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Bite Me Cairo: Tipping The Wink

This new Bed and Breakfast in Maadi is the achievement of Alisa Amin, the inspiration behind Winnie’s Hotels.

Foodist at work. (Photo by Nada Badawi)
Foodist at work. (Photo by Nada Badawi)

On our first visit to The Snug we had such a pleasantly chilled evening that I decided not to write about it. It was a quiet October evening, the weather had begun to cool, and the smoke from the large outdoor grill snuck upwards through the trees. The customers were mellow, the staff friendly, and the food good. Cairo was far, far away. We were passing the time on the patio of a homey country pub in Surrey and I swore that I would hide this secret from the world. In the end, my love of sharing outweighed my common sense.

This new Bed and Breakfast in Maadi is the achievement of Alisa Amin, the inspiration behind Winnie’s Hotels. She saw a niche in the market, and seeing as how The Snug is fully booked months in advance, clearly she knows what she is doing. This is the perfect place for couples in Cairo on a short stay to visit their family; and equally perfect for couples living here that need to get away from their families.

Ms. Amin has discovered other niches as well, and Winnie’s Hotels intends to fill them. Given the success of this first venture, I’m guessing they can.

For one, they think Cairo needs a good sports bar that can serve as a sort of clubhouse and gathering place for local teams. They are planning on opening an Executive Bed and Breakfast as well, called the Phat Cat, which will have facilities for business lunches, conferences and meetings. Good thinking.

They also see room for a family-oriented joint. The Mad Hatter will be a safe haven for kids and parents alike, offering crafts, games, a cinema, and other activities for children—even in-house nannies—along with a healthy-option restaurant and a bar that is child friendly. This borders on brilliant.

The project I am most excited about, and the one nearest completion and scheduled to open before the end of the year, is the Alchemist. Finally there will be a place to go clubbing in Maadi. Modern and trendy, with DJs and live music, a sushi restaurant and a cocktail/shisha bar; I am definitely not going to tell you about this one either.

If The Snug is anything to go by, these other places will also do well in their neighbourhood markets. Amin and her team think big and they know what they are about.

True, The Snug is not easy to find. At present there is not even a sign, but this only adds to the charm of this urban asylum. Customers too must know what they’re about. There is also a strict door policy aimed at keeping it a peaceful, secluded, couples-oriented place. Only the worldly and the wise will be able to track it down and get in, but these are the types you want sitting at the table next to you anyway.

The menu is simple and generally works. The concept is comfort food with a decidedly British/American bent. From the kitchen you’ve got mac and cheese, pasta salad, a sort of chef’s salad (The Snug Salad) with cheese, chicken and bacon, a bean salad, a gumbo, bangers and mash, et cetera. It is early days yet, and some adjustments will inevitably need to be made. The gumbo had way too much rice and isn’t anything like what they are calling “New Orleans” style; and while the salads are large and fresh, the old school iceberg lettuce just gets in the way and should be 86ed.

None of this matters out on the patio though, where the grill reigns supreme and where the burgers and steaks will remind you of backyard barbecues and family holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed the salmon too, which was cooked to a pinkish perfection, moist, and falling apart on the fork. Her royal self cannot get enough of the homemade coleslaw, which tastes like a childhood picnic. And a novel concept that I absolutely love; no French fries. Great choice guys.

What I do not love so much about The Snug is its service and the fact that at present they do not offer dessert. The latter I understand will be remedied soon, but as to the former, management really needs to put the wait staff through some intensive training, and also maybe given them free coffee and tea. They are a super friendly bunch for sure, but they are also half asleep, just too laid back for busy weekend evenings.

It is hard to blame them though, this place is comfortably situated, and it is easy to become terminally relaxed. And that, my friends, is all that I am going to tell you. I have let you in on the secret. It is up to you to earn the privilege. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Topics: cairo Egypt

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