Jambalaya: Quaint Spanish Restaurant in Zamalek
37A Ahmed Heshmat St.
Despite the recent turmoil across in Egypt, restaurants in Cairo continue to flourish. Recently opened Spanish restaurant, Jambaleya, adds to the diversity of cuisine readily available in the city. Located on the cosmopolitan island of Zamalek, the quaint eatery is spread over two stories; the first is reserved for takeout orders and welcoming guests, whilst the second is for seating.
After being greeted warmly by staff, we were seated downstairs whilst waiting for a table to free up. Upstairs, the restaurant is rather small, with just a few decorative Spanish pieces, including small but charming souvenirs.
Serving up a diverse range of Spanish dishes and tapas, the menu is both unique and exotic. For drinks, we ordered a jug of their signature, non-alcoholic sangria (30LE). Enough for two people to share, it was a delicious, autumnal concoction of grape juice and cinnamon marinated apples. Although we would have preferred it served a bit colder than it was, the refreshing drink made for a perfect way to start our meal.
For our starters, we opted for Patatas Bravas (26LE) – fiery cubes of potato drizzled with a special sauce of ketchup and mayonnaise – and Gambas al Pil Pil (45LE) – or baby shrimps tossed in a garlic chilli sauce – before our main of Jambalaya Paella Mixta (50LE).
After a considerably lengthy amount of time, our two starters finally arrived, directly followed by the main. As with traditional tapas, portions are small, so ordering several dishes to pick at is recommended. Of our choices, the Patatas Bravas were our favourite; the potatoes were brilliantly tender, while the sauce was delectable and provided a flavourful hit. The Gambas al Pil Pil were also scrumptious; the shrimp were cooked to perfection with the chilli adding a great depth of flavour to the dish.
Lastly – with expectations high – the paella was a festival of flavours. It contained saffron risotto, sausages, chicken and all the vegetables required for a classic paella. Although not the best paella we’ve ever tasted and lacked the authenticity of what you might get at a hip Valencian bistro, it was still a solid, complex-flavoured main in the context of a city that has had few, if any, authentic Spanish restaurants.
Despite the somewhat slow service, Jambalaya provides a much needed change of scene from the city’s countless, run of the mill restaurants.