CAIRO: It’s customary to go out for lunch or dinner; those favoring late night meals also have their preferred locales. The breakfast market, meanwhile, has long been cornered by the numerous fuul and taamiya outlets available on almost every street in the city. That, however, seems to no longer be the case, as many restaurants and cafes now recognize the importance of the once-ignored meal and offer special breakfast menus.
The familiar habit of starting the day with a cup of black coffee, a cigarette and putting off food until the afternoon, or evening, has alarmed nutritionists. Cairo’s restaurants don’t just substitute this cup of coffee with the deliciously-presented cappuccinos and lattés, but offer a variety of dishes, sandwiches and pastries to accompany this necessary dose of caffeine.
Discussing such stylish breakfast venues in no way, however, diminishes the importance of the fuul shops and street carts, especially the latter – street vendors selling food with traditional recipes are hidden treasures, tucked away in the back streets of each district in Cairo offering affordable, tasty breakfasts. Although they pose some health risks, concerning their “hygienic preparation, they will always be an all-time favorite. Their whereabouts are privileged information available to the residents of each district.
The main point is now people have a much more varied choice over what to have for breakfast, what is often described as the most important meal of the day – not just an old wives tale but a fact confirmed by many nutritionists. Instead of fighting your way to the fuul cart and then eating your sinfully delicious sandwich in the street, you can simply step into a shop, place an order enjoy the fine service.
Café chains like Cilantro, Costa Coffee and the Marriott Bakery rank first in their availability with almost a branch or two in each district. The speed of food preperation and early opening hours (as early as 7am) is on par with the length of their opening hours. Most of these chains offer wrapped and sealed foods beside the gourmet coffee and fresh juices.
Cheese, cold cuts and tuna sandwiches are among the main items in each restaurant. There are also salads, pastries and desserts. All have seating areas, but space differs according to branches. So they suit the to-go needs and those looking for a more relaxed breakfast whether alone or with friends.
But the real in-house experience is in places like Lucille’s, Mediterraneo, Coffee Roastery, Café Tabasco, Green Mill and Le Chantilly. The smell of freshly cooked food in the early morning, or closer to noon in the weekends, is sure to whet your appetite.
These places mainly offer American breakfast with occasional European and Mediterranean platters. The French toast, pancakes and waffles in Lucille’s, Mediterraneo and Café Tabasco are a must try. Served with fruit, sausage or beef bacon, they always look too delicious to pass on. Then there are the eggs; scrambled or an omelet and cooked with the different ingredients ranging from cheese to vegetables and meat.
Green Mill could be classified along with Lucille’s, yet it is distinguished by its cakes like bread pudding being a house specialty aside its wide selection of coffee beans.
Coffee Roastery, although a restaurant chain, also falls under the same category with its American breakfast and early opening hours of 7:30 a.m. Salads remain its best feature. Le Chantilly, however, differs from the batch. Upon entrance the sight of pastries, gateaux, mini sandwiches and all types of known breads (all put on display), prepare visitors for the meal awaiting them. Specialized in Swiss cuisine, the place is among the best and the oldest of breakfast places.
Meanwhile, other restaurants make sure to open early, although they don’t have special breakfast menus. Mint Café offers a selection of sandwiches and salads to cater to its early visitors. The modern décor and the comfortable seats are definite advantages. Beano’s is no different, but its idea of breakfast is cakes, crepes and sandwiches. Like Coffee Roastery, Beano’s, which opens at 7:00 a.m., has one branch in El-Korba, Heliopolis open 24 hours, and has branches in Zamalek and Mohandeseen.
Café Tabasco (opens 7 am)18b El Marashly St., Zamalek 7358465
Green Mill (opens 7 am)32 Road 213, Degla, Maadi5210120
Le Chantilly (opens 7 am)11 Baghdad St., El Korba, Heliopolis2907303
Lucille’s (opens 8 am)54 Road 9, Maadi3592778
Mediterraneo (opens 8 am)74 Road 9, Maadi3805030
Mint Café (opens 9 am)30 Gezieret El Arab St., Mohandeseen3023870/1