Haaty Abou Bassem: Egyptian Grills in El Hussein
Visiting the El
Hussein area in Islamic Cairo isn’t what it used to be. The scarcity of
tourists and visitors is turning one of the most charming areas of Cairo into a
ghost town, where the vendors, shops and cafés are in recession. But despite
this, El Hussein still retains some semblance of being one of the most graceful,
culturally rich touristic attractions in the city. It’s still a great place to take
in Egypt’s history and, in this case, it’s still a great place to go for
authentic Egyptian food.
Bassem is located amongst a cluster of other restaurants opposite Al Azhar
Mosque and it’s easy to miss in the proverbial circus of the area as waiters encourage
you to take a seat at their restaurants and cafés. Like most Egyptian
restaurants, Haaty Abou Bassem specialises in grills and tagines.
restaurants reception houses the cashier and the take-away counter, as well as
the customary behemoth, Egyptian grilling stations, and is a bit of a mad
house. But the Arabic and Islamic décor of the main seating area soon makes you
forget, as does the high ceiling – a norm in old Egyptian architecture – and the
soft, yellow lighting. It all adds up to a rustic, authentic feel. Even the tables, at first glance, look a little wrecked, but it really
does add to the atmosphere. Overall, the best way to describe Haaty Abou Bassem
is that it’s balady-touristic – a description that extends to the service, too.
It’s by no means top service, but the staff members are personable, sincere and
will likely engage in a bit of cross-lingual banter.
The menu is
basic and straight to the point, offering Egyptian classics such as grilled
kabab, kofta and veal, as well as stuffed pigeon, chicken, fatta, kawaraa (beef
shin and knuckle) and meat tagines. There’s also a selection of soups and
appetisers such as mombar and stuffed vine leaves.
One kilo of
kabab and kofta will set you back 130LE. The meats are grilled perfectly and
are full of flavour, especially the kofta, which is prepared with a mix of
herbs and spices that really elevate it. As a side dish, the mixed rice (6LE) comes
highly recommended as opposed to the spaghetti bolognese (5LE), which was a bit
reminiscent of koshary. It was bland and poorly seasoned, as was the orzo soup
highlights of the menu, however, are the veal fatta (45LE) and the shish tawouk
(44LE), which we saw on several other tables during our visit. Although both
are basic, common Egyptian dishes, Haaty Abou Bassem’s versions are cooked and
spiced perfectly, in big portions.
lacking in terms of service and a shabby bathroom, Haaty Abou Bassem shines
with its well-delivered Egyptian dishes and with a such a wide range of prices,
it’s easy to see why this has become one of the favourites in the area over the