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Maharani

Maharani: Fairly Standard Indian Food in Zamalek

reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Maharani: Fairly Standard Indian Food in Zamalek

There are so many restaurants and cafés on
Le Pacha 1901 boat in Zamalek that Indian restaurant Maharani often goes overlooked.
It’s often empty, which is a surprise considering that Nawab is the only other
pure Indian restaurant in Zamalek where you can get a great curry.

The restaurant is located to the left of
the main hallway of the boat, and the interior greets you with a quite decor
that is every bit as spectacular as it is clichéd. Deep reds, greens and
yellows are incorporated into the carpet, seats and walls, while statues and
images of Ganesha are littered around the place. It isn’t the most refined
adaptation of Indian decor, but it is fun.

You are immediately served with small bowls
of mango chutney and pickled mango relish that you can dip into with some
crunchy flatbread. Both, we dare to say, tasted no better than the jarred
supermarket versions, but we quickly finished the small basket of bread.

The vegetable pakora makes for a good
appetiser or side dish and is big enough to share; deep-fried thick-cut slices
of potatoes, carrots and onions. Indian cuisine regulars will take the
spiciness in their stride, but novices may find it a blaze of an introduction to
the meal.   

At 105.90LE, the Maharani platter is the
most expensive dish on the menu, and its description makes it sound the most
tempting option. A delicious-looking selection of chicken tikka, lamb chops,
seekh kebab and prawns makes this perfect for sharing.

Although everything looked pretty
appetising, the platter was a bit of a mixed affair. The seekh kebab was no
different to your regular Egyptian kofta, while the best of the platter was the
lamb chops, which were tender but a little overcooked. The chunky pieces of
chicken tikka were full of taste although a little dry. The prawns were large
and cooked perfectly but they were prepared with exactly the same tikka
marinade as the chicken, and so the two, and the platter as a whole, somehow
blended into one big generic taste.

Looking for something to complement the
fairly simple components of the platter, we ordered the chicken biryani
(66.90LE) too. This faired a bit better; the rice was well-cooked, and the spice,
vegetables and nuts involved were palpable. The pieces of chicken didn’t taste
that much different to the chicken on the Maharani platter, but nevertheless went
well with the rice. 

Between the mango kulfi and the pistachio
kulfi (24.90LE), we chose the latter for dessert. Like something between ice
cream and rice pudding, the pistachio kulfi was thick, creamy and not-too
sweet; the perfect way to put out the fires of a spicy Indian dish.

The food at Maharani is completely
inoffensive to the senses, but isn’t the most authentic or satisfying example
of Indian cuisine that you’ll hope to find in Cairo. What was offensive was the
constant monotonous beat coming from whatever awful music was playing in the
venue directly above the restaurant. Even the strange playlist of western pop
and generic Indian music wasn’t enough to drown it out.

360 Tip

Johnny’s Pub is a stone’s throw away at the entrance of the boat, and nothing washes down a curry better than a beer. Fact.

Best Bit

Decent Indian grub in an over-the-top, almost theatrical, setting.

Worst Bit

Feeling like the roof is going to cave in with hoards of dancing people from above.

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