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Granita: A Tranquil Escape from the Chaos of Cairo

June 30, 2021
The indoor dining area at Granita. Photo credit: Restaurantguru.com
The indoor dining area at Granita. Photo credit: Restaurantguru.com

Named after the refreshing, ice-cold drink many Egyptians remember from their youth, Granita feels like a portal back to simpler, less hectic times – a testament to its self-proclaimed image as a contemporary take on the olden days of cosmopolitan Egypt.

Located on the grounds of All Saints Cathedral in Zamalek, the lively cafe offers a change of pace from other Cairo hangouts located in crowded or noisy areas. The colorful indoor décor is rich without being over the top, and the entire space feels comfortable and cozy, even when it’s completely packed. Perhaps it’s the colorful sofas, the strategically-placed house plants, the large glass windows, or a combination of all these elements together that brings about this effect.

My companion and I decided to pop in at Granita on a Saturday afternoon for lunch, curious to try some items from its diverse menu. Before taking a seat in the spacious outdoor area though, we couldn’t help but stop and stare at the beautiful products put on display near the entrance, including branded water bottles and a variety of household items.

Arriving hungry and ready to sample the diverse menu, we started off with the Onion Soup (EGP 70), which was rich and flavorful – albeit a bit heavy in that it could be an entire meal in itself. It wasn’t the best onion soup we’d tried in Cairo, but it was an optimistic beginning for the meal.

The onion soup. Photo credit: Mona Bassel

We then opted for the BLT Sandwich (EGP 65) because we were curious about its Egyptianized version featuring pastrami instead of bacon, and it was easily our favorite item of the day. The saltiness of the pastrami perfectly complemented the tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise filling and the homemade chips served on the side were crispy without being oily so they tasted light – a perfect snack for anyone stopping by for a quick lunch break or seeking an energy boost during a long study session.

Another menu item that caught our attention was the Peinirli (Greek-style pizza), so we opted for one with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes (EGP 60). Topped with fresh arugula, it looked smaller than expected, but the cheese was so rich and creamy that it does act as a good standalone meal if coupled with dessert or a salad.

Granita’s BLT and Greek-style pizza. Photo credit: Mona Bassel

Finally, for our last menu item, we went for an American classic: Sloppy Joes (EGP 70). Served on a buttery homemade bun, the ground beef was well-seasoned and felt more like a pot of chili inside a sandwich. As the name suggests, it’s a pretty messy meal, so all you can do is dig in and hope your friends don’t try and snap a photo of all the sauce on your face and hands. If you’re going on a romantic date, maybe skip this one (or don’t, that’s up to you!).

Although Granita offers a variety of tempting coffee concoctions such as the Greek Latte (EGP 35) with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, the weather was so hot that we opted for refreshing cold drinks instead: the ice-cold Granita the place is named after and an iced tea.

The Lemon Granita (EGP 45) was incredibly refreshing in the summer heat, and it was just the right amount of sweet without being too overpowering or zesty. We also tried the Peach Iced Tea (EGP 40), but it was underwhelming because it tasted more like regular tea that’s been stored in the fridge. It was still refreshing, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the variety of Granita options; the place is named after them for a reason, after all.

The lemon granita. Photo credit: Mona Bassel

One thing we didn’t appreciate was the slow service, but it was mostly due to how crowded the place was and the fact that we opted to sit outside while most of the other patrons were seated indoors.

Sadly, Granita recently lost its founder and designer Dr. Selim Shahine, who wanted to position Granita as a place that combines unique cuisine, music, and art. As we listened to the tranquil instrumental tunes in the background and marveled at the relaxing décor, we’re happy his legacy gets to live on through such a beautiful space. This definitely won’t be our last visit to this hidden Zamalek gem.

Granita is located inside All Saints Cathedral at 5 Michel Lutfallah Street, Zamalek, Cairo.

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