Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 May 2011
Issue No. 1046
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Restaurant review:

Free for Friday's

Friday's and a sense of fun suffuse a cheerful brunch with breathtaking riparian panoramas, revels Gamal Nkrumah

A trip down the Cairene Corniche to the riverside resplendency of suburban Maadi can prove a time- consuming, incommodious affair. However, if you happen to reside in the vicinity or pop into one of the eateries by the Nile on a Friday, then it might well be worth the effort. TGI Friday's, Maadi, with a perforated pewter (or is it plastic) façade is perfect for Friday brunch.

Friday's façade exudes the false feeling of a hydrotherapy spa or some palm-fringed riverside nature reserve. And that is not to say that fast food need be incompatible with style.

Nestled amid the picturesque rushes of the river, we watched the feluccas sail past the eatery as we soaked our weary bones and muscles in the warmth of a sunny Friday afternoon. With such a sunlit vista, our small party was in full swing.

Before soaking up the sunset, or if you are exceedingly energetic, just after soaking up the sunrise, take to the gentle waves of the Nile's waters in a timeless felucca. There is a sense these days, as the economic crunch begins to bite in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution, of the huge engine of Egyptian tourism quivering horrifically to a quixotic halt. This is no time to panic. Flock to places such as TGI Friday's.

Time to stand back, take stock and savour the simplest of life's pleasures. TGI Friday's décor may not be the most glowingly state-of-the-art in town, but its service is efficient and its surroundings pleasant. Combine brunch with the breeziness, other-worldliness and eternal beauty of a tranquil excursion on an unassuming felucca. The combination is uniquely invigorating.

We had got off to a good start. The felucca plots its own course along the lush banks of the Nile. It navigates recklessly past beds of water hyacinth, floating miniature islands with chirping birds flying overhead that appear to be cheerfully self-contained. As our felucca puts out to river she passes old fishermen's shacks huddled along the embankment like the pre-historic hovels of an age bygone.

As it is impossible to beach by the old fishermen's huts for a picnic we opt instead for Friday's brunch. The skyscrapers of riverside Maadi glitter in the brilliant sunshine. Friday's is one of several rival idyllic riverside restaurants ideal for a laidback Friday brunch.

My sons are in playful mood, prancing in the slanted springtime sunshine, their telephones tinkling as they whisper sweet nothings to their respective girlfriends. "Garlic chicken pasta or Key West grouper? Or perhaps shrimp Friday's," I ask Karim. His smile dimmed a little.

The entire équipe is enticing and the setting enchanting. "Surely not steak au poivre," I venture sheepishly. "Certainly not," he snaps irritably. "I'll do with Friday's burger," interrupts Youssef somewhat impatiently. "As a side dish I'll have crisp French fries, please dad. And lots of ketchup, too." He always knows what he likes best. "Sizzling chicken, I reckon. Or wait a minute. What about combo fajitas -- the chicken Caesar is rather bland," counters Karim who is invariably undecided and in two minds.

The Nile is not exactly the Red Sea or the Mediterranean, so there is no space for sandcastles. If you are looking for ease of access, head for Maadi TGI Friday's on a Friday. As the waters are exceptionally polluted, my sons instinctively understand that Friday's is fantastic fun even though it does not possess its own pieds dans l'eau.

If it is sand and sea you yearn for, then I highly recommend TGI's Sharm El-Sheikh, Neama Bay, or Marsa Alam's TGI Friday's Marina Port Ghalib. But then not everyone wants to get quite so far away from it all. Fortunately, for fast food lovers and unhurried weekend getaways, TGI Friday's Maadi has them both in spades.

TGI Friday's

Corniche Al-Nil, Maadi, Cairo

Tel: 2359 9925

Lunch for three: LE275

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