interesting – but let's rewind. To begin our meal, we ordered a basic vegetable soup (20LE) – we visited on a particularly chilly day – and rokak with meat (45LE). The soup was, by all intents and purposes, fine; there was nothing to be offended by, but there was absolutely nothing that would pull us to order it again – it was just a very simple, homely soup, though the portion was pleasingly large. The same can be said of the portion size of the rokak; the difference, however, was that we couldn't enough of it. To those unfamiliar with rokak, it's essentially a pastry, usually stuffed with minced meat and baked. Said minced meat was seasoned perfectly; it was full of flavour, though if there was one criticism – and it's a strange one – it's that there was too much meat and the whole thing was a bit messy to eat, subsequently. Moving onto the mains, we ordered Circassian chicken (72LE) and a moussaka tajin (35LE), which comes with a side of rice. The former is a dish that uses walnut sauce was nothing short of delicious; the walnut sauce itself was rich and flavourful, while the strips of chicken were cooked to a perfect tenderness. We had few complaints about the mossaka, too; filled with slices of aubergine, onion and pepper, there was a enticing sweetness to the dish as a whole and, even though the onion and pepper outnumbered the aubergine, it was great when mixed with the rice. Of the desserts, we went for a classic: Om Ali (30LE). The combination of puff pastry, milk and nuts was perfect, with the crunch of the nuts against the softened pastry adding a great textural contrast and it wasn't blindingly sweet as can be the case among Cairo restaurants. Washing our meal down with a glass of doum juice (20LE) – made of ginger palm root – we were full, satisfied and actually welcoming that feeling of being anchored down by your food, unable to move in any real way. Baladina's new branch proved to be as authentic as its others and it should do well in a place like Westown Hub .


Burnt: Bradley Cooper Stars in Underdone Chef Drama
Published On: 12/11/2015

Undermined by predictability, culinary drama, Burnt is surprisingly bland and unexcitingly seasoned for a kitchen-based flick that sees Bradley Cooper step into the role of a bad-boy chef on the road to redemption. Set in London - or at least some Hollywood version of it - the story follows Adam Jones (Cooper); a brilliant but arrogant chef who, after becoming embroiled in the drugs, alcohol and women of Paris, is eager to get his life back on track. After spending a few years doing penance in New Orleans, Adam arrives in London with the hopes of persuading restaurateur and friend, Tony (Bruhl), to give him another chance, so that he can try and build a brand name and give his greatest rival, Reece (Rhys) - who has also set up shop in the area - a run for his money. Setting out to get his dream-team of cooks, Adam recruits a seemingly rag-tag team, including Michel (Sy) - a sous chef whose restaurant Adam sabotaged - as well as Max (Scarmarcio); an assistant-to-the-chef who has just recently been released from jail. Directed by John Wells and written by Steven Knight, it is unlikeable characters that haunt this foodie-feature, which spends most of its running time following a fairly conventional setup. Playing to an awfully predictable beat of redemption, Burnt feels overwritten and undercooked at the same time - trying to squeeze in one too many subplots - and apart from a few wonderfully-shot close up food shots, there's not much that can be considered exciting - or appetising – about watching Burnt unfold or watching one constantly dissatisfied and seemingly conceited chef at play. Which brings us to the cast of Burnt; apart from Sienna Miller - who plays a single mom and a gifted sous chef with a romantic tie to Adam - and Emma Thomson as Adam's therapist and counsellor, no one really has the space to perform. Even Cooper himself fails to connect to the material given; channeling his inner Gordon Ramsey, there's a lot of ego and profanity at display, but, unfortunately, not a lot of substance or meaning to warrant Burnt as a necessary viewing. This is not the first time Cooper has played the role of a chef; he starred in underrated sitcom, Kitchen Confidential, which was based on a best-selling book by infamous chef, Anthony Bourdain. Though it was cancelled after 13 episodes, the show also showed its main character as rebel with a talent – the only difference being that Kitchen Confidential had likeable characters, a jovial sense of humour and generally more heart. It's a shame; Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy, Emma Thompson is a great cast. 


Zack’s Bakery & Café: Simple, Fresh Breakfast at Rehab City Bakery
Published On: 12/11/2015

Nothing beats the smell and taste of freshly baked pastries coming right out of the oven with a cup of cappuccino; which is why we headed over to Zack's in Rehab City, Located inside Smiley's Grill takeaway restaurant – a location which caught us off guard - we entered what was a small, six-table shop, furnished with leather sofas, chairs and bookshelves filled with old books with some euphonious jazz music playing at the background. Excited to try out some fresh bites, we checked the menu which had a selection of some typical bakery eats such as sandwiches, loaves, cakes, pies and cookies. It caught our attention that some of Zack's displayed items – especially the croissants- were still missing from the menu. We kicked things off with a brown bread tuna sandwich served with some salty chips (23LE). Enveloped in a multigrain, crunchy and savoury brown bread, our tuna sandwich infused with vegetables was quite tasty and the salty chips on the side complemented it perfectly. Looking to try Zack's desserts, the diversity of sweet bites including brownies, pies and cookies; we went for Zack's signature chocolate biscuit cake (18 LE). Comprised of small pieces of biscuit blended smoothly with chocolate and coated with a thin yet rich chocolate layer, our chocolate biscuit cake was perfect. We concluded with a refreshing Ice Latte (24LE) and a Heart Beet cocktail (25LE) – a vegetable and fruit blend – which was among several other large and healthy energising drinks. A mix of Cabbage, half lemon, half orange and a green apple, the Heart Beet cocktail was a match made in heaven; a guiltless cocktail drink which was both tasty and quite fulfilling - the perfect end to our breakfast. Perhaps Zack's location is somewhat unconventional – some might even think it's a turnoff – but the food, the music, the reasonable prices and the attentive staff made our experience quite pleasurable and all the more worthy.


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Cairo Weekend Guide: A Festive Friday Galleria40, the Cairo International Tango Festival & More!

Hello Cairo, We'll spare you the small-talk this week and dive right into what's looking like a busy weekend across Egypt's capital. Ready? Thursday is a huge night for fans of electronic music fans, with the likes of Brazilian DJ, Gustavo Mota, headlining a line-up at Omar Khayyam Boat that also in