Some of the trendy restaurants and bars that have opened across Cairo lately, looking to tap into a growing pool of young, cosmopolitan spenders, tend to inspire a sense of déja-vu. Where have we seen those faces before?
Of course, now I remember – at that other bar that just opened last week.
I went to check out the latest addition to the scene – a bar/restaurant called Flux, in Mohandiseen. Thinking how well the name suited the current state of the city's drinking-and-dining-out circuit, we wondered if the next place to open up might perhaps be called “Saturation.”
We walked into an empty restaurant. The space is small, though high ceilings and comfortable seating help to prevent the onset of claustrophobia. Abstract contemporary art hangs on the salmon pink walls, while wooden window shutters are suspended horizontally from the ceiling. The music was good – diverse and funky, yet unobtrusive.
The ambience was conducive to conversation, and we soon got into a flow. That was fortunate, given the wait that was in store for us. Upon our entry, the staff had exuded friendly efficiency, but in fact we were destined to wait over half an hour just to get our salads. We were the only two customers in the place, and wondered, quite naturally, how the staff would handle a rush.
At least when the salads – mixed-leaf with a flavourful oil-based dressing – finally did come, they were delicious. And eventually, almost an hour after we'd ordered, the main courses also arrived. My char-grilled prime rib eye could only be described as a carnivore's fantasy. My plate held a single large rib swimming in gravy, and nothing else. I felt like a dinner guest at the Flintstones'. The meat was tasty, though slightly overdone. My companion's spiced chicken breast with harissa potato salad was similarly good, if a little basic.
Still, the piece de résistance was not the main course, but dessert – for which we ordered Arabic coffee petit pots with pine-nut praline. The concoction had a delicious bitter-sweet taste, but we felt we should have been provided with an instruction manual: what to do with the two glasses of strange, herb-paste elixirs that come with the coffee.
Flux's three owners have big plans. One of them – who was having a drink at the bar when we first arrived – talked about expanding the menu to incorporate a form of fusion cooking, bringing a baladi element to the menu with such ambitious dishes as molokhiya ravioli.
They also want to expand next door and down into the garage, where they intend to have a minimalist disco with a “raw feel” – which would be a big victory for Cairo's oft-underestimated raver community (and a minor setback for traffic flow on Mohandiseen's back streets). The partner we spoke to also mentioned a plan for “Lunacy Nights” – a dance-oriented evening every full moon.
For now, though, Flux is a nice place to have a quiet, relaxed evening. It's still not part of the circuit, and in that lies one of its basic charms. Moreover, the prices are reasonable for this type of restaurant, with salads and main courses for two, plus dessert and drinks, costing us in the neighborhood of LE160.
The place is cosy, and the food is somewhere between good old home cooking and standard restaurant fare. Nevertheless, the management should work on the speed of service. However appealing the character of the place, hungry customers could turn into disgruntled ones if the problem of timing is not addressed.
This article first appeared in the November 2000 issue of Business Monthly