La Bodega Marassi: Quiet, Understated Sahel Dining
If, like what feels like half a million Egyptians, you’re also spending your summer on the North Coast, chances are you’ve noticed how far the dining scene has come along. Instead of a handful of restaurants (remember how there was only Andrea and Samakmak for a few years?), you now have, well, everything and everyone: food trucks, ice cream vans, chic dining, beach restaurants; you name it, it’s here.
If your idea of a good meal out doesn’t involve ear-bleedingly loud music and rubbing shoulders with scantily clad, worryingly young hipsters posing for group snapchats, you should head to La Bodega in Marassi. This long-time Cairo dining institution may have shut down its Zamalek location (its sister restaurant, Aperitivo is still operating), but it’s alive and kicking in Marassi.
Located in front of the Marassi Golf Academy overlooking a wide, open, golf lawn, La Bodega is completely off the beaten track – in fact, this reviewer would have completely missed it if it weren’t for a tiny sign on the main road leading to the Marassi clubhouse – and in a quiet, dimly lit location that means you actually get to see the stars while dining.
Although it’s open from noon onwards till 4.30AM, the restaurant was still pretty empty when this reviewer showed up at 9PM on a weekend. As most nights in Sahel start extremely late, this was hardly suprising, and we did enjoy having the waiters’ attention and the place to ourselves. Music was played at a decently low volume, allowing us to have a long, relaxed meal with easy conversation and an opportunity to enjoy the view while melting slowly in the heat.
Unable to digest anything heavy due to the 30-something-degree night, we opted for the beef carpaccio (60LE) and caprese salad (70LE), which arrived cool with the standard flavours of mozzarella with pesto and balsamic, and we washed both dishes down with well-cooled local white wine.
For mains, one member of the party opted for the Mixed Seafood (165LE), a plate of fresh and straight-off-the-skillet grilled shrimps and fried calamari, served with a sour cream-type sauce and a rosemary garnish as well as white rice. Even though the plan was to avoid heavy dishes, our other party member went rogue and ordered the grilled beef fillet (95LE) served in a dark pepper sauce and a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables.
Unable to even think of dessert, we tried their daiquiri and vodka martinis (around 55LE) as another attempt to cool down, and sipped while enjoying the calm surroundings and pleasant skyline.
We’re told that the place really picks up after midnight with a DJ playing into the early hours of the morning and people booking up every single weekend for a chance to party at La Bodega. While we didn’t see this during our visit, we were happy to find solace and a pleasant, albeit predictable, meal in this restaurant. La Bodega has a nostalgic ring to many Cairene diners, including this reviewer, so it was nice to see the same menu, quality of service and atmosphere recreated here in Sahel.
This is definitely a restaurant to head to if you’re looking for understated elegance, a mature crowd and dependable cuisine in Sahel.