Kahwet Leila: Vibrant Lebanese Cafe at the Platform, Maadi
As the centre of most social gatherings in Egypt, cafes in Cairo have taken a leap into the gourmet, with new names furnishing their venues with plush fixtures, modern décor and menu items that easily cover the weekend minimum charge. In Maadi, upscale outdoor food-court, the Platform, boasts a veritable kaleidoscope of the best Cairo has to offer in terms of restaurants and cafes – the newest one being the retro, Lebanese cafe, Kahwet Leila.
With the weather permitting, we decided to sit in the cafe’s expansive outdoor area overlooking the Nile. Decorate in bare wooden floors and pop-art paintings of traditional Arabic designs and singers, the cafe exuded an air of modern comfort. The outdoor tables and chairs were of weaved nylon material and added to the conspicuous, yet tasteful, balady ambiance.
In addition to the entire area, Kahwet Lelia was quite crowded with weekend business and the waiters were scrambling to respond to every hand gesture. Catching ourselves a trainee, we were informed of the 100LE per person minimum charge and were handed the menus to begin scouring through. Completely devoid of any subtlety, the menu was presented in Franco-Arabic with the items spelled out in a Lebanese Arabic. Though difficult to navigate, the descriptions of the dishes were detailed enough to go on and we were able to decide from their extensive range of appetisers, mezzes, sandwiches, main dishes, desserts, beverages and sisha.
Arriving a few minutes after ordering, a freshly orange juice (20LE) and taboula (20LE) arrived first. Refreshing with a slight tart kick, the juice was a perfect accompaniment to the zesty taboula salad. Marinated in spicy gravy and lemon juice, the Soujouk w Banadoura (40LE) was served on a small platter with bite-sized pieces of sausages piled onto it. Though the serving size was a tad disheartening, the sausages were incredibly aromatic and each piece packed a huge amount of heat. Next up was the disappointing Fetteh Djeij (45LE) – or chicken fattah. Buried under an obscene amount of yoghurt dressing, the rice and bread were congealed together with the chicken pieces barely noticeable in taste and appearance.
While the starters and main dishes were, in all honesty, rather mediocre, Kahwet Lelia stunned us with their impressive desserts. Soaked in syrup and golden vermicelli over a gorgeous house-made rose and pistachio ice-cream, the Osmanliet Leila (80LE) had the entire table crossing forks over the last bite of the delectable treat. The traditional Lebanese dessert, Ghazel Beirut (45LE), transpired to be a scoop of misteka ice-cream wrapped in fine strands of flower and drenched in syrup and grated pistachio. Following the heavenly dessert options, we were served the Lebanese coffee (12LE) which ended up as a typical Turkish coffee only presented in a hand-painted porcelain cup.
Though we were sceptical at first, Kahwet Lelia proved to be well worth some of its high prices and presented a new, modern approach to the overly-saturated cafe market through their unique menu approach, solid food quality and trendy surroundings.