When it comes to restaurants, the one thing Cairenes consistently complain about is consistency. You go to a new place, enjoy an outstanding meal, talk about it for weeks, return with friends, and are embarrassed because this time it was nothing like your first visit. It is like that all over the city. One month the service is good, the next it’s terrible; sometimes they have the Peking duck, sometimes they don’t; the salmon was great, but the tuna was tasteless. You just never know. You have all been there, far more frequently than you would like I imagine. The reason, sadly, is simple: lack of attention to detail: the same problem that plagues so many areas of life in this city, from driving to obtaining a construction permit to getting a tooth pulled. There is no system.
Of course being consistent is a problem everywhere. It is not as if New Yorkers and Parisians don’t complain of the same thing. Wherever it is located, a truly professional restaurant must be able to reproduce the same quality dining experience night after night, customer after customer, which is why the new Zamalek grill and salad house, The Medley, is such a welcome addition to the Cairo dining scene.
Located in the 33 Abou El Feda complex, The Medley has two floors with a terrace on top and a cozier downstairs seating area tucked in right along the river, both of which provide a tranquil view for a business lunch or a dinner with friends. So, yes, it is a fabulous location—and they have shisha too, which never hurts—but to put a spin on that old adage, what The Medley really has going for it is consistency, consistency, consistency. There is a reason for this, and his name is Tarek Khaddaj.
Some of you will know Mr Khaddaj and his wife through their successful executive catering company, El Matbakh, which serves the needs of local companies such as Vodaphone, Mobinil, Orascom, OT Ventures, Microsoft, HSBC and many others. Needless to say, the man has a system.
Fortunately for us non-corporate types, Tarek has the restaurant business in his blood, starting from his days as a busboy in his native Beirut back in 1991. From there he rose through the ranks of the food and beverage industry to become general manager of La Voile Bleue, arguably the most famous beach resort in the city, as well as famous night spots such as Matisse, Crystal, and Sky Bar, where he also served as GM. If you know Beirut, if these names mean something to you, then you are already mentally planning a visit to The Medley.
Bear in mind they do not have an alcohol license yet, but it really doesn’t matter, the food and the service are impeccable while the setting is relaxed. If you want a romantic dinner, the tenderloin I tried was grilled to a perfect medium and comes with mushroom, pepper or rosemary sauce. I also tried the chicken Alfredo, which was tender and moist, as was the grilled salmon. The vegetable accompaniments to these dish are fresh and colourful, the plating original and professional. The chefs too are from Beirut and they share Khaddaj’s vision of what a proper dish should look and taste like. Whoever is doing the expediting knows what he is doing. The spinach I liked the least of the vegetables, perhaps because of the saltiness of the parmesan on top, and of the three grilled dishes I tried, it is especially the steak and the salmon that I will be going back for, but The Medley offers shrimp, t-bone, ribeye and chicken cordon bleu as well.
It is a nice choice for a family lunch too. Moms can eat healthy at the massive, tasteful salad bar that provides over fifty fresh items daily, while the kids can have fun with pizzas, chicken strips, mini-burgers or spaghetti bolognaise. Mine certainly did. They loved it. As for drinks, I recommend the Tropicana, which is a blend of strawberry, banana, pineapple and coconut; and for dessert, well, you cannot go wrong. Over the course of a couple of visits I tried the tiramisu, the crème brulee, the blueberry cheesecake, and the chocolate fondant and they were all outstanding. And since The Medley has an extensive breakfast menu too, both oriental and continental, well, now you really never have to leave the island.