This column is continuously on the lookout for dining options outside of Cairo’s urban core. While much of Cairo’s new housing sprouts up far beyond the traditional city center, it seems that the arrival of restaurants, or for that matter any cultural or social offerings, lags far behind the housing units themselves. I always feel bad for those suburban dreamers, sweating their way back into town along the mehwar or ring road, just to find a decent meal or to meet up with friends.
This conundrum – the relative overdevelopment of suburban housing coupled with the relative underdevelopment of suburban dining – has become particularly acute in the post-revolutionary age, with the mini-disaster inflicted on many of Cairo’s suburban developers. Many of the land deals on which Cairo’s suburbanization is based are now being questioned; many champions of suburbanization are now in jail or disgraced in exile.
In spite of this, several restaurants are refusing to buy into a glum assessment, and are serving up decent fare far out in the ‘burbs. I’ve been hearing decent things about Alto’s Bistro at km18 of the Alex desert road; and recently I had the chance to lunch at Tempo, located a bit further out within Sodic’s Allegria compound just behind Designopolis.
While I’m not a particular fan of this sort of suburban development – a beautiful but bland setting, a serene oasis of golf green surrounded by newly planted palm trees and unfinished villas – it is indeed well done. There is comfortable lounge-style outdoor seating as well as a slightly more formal indoor dining room. As you sit on the comfortable pastel-colored chairs outside, you stare down a beautiful fairway of one of the holes of an exquisite golf course created by famous Australian designer Greg Norman. On a recent afternoon, as Cairo was sweating, the weather was pleasant and cool.
The food is also very well done. The menu includes a standard range of international fare, with a mild local inflection, including soups, appetizers, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, mains and desserts. We tried a salad that was excellent, a steak sandwich was decent, and sautéed jumbo shrimps on wild mushroom risotto was a treat.
Allegria is nowhere near being completed. They had hoped to move in some anchor tenants by now, to create some momentum behind the place, but clearly this is far from becoming a reality. As a result, it is a quiet and slightly sad wasteland of construction interspersed by beautiful golf holes. One of the few reasons to visit at the moment is golf, so chances are many of Tempo’s guests are golfers. But the place is open to all, and provides a decent meal. While it’s unlikely that you’d make the trip out from Cairo just to eat there, if you’re in the area and need a decent meal, it might just do the trick.
Details: Allegria compound, beside Designopolis, km38 Alex Desert Rd. Enter from the Designopolis access road just after the shops. Tel: 012 377 9788. Open: 8am-midnight daily. Dinner for two: around LE300.