I love being pleasantly surprised and that’s what happened to me during my short trip to Cairo recently. If you’ve been to Cairo, you will know that apart from all the history in the place with pharonic stuff, the pyramids, the Islamic Museum, the 1000’s of mosques, dinner on the Nile, etc, one thing distinguishes the place, traffic jams. This means that wherever you stay in Cairo, determines what you do ad have time for, as spending hours in traffic is not ideal if you only have a few days to visit. On what was my second trip to Cairo, I had to stay on the outskirts, in Heliopolis, which didn’t really bother me as I had previously done the tourist stuff on my first trip almost 2 years ago. However, I wasn’t too saddened, as I learnt that there was an American style mall (City Stars Mall) not too far from where I was staying and that even with traffic, it would still take me about 10-15 minutes to get there. So, off I went, thinking, for espresso, it’s all going to be about the image – selling espresso, lattes and cappuccino without much preparation and just to escape from the hustle and bustle and think you are in New York drinking coffee.
I did some prior research – there’s Cilantro (strange name for a cafe, as it’s what Americans call the World’s most popular herb, coriander – the main herb used in Indian and Chinese cooking). Anyway, Cilantro is like the Egyptian equivalent of Starbucks, similar in decor, with dark brown, comfy chairs, bookcase style centre piece, but with smoking and no-smoking sitting areas. As it was still morning, I ordered a cappuccino, which came with a small biscotti. I checked the barista area and spotted a La Cimbali machine, but noticed that it was being used only for frothing milk – I couldn’t see what machine was used to make the espresso part of my drink – Shame ! Anyway, the drink was like your typical mega chain espresso drink. I was nevertheless impressed with their wide variety of coffee cocktails and their choice of different types of coffee blends.
So my suspicions were confirmed, but not for long. After lunch at an indoor version of a corner Parisian/Italian style cafe bistro, Casper and Gamibini’s, what do I see in the corner – a La Marzocco coffee machine – could it be that one of the best coffee machines was situated here in Cairo. Yes ! So I ordered an espresso and went to watch the barista do his stuff and got chatting to another barista that was intrigued by my curiosity. After a while he started talking about the WBC (World Barista Championships) and how La Marzocco sponsors the event. The preparation for my espresso followed the normal rules, but I don’t think their coffee beans was either ground right or fresh enough, as my crema disappeared under 1 minute. In any case, I got an espresso.
However, thinking that all was lost and heading back to my hotel, I took a wrong turn and entered into the “posh” part of the Mall, which is expanding by the month and what do I see, Caffe Del Doge – the famous caffe from Venice, who I learnt previously where now franchising their brand to other parts of the World. Anyway in summary, the espresso was so good that I came back twice in 2 hours for more. See next post for more details on Caffe Del Doge, Cairo.
Another cafe worth trying too in the City Stars Mall is Caffe Alfredo, where they have a La Marzocco machine and produce adequate espresso. Also, Starbucks have 2 cafes in that Mall – their first 2 on the African continent and there’s a Costa Caffe and another Egyptian chain called Beanos, but with Caffe Del Doge I was satisfied and didn’t venture to any others – once you’ve found the real thing, settling for anything less is difficult or at least wasting money and trying something you are not sure off, is risky. I also learnt that Cafe Supreme – a Canadian Coffee Shop Franchise – is due to open soon at the same mall. For now, I think Caffe Del Doge in Cairo’s City Stars Mall serves the best espresso drinks in a mall that I have been to. Highly recommended ! Ma’assalam as they say in Cairo.