La Bodega: One Last Time for Classic Zamalek Bistro?
157, 26th Of July St.
noon - 2am
Tanya El Kashef
La Bodega is a staple on the Cairo restaurant scene. Cairenes of allsorts see the history in its walls and the years gone by. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Over the last few months, however, rumours have surrounded La Bodega is to close down. So, think of this as an exercise in nostalgia.
On the first floor of a grand old Zamalek building in 26th of July Street, La Bodega is a high-ceilinged, warm setting with lots of deep woods and stand-out furniture pieces. With three distinct areas – the restaurant, the bar and a lounge in a closed-off room towards the back – we chose a dining table with a banquet on one side, where our group of six settled in for a laid back meal.
The menu is diverse and couldn’t really be narrowed down to a single cuisine, with choices such as chicken curry, Algerian couscous with lamb and rabbit a la bourguignon on offer. From the array of appetisers, we chose the beef Carpaccio (55LE), which was thinly sliced and juicy, served with a light dressing drizzled on top. The spicy calamari (42LE) was cooked to a perfect consistency, but was sweeter than it was spicy. A usual hit at La Bodega is the aubergine and halloumi (38LE), and while the ingredients were all there, the dish was unfortunately served a bit cold, which didn’t fare well with the cheese. On the other hand, both salads – the artichoke (33LE) and the goat’s cheese (36LE) – were vibrant and refreshing, though the dressing on the artichoke was a little on the thick side.
We also sampled the mushroom soup (22LE) and French onion soup (21LE); the former was absolutely delicious, being perfectly creamy and full of fresh mushroom flavour. The latter was less enjoyable, though; it was a little too sweet and quite thin.
If you’re looking for a heartier meal, their beef fillet (95LE) has always been a crowd-pleaser, as is there Chinese style chicken (64LE), while the wide choice of fish dishes are also a safe bet.
For dessert, we selected a chocolate soufflé with rum and vanilla ice-cream (30LE). We asked for it without the rum, but regardless, the chocolate pouf of a dessert was probably the downfall of our meal. The whole thing was sloppy, with a suspicious coffee flavour to it.
La Bodega of course serves alcohol, where the most expensive bottle of wine, Jardin Du Nil, goes for 230LE. All cocktails are 55LE and beer is about 20LE a bottle, or 46LE for a Heineken draught.
While the food faltered in certain areas, dining at La Bodega is generally a very pleasant experience. The service is attentive, while the atmosphere itself is sophisticated yet relaxed. The best thing about La Bodega, however, is the fact that not much has changed over the years, and for that we have always been thankful.