Sennara: Reputable Seafood Restaurant in Heliopolis
221 El Hegaz Square
Surrounded by two seas and the Nile River, it’s no wonder that fish eateries in Egypt offer a plethora of different fish dishes. Generally airing on the side of caution when it comes to seafood restaurants in Cairo, word-of-mouth recommendations led us to try out Sennara in Heliopolis. Situated to the side of the Gabaly Hotel on El Hegaz Street, the run-down, dingy stairwell leading to the entrance of the restaurant was less than impressive.
As seems to be the norm for seafood restaurants, the décor was somewhat traditional and old fashioned, with copious numbers of plants, including the odd corners that seemed to have been transformed into small indoor gardens; one was even complete with a colourful garden bench. Reclaimed ship steering wheels act as light fittings, and the red and yellow colour scheme could undeniably do with an overhaul; however, we were optimistic that the fish would most probably be better than their interior tastes, and we weren’t disappointed.
Plenty of whole, fresh fish are displayed on ice for diners to handpick; alternatively, the menu boasts a huge range of seafood options, from straight-forward grills and fried fish, to pastas, soups and rice dishes. The prices for most dishes vary day-to-day, depending on the fish’s size and availability.
The drinks menu is a simple list of sodas, fresh juices and a couple of hot drinks. We requested a small amount of sugar in our fresh lemon juice, which turned out to be a perfect bitter-sweet blend, whilst our Coca Cola was served ice-cold.
For our starters, we went for the Sennara seafood soup (30LE), a shrimp cocktail (30LE), and from their small selection of appetisers, a bitter tehina alongside a delicious baba ghanough (5LE each). The Sennara seafood soup was a nice, creamy surprise, with an unfortunate amount of pepper but a very generous mixture of seafood pieces, including a few tasty prawns and some wholesome calamari. The shrimp cocktail was even better, with lots of small, fresh shrimp drowning in an liberal amount of marie-rose sauce. Our bread basket (7LE) was huge, sporting warm, fluffy white and brown balady bread topped with sesame seeds.
Being a large party, we ordered a buffet style dinner, complete with lobster (300LE per kilo), clams (80LE per kilo), fried calamari (90LE per kilo), king shrimp (300LE per kilo), some Sennara rice (25LE) and grilled sole (160LE per kilo) with butter and lemon sauce. Despite being slightly chewy, the lobster was delicious, served out of its shell and marinated with a few vegetables in a butter sauce. The fried calamari was a deep golden-brown and delectable, whilst the king shrimp had a large amount of tender meat on them. The tender grilled sole fish was served whole, with a light and subtle, buttery sauce. The rice platter was also delocious, brilliantly seasoned with an assortment of bite-size fish pieces. Throughout the meal, the waiters courteously changed our plates for clean ones when it became apparent we needed them.
After our meal, finger bowls were dutifully brought to the table, along with a mind-boggling, expanding towel – you’ll have to see it to believe it! However, the dessert menu leaves much to be desired, although we didn’t necessarily need anything more to eat. We reached the conclusion that the lack of anything else, pointed to the fact Sennara is dedicated solely to its fish dishes.
Sennara’s reputation precedes it, and despite appearances, the quality of the fish dishes, along with attentive service, really does speak for itself.