Taking on the tail
Oxtail, camel liver and bull testicles -- tuck in and savour every morsel
The race pigeons hovered overhead. And a boy atop a towering skyscraper furiously waved a red flag. He was perched up there next to a pigeon coop, shooing the pigeons to and fro -- exercising the birds. You could hear the pigeons cooing, faintly in the distance -- or was it my imagination? I couldn't help thinking of the dreaded avian flu, but there was no bird flesh on offer, only mammalian meat -- beef, veal, mutton and lamb, to be precise. It was around sunset when we arrived and the sky was lilac, pink and orange. It was a beautiful day and it was my birthday.
Moreover, there was the most curious trellis atop a quaint old building across the road in the heart of Madinat Al-Ommal (Workers City), Imbaba -- the sprawling working class district north of Giza. We sat outside since it was a particularly pleasant spring day. The restaurant has an indoor section, but it is much nicer outdoors and there are umbrellas to shelter the clientele from the summer sun.
Kebdat Al-Brinss, The Prince's Liver, is no gourmet restaurant in spite of its pretentious name. The ambiance is frugal, no frills, almost spare. Tea was the only hot beverage on offer. No alcohol is served, but one could order non- alcoholic beer if needs be. Soft drinks are restricted to Pepsi-Cola and Seven-Up. There are no puddings either. But the meals are so filling that there is absolutely no room for desert.
The waiters, however, glided effortlessly in flip-flops past the tables with their palms piled with trays overloaded with earthenware pots of meaty dishes.
A dear friend and colleague had invited me and I was truly grateful. The birthday treat turned out to be a delightful evening. The four of us -- three boys and a girl -- were in celebratory mood. And we could not have picked a more enchanting venue.
The Prince's Liver is quite unabashedly a carnivores' eatery. It is also most certainly not a place for people counting calories. The dishes on offer are unashamedly rich -- the stews drenched in ghee, samna baladi. Kidney, trotters and all sorts of offal were on offer -- including, to my horror, bull's testicles. This down-to-earth eatery is especially renowned for its liver, neck and oxtail. We scanned the menu and my friend suggested liver -- there was ox liver and camel liver. We opted for camel. It was rubbery, and something of an acquired taste, I am told.
Oxtail was the meat of choice for two of us, including myself. The meat fell easily off the bone and melted in one's mouth. The oxtail was baked with lots of coarsely chopped onions -- I am partial to onion.
We shied away from the trotters, even though a friend tried fatta -- a garlicky dish of meat chunks cooked with rice and croutons of traditional Egyptian brown bread, a dash of vinegar topped with heaps of stewed tomato sauce. One friend had a mixed vegetable and meat stew, the other potato and meat stew -- they both pronounced their meals "delicious". The meat, shin of beef, was cooked to perfection and very tender. The oxtail, too, was clearly cooked for at least three hours, simmering gently in its own juices.
The Prince's Liver is an obviously popular restaurant with a huge turnover, the main characteristic of a good restaurant. The service is fast and efficient and the waiters friendly with a ready smile. Kebdat Al-Brinss is a popular haunt among people of the neighbourhood and the dishes on offer are well within the means of the locals. The Prince's Liver is a place not yet particularly frequented by foreigners resident in Egypt. Mind you, the day we went, there were two Scandinavian women, and they greedily tucked into their meaty stews like everyone else in the eatery.
The accompanying salads were delicious, especially the baba ghanough -- oven-baked aubergine, peeled, roughly mashed and delicately spiced. It was smoky and chunky, a mouth- watering delight cooked to perfection. The Prince's Liver offers home delivery service with a 10 per cent extra charge per dish. The prices are very reasonable, though. The four of us had our fill of flesh and the bill came to just over LE100. I'll certainly be back to gorge myself.
79 Talaat Harb Street
Workers City, Imbaba
Tel: 311 6265 or 010 220 0836