Ayadina: Contemporary Lebanese Restaurant in Heliopolis
3 Cleopatra St.
With so many uniform franchises opening across the city, other new restaurants in Cairo are often overlooked. Discreetly situated on a quiet road in Heliopolis, Ayadina specialises in Lebanese cuisine with a unique Egyptian twist.
Hidden behind turquoise double-doors, the entrance is both stylish and welcoming, with potted plants defining the doorway. The staff swept us beneath beautiful mirrored ceilings, burnished wood and polished tile floors, to a table and a sumptuous sofa heaped with cushions. Sorbet coloured velvet arm chairs complete the opulent but comfortable feel – all in front of a roaring fire.
Our group was large, and the restaurant busy, but the service was discreetly attentive and swift.
The menu is filled with traditional Lebanese dishes; grills, fattahs, manaeesh and mezzas. We ordered a selection of dishes including hommous (24LE), vine leaves (28LE), cheese and tomato salad (22LE), fattoush (25LE), eggplant (22LE), cheese and meat sambousek (28LE/30LE), sojok (42LE) and a mixed grill (110LE). The drinks menu. meanwhile, boasts an impressive range of fresh juices, fruit cocktails, sodas and hot beverages. We opted for some ice cold sodas (14LE) along with green teas with fresh mint (15LE).
Soon after a complimentary basket of bread and dips were served, our starters were presented simultaneously. The eggplant dish was particularly delicious; the eggplant itself was soft and tender, but still full of taste, while the seasoning was perfectly balanced between spice and sweetness. The cheese and tomato salad was overpowered by the quality, bitter cheese, whilst the hommous was perfectly creamy and lightly seasoned. Both the cheese and meat sambouseks were generously sized, golden brown and packed with their sumptuous fillings. The vine leaves were possibly the best we’ve ever had; fresh and flavourful each piece was doused with a fantastic, light vinaigrette. The fattoush salad complimented the rest of the dishes and was crisp and fresh, cleansing the palette with a subtle but flavourful dressing. Although particularly aromatic, we felt the sojok could have been marinated a little longer for a fuller flavour.
After a nicely judged interval, the main dish of the mixed grill arrived. We had elected for a traditional dish, hoping that it would deliver the promise of a unique lift, and it did not disappoint. The lamb was succulent and carefully seasoned and the creamy accompanying dip delivered the extra touch we were hoping for. If there is one criticism, it is that the kofta was a little on the small side, but they were nicely cooked and tasty enough.
Out of the range of traditional desserts, the Halawet Ayadina with cheese (54LE) was the highlight of the meal. Presented on a crescent plate, the soft slices were tear-drop shaped, and a border of red sauce and crushed pistachio added an artistic touch. Unsure of what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised by the sweet, soft-centered dessert.
Ayadina serves up deliciously authentic Lebanese dishes in a colourful, contemporary and comfortable setting – our only regret was that we couldn’t eat more.