There are plenty of options in Cairo for those seeking Indian or Chinese food, so the idea of a fusion restaurant combining these two distinct cuisines may not necessarily excite the curious restaurant goer.
Throw in the fact that the Silk Road is nestled within the five star dining complex at the Concorde El Salam hotel in Heliopolis and the initially interested could justifiably be put off.
It’s a fair way out of town, on the doorstep of the airport, and fancy hotels are rarely overly concerned with putting on an authentic dining experience, but when it comes to the quality of the food at Silk Road there can be no complaints.
Once the cab driver had figured out exactly which hotel we were looking for (El Salam has relatively recently been absorbed by the Concorde group), first impressions were discombobulating. The decor, as you might possibly expect from a fusion restaurant, is chaotic.
For those easily offended by over-the-top orientalist interior design, it might be best to step off the Silk Road and pop into one of the other less violently garish eateries the hotel has to offer.
Assailed from all sides by elaborately carved wooden elephants, bizarre ornamental firearms, and one particularly frightening sharp toothed four-foot figure banging his eastern drum, one is left in no doubt as to the motif of the restaurant. Thankfully, once seated, the menu offers reassuring simplicity.
The selection is small, hinting at a kitchen staff who wish to specialise despite the diverse furnishings, and devotees of Indian cuisine in particular might be pleasantly surprised.
In fact, the starters were the only area in which much attention was paid to the putatively Chinese elements of the restaurant. Spring rolls and dim sum were on offer but we opted for a few interesting takes on Indian classics, and I was especially delighted by the samosas.
Once the surroundings had faded into the background, aided somewhat by the introduction to the table of half-decent European lager, the food was able to occupy its rightful position in the scene.
The chicken sagawar was excellent and used a spice blend of unexpected refinement, which can only be attributed to a chef who knows exactly what he is trying to accomplish—as opposed to a misguided ‘fusion’ experiment.
Also on our table was a superior salmon dish of admirable delicacy, though assembled company were at a loss as to the potential cultural origins.
The evening was rounded off with the only two desserts on the menu. An intriguing and sweetly-spiced rice pudding suggested it may have once been the envy of every village for miles around, in a rusticated Indian province especially famous for rice puddings. But maybe I am letting the absurd decor get the better of me. The other option, vanilla ice-cream with a hint of I-don’t-know-what, was a triumph.
All in all, the restaurant belied its claims to fusion cuisine by including several simple and well-prepared classic dishes. The prices were not eye-popping and the service was friendly and efficient, making the entire experience eminently worthwhile if you are looking for a change of scene from your regular Indian restaurant of choice.