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Grizzly’s: Competition for Zamalek’s best diner heats up

Until recently, breakfast enthusiasts from Zamalek were forced to travel off-island to fulfill their morning cravings. Perhaps as a result of the significant nocturnal distractions available on the island, morning diner-style sustenance was usually found elsewhere, most notably at the famed Lucille’s in Maadi.

All of this has now changed. With the arrival of Crave several years ago, followed recently by Blackstone’s immediately next door, Zamalekites have grown accustomed to choice in the breakfast department. Grizzly’s, the latest addition to Zamalek’s diner scene, is part of an exciting new restaurant development, labeled simply “33” after its address on Abul Feda Street, about halfway between Sequoia and the cluster of coffee shops around the Om Kalthoum building.

33 has recently opened and includes, or will soon include, a range of drinking and dining establishments such as the Fish Market, Abdel Wahab Lebanese food, Mrs Fields Gourmet Cookies, TCBY frozen yogurt, and, somewhat surprisingly, two different coffee outlets (Coffee Shop Company and Lina’s Coffee). The location is fantastic: riverside, with great views of rowers, even waterskiers (!) making full use of the magnificent Nile as it meanders past.

Grizzly’s takes up the northern edge of this restaurant conglomerate and includes both indoor and outdoor seating. I’d recommend the outdoor patio. For starters, it’s right on the water, and presumably you’ve come to Grizzly’s at least in part to enjoy the relaxed ambience. Second, it avoids the greenhouse effect of Grizzly’s bizarrely designed indoor area (all glass and insufficient A/C leads to a minor roasting, even on a comparatively pleasant autumn morning; I suspect some urgent upgrades will be required for Grizzly’s to remain a popular destination during the heat of summer).

Fortunately, with the arrival of pleasant weather in Cairo, all this is a distant concern. Sitting on the patio, with the mellifluous murmurs of the Nile all around, all we had to do was relax and enjoy the food. And when it comes to food, Grizzly’s is a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. The burger was a mistake: an overly grilled patty without redeeming flavor. The salads are decent, though over-slathered in dressing. The eggs benedict was tasty despite its lack of resemblance to the authentic recipe, served on a savory bun as opposed to an English muffin, and without Hollandaise sauce. The pizza was superb: fresh ingredients on a thin crust. And the omelets and waffles were delicious, garnished with fresh herbs and home roasted potatoes.

There’s much more on the menu, including sandwiches, grilled meats and desserts. While I have yet had the opportunity to sample beyond the voluminous menu’s opening pages, I did, however, get sucked in by a strawberry milkshake. This was spectacular. I have often noted that a restaurant in search of a positive review need only send me away with a magnificent final taste. And, in their fantastic strawberry shake, Grizzly’s may have done just that.

So, how does Grizzly’s arrival change the competition for Zamalek’s best diner? In terms of quality of food, Grizzly’s does not yet challenge Zamalek’s established stars, namely Crave and Blackstone’s. But it’s not far off. Perhaps as it settles into its stride – it has been open only a matter of weeks; you’ll likely have to step over some construction rubble on your way in – things will improve. It’s also considerably cheaper than the other two; eggs benedict at Grizzly’s, for example, is LE20-something as opposed to LE40-something at Blackstone’s. And neither Crave nor Blackstone’s can compete with Grizzly’s Nile-side ambience. In any case, the arrival of 33, in which Grizzly’s is only one of many tastes on offer, demonstrates that culinary innovation is alive and well on Zamalek.

Details: 33 Abul Feda, Zamalek. Tel: 16629. Open daily from 8 am – 2 am; 33's mainline restaurants, Fish Market and Abdel Wahab, open at 4 pm. Breakfast for two: around LE100.

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