Caruso’s: Flashy Restaurant & Café in Zamalek
With Zamalek turning into a giant food court, watching new restaurants and cafés pop up all over the island doesn’t fill us with as much excitement anymore. However, with a giant, imposing structure looming over the corner of Baghat Ali and Ismail Mohamed Streets, Caruso’s demands attention as the newest eatery on the block.
With glaring, luminous red signage, the attention grabbing exterior is reflected in the funky interior; faux brick and wood panelling, primary colours and pictures of jolly chefs on the walls makes for an eclectic – if slightly inapt – mixture of styles. Gigantic curved windows allow light to stream in during the day, whereas the coloured cove lighting and blue LEDs create rather dim lighting in the evenings. On the other hand, the outside seating area feels unfinished, with unattractive metal fencing surrounding its perimeter.
Looking around the vast indoor space, a few velvet sofas are available, though the majority of seating is similar to garden furniture; uncomfortable wooden chairs and glass topped, metal tables. A seemingly popular place for customers of all ages, several flat screen TV’s were set to a well-known Arabic music channel, with the volume a tad too high.
The menu is large, boasting a range of international dishes, from salads (10.95LE-33.95LE), pizzas (25.95LE-36.95LE) and pastas (29.95LE-32.95LE), to grills, shish tawook sandwiches (32.95LE) and manakish (19.95LE-24.95LE). The drinks menu is also diverse, offering numerous milkshakes (21.95LE-24.95LE), smoothies (21.95LE), fresh juices (13.95LE-16.95LE) and cocktails (21.95LE-24.95LE) as well as a long list of hot drinks (9.75LE-21.95LE). We opted for an exotic-sounding coconut smoothie (21.95LE) which turned out to be a rather sickly, syrupy concoction.
After scouring the menu for food, we settled on a fried combo appetiser (31.95LE), Monterey chicken (49.95LE) and a club sandwich (31.95LE). Unfortunately, the food took an unforgivable amount of time to arrive – we were waiting for almost an hour.
Our combo appetiser didn’t make up for it either; largely mince meat pastries, overcooked kobeba and just two spring rolls, there was nothing exceptional about this dish. The club sandwich fared a bit better; with real chicken pieces, thick salami slices and lashings of mayonnaise, its overall flavour was pleasant, though the bread quickly got soggy and could have done with more toasting. The Monterey chicken was generously sized, with good quality meat and a slightly bland, melted cheese and sweet pepper topping. Both dishes were served with a side of unremarkable fries, and a large portion of white rice.
From the dessert offerings of ice-creams (24.95LE-29.95LE), crepes (26.95LE) and cheese cakes (25.95LE-28.95LE), we went for brownies and ice-cream (26.95LE). Instead of being the sticky chocolate pudding we had imagined, it lacked a chocolate taste and the texture was more like a sponge-cake than a brownie.
Though largely ordinary, Caruso’s offers a wide range of dishes and a large contemporary setting ideal for social outings; that alone is enough to capitalise on Cairo’s ravenous cafe culture.