Over the years, this column has gone to great lengths to disparage the dining offerings available on Cairo’s suburban fringe. At the same time, I’ve resolutely asserted the dynamic interestingness available within the city’s traditional urban core.
In the rush to suburbanize, homes outpaced culture. Suburbanites, in search of decent dining, were forced back into the city they had so recently fled.
Inevitably, as time passes and the suburbs develop, this narrative becomes harder to sustain. Culture diffuses, given enough time, even to far-flung suburbs. Suburban dining options are steadily improving.
Saffron, in the Gezira compound in Sheikh Zayed in 6th of October, is a good example. Often, in reviewing suburban restaurants, I’ve had to temper my criticism with an acknowledgement of their location.
“Not bad,” I’d conclude, “for the suburbs.” Implicit in this criticism is the acknowledgement that the place in question would not fare well downtown. Saffron, however, is delicious. It would hold its own anywhere in the city.
Indeed, Saffron makes the most of its idyllic suburban location. Set at the edge of a pool, it has indoor and outdoor seating. The interior resembles a cozy living room; comfortable sofas, tastefully muted works of art and hearty wood-paneled bookshelves line the walls.
The books upon these shelves don’t seem to be mere decorations. I was surprised to see a memoir by Israeli General Moshe Dayan bumping up against a history of Islam. My assumption is that one of Saffron’s creators has diverse and interesting literary tastes and stocked these shelves out of his or her own library.
I was curious to curl up next to the fireplace and investigate more.
To me, one of the tests of a great restaurant is how well it performs simple tasks. We ordered a Nicoise salad that turned out to be a delight; crisp beans and greens upon a base of steamed potatoes and boiled eggs, a sprinkling of tuna, an understated use of vinaigrette.
My wife — who holds strong opinions over all things salad — decreed it to be the best ever. We also tried a delicious sea bass, steeped in butter, lemon and parsley, buried beneath whole cloves of garlic.
I think that the brownie we ordered to follow was tasty, though I only managed a morsel or two before the rest of my ravenous family polished it off. I can report, however, that it was buried beneath ample servings of Movenpick ice cream.
So, how to rate Saffron? It’s not cheap, though no more expensive than elegant dining downtown. Indeed, the ambience, service and quality of food go a long way toward justifying the investment.
It’s a bit difficult to reach. Even if you live in 6th of October, getting to Saffron may still involve a hearty commute. However, if you’re in the area (and, with the arrival of the IMAX cinema just down the road in the Americana center, we regularly are), then Saffron is a delicious detour.
Saffron’s arrival does nothing to diminish the culinary advantages of the city center. But, for those in search of decent dining in the suburbs, it’s a delicious beginning.
Saffron; Address: Gezira Compound Clubhouse, Sheikh Zayed, 6th of October; Tel: 02-3850-7582; Hours: 11 am–1 am daily. Lunch for two: LE300. Alcohol served.
This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent’s weekly print edition.