The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt


Simonds: Classic Cairo Café Losing its Touch in Zamalek

  • 112, 26th Of July St.
  • Bakeries & Patisseries
  • 7am - 10pm -
reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Simonds: Classic Cairo Café Losing its Touch in Zamalek

Walk down any street in Cairo, and it won’t
be long before you come across a cake shop or bakery of some sort. Most have of
course been conspicuous during the month of Ramadan, but konafa and basbousa
never go out of fashion in Cairo, and neither does Cairo’s lust for baked and
iced goods. Simonds Bakery and Café has been obliging such lusts for over one
hundred years in Cairo, with branches in Downtown, Dokki and Zamalek.

Demurely active on 26th of July
Street, the Zamalek branch looks a little run down compared to neighbouring
shops. It’s as if minimal changes have occurred during its long existence. Its
featureless appearance does lend it a certain no-frills quality, though. As if
to say; this is a place where we focus on our cakes and pastries rather than on
our appearance, because we know what’s really important.

And we have to hand it to them; they’d be
right. Firstly, there is always a very strong element of oriental sweets, and
Simonds’ window displays are dominated by an overwhelming range of such
collections. Unfortunately, this seems to have compromised the existence of their
other delicacies.

A late evening visit was marred by the
uncomforting sight of some customers standing up and precariously pulling their
espressos up to their mouth from thigh-high tables because of the small and
cramped area. Looking for an escape from the seasonal humdrum onslaught of
oriental sweets, we were genuinely dispirited by the lack of anything non-oriental. 

A trifle made of konafa, mango and cream
was only available as a whole pudding, and not served in portions in the shop.
As tempting as it looked, we weren’t hungry enough to shell out 125LE on
something that
even an
army would struggle to finish. 

A croissant and a small selection of
unavoidable konafa (both 6LE) were delivered to our table with minimum fuss. As
someone who has nothing more than an occasional interest in oriental sweets, this
reviewer found the different types of konafa to be a pleasant surprise. Syrup
was minimal, portions were bite-sized and each one would be noticeably
different to even the most casual of eaters.

Assuming it had been on display
for longer than it should have been, the croissant was flaky and stale on the
outside, but was light and sweet on the inside. Deciding that we needed more to
eat with a pair of pedestrian cappuccinos, we ordered a chocolate sponge gateau
(7LE). Though heavy on the chocolate top and centre, the sponge itself so to
speak only got in the way.

Cheap prices and a convenient location make
Simonds in Zamalek a nice to change from the bigger, brasher and youth-infested bakery chains. This old shop is in danger of falling behind its
competition, though; its history and tradition can only carry it for so long.

360 Tip

Back in its hay-day, Simonds was a regular hang-out spot for friends and family of King Farouk. Some of the customers in the Zamalek branch look like they've been regularly dropping in for coffee since. It's like a time-warp.

Best Bit

Cheap prices.

Worst Bit

Simonds is drifting out of touch, and will find it hard to keep up if there isn't a shake-up.

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