Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 - 31 August 2005
Issue No. 757
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Restaurant review:

Slickness in progress

A laborious journey into the heart of local cool

Across Zamalek's Gezira Club, right at the top of Hassan Sabry St, sits a work in trendy progress, an intriguing study in the efforts of those hacking away at the city's hipness frontier. Orangette has already, in its few months of operation, been lauded by listings publications as the coffee shop with a difference with its "exceptional breakfasts" and all-the- rage ambiance.

Sharp angles, tall tables of black wood with orange leather stools, and an olive grey leather couch lining the left-hand wall populate a (guess what?) orange and grey color scheme. The lighting is a dark neon orange glow, muted with plexi-glass, in a sheltered box of an establishment that doesn't receive much sunlight. It's too dark to read, but not to surf the net, hence the wireless network. And in true Starbucks fashion a counter runs the length of the glass-paned storefront, ensuring the see-&-be- seen aspect of your outing is executed instantly.

The coffee is the bitter but savory Café Molinari, and thumbnail pictures of the beverages prance across the menu. The hot chocolate is dubbed Cioco Delice, coffee, crushed ice, and chocolate flakes are blended into the Shakerto, a double espresso and 125g of yoghurt into the Iceberg, and the layered Mokaccino is a bed of espresso topped with "fine sweet" chocolate, whipped cream, and hazelnuts.

Alluring edibles such as the goat cheese and honey salad (my tongue goes numb just contemplating the clash) or the Capriccio with its slices of rare beef, watercress and pesto may help the beans go down better, or the task may be best left to the sweet and savory crepes, from chocolate and caramel to smoked turkey and Quattro fromaggio. The sandwich selection generates its own buzz with its burgers, balsamic steak, Italian roast beef sub with colored peppers and cheddar, and a butterfly-style breaded shrimp choice that arrived fresh and crispy.

Venture through the back door and you've stepped into the just-opened Delight. Orange gives way to a predominant yellow aqua-glow in this restaurant/ bar. And while the olive leather seating and black wood tables remain present, they're complemented with brown leather armchairs, dusky beige suede couches, and a steady stream of electronic jazz. The tables become more elevated and drinks-oriented the closer you get to the bar in the back, which is flanked on the left by an informal VIP booth for large groups.

A good selection of standard starters, nachos, cheese fingers, smoked salmon, mushrooms, stuffed and fried, and light and crispy vegetable spring rolls (whose chili, soy, and sweet-&-sour sauces still didn't help them to approximate anything Asian), as well as satisfactory tomato and mushroom soups are there to whet your appetite and introduce you to the diverse, "world-cuisine" menu.

Sadly though, the quality of the entrees is poor. The Delight fillet with Hollandaise sauce (basically mayonnaise, alongside an insipid brown sauce), ordered medium-well, arrived bleeding and left me with a thick coat of grease lipstick. Two- thirds of the way through it simply became too gross to complete. My friend's hopes of consuming a decent Cordon Bleu in this town were once again thwarted when the cheese and beef bacon (was there ever any point to this poor substitute?) arrived outside the breaded veal steak. The manager's response: "Yeah, maybe they should've called it something else."

The bar aspect of this establishment is not yet functional (the poor thing actually feels naked displaying only sparkling juice bottles), with the owners capable of little but thumb-twiddling as they await their liquor license. The food may have been passable if one were drinking, or even acceptable if too drunk to notice or care. It's a good looking place that invites you to consume, and once the Chef's received sufficient critical feedback, regular visits will be in order. Until then, it may prove interesting to periodically chart their progress.

2 Hassan Sabry St, Zamalek.
Tel: (+202) 7365203.
Opening hours: 8am (Orangette)/ 12pm (Delight) till 2am daily.
Orangette: Coffee and sandwiches for two: LE50- 70.
Delight: Dinner for two, LE150-200.

By Waleed Marzouk

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