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A Mexican mystery

Injy El-Kashef sits tight

Never sit at the last table. This was our only mistake, but it cost us the entire evening. As soon as we entered Phillies, we felt severed from the rest of town (the lighting, music, clientele and Mexicano interior decor -- including at least one totem -- do not necessarily strengthen one's bonds with Cairo; in fact, where are we here?) and, to take the experience one step further, we sat at the last table of the L-shaped space, facing the wall. Uno grande mistake.

The customers were all having a good time, and loudly so; but louder still was the Latino music -- with a few obscure bouzouki intrusions -- blasting from the speakers. It was not a suitable volume for a dining restaurant; when you are being charged for the cover on the table, you are at no jazz club.

But who cares for conversation when faced with the Deep Fried Mushrooms and Onions with Dill and Devil Sauces? This excellent appetiser did not rely on the usual modest button mushrooms: their fungi were large enough to cut into four juicy quarters dripping with the blue cheese they were fried with. The Chicken and Sweetcorn and Creme of Tomato soups were equally rich and delicious, each arriving with an individual bread board on which lay a slice of white bread, a bun of brown bread and a cup of butter with garlic and mixed herbs.

Phillies deserve to be commended for their attention to detail. From the finishing of the token totem to the food presentation and garnish to the very dishes in which you eat: everything is picked with a keen, aesthetic eye. They seek to treat their customers royally, and details are a guaranteed way of attracting positive response. Unfortunately, the only place that did not deliver the promised goods was the menu. No Piña Colada, no Margarita, no juice but mango and, most importantly for a steak house, no steak but fillet mignon -- "our meat is all imported from abroad, because Egyptian steaks tend to be a little tough, but unfortunately the expected delivery did not arrive as scheduled," our kindly waiter explained -- with one's choice of sauce, including pepper, mushroom, lemon and garlic.

Whatever was available was irreproachable, however, both in quality or quantity (although the portion of Sea Food Brochette, priced at LE37.95, was a little provocative -- as was the sight of the grilled calamari tentacles left whole). The salad bar offered several uncommon options besides the more traditional selection, including a Russian salad and a fresh mushroom salad which was a test for the greedier amongst us -- one diner was caught red-handed with a large plate full of mushroom salad only. Now, really.

Good food, great music, elegant dishes, lively atmosphere: there was no obvious reason for our misery. We finished the Crêpes with Chocolate Sauce, Seasonal Fruits and Chocolate Mousse and were still distressed, although the desserts were as honest as the dinner. Even a coffee prepared of special Yemeni beans one never dreams of having at a restaurant could not bring back the smiles we had lost.

We wouldn't have discovered the reason for our unhappiness in a million years -- and it was not the LE224 bill -- simply because we were sitting on it: highly uncomfortable seats on this last table facing the wall. Never again.

Phillies Steak and Cheese, 34 Soliman Abaza St, Mohandessin.
Tel: 3619146 

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

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