Burger joints have been popping up everywhere in Cairo, though the neighbourhood with the highest number of newcomers is the densely packed island of Zamalek. In the last 10 months alone, four places have opened their doors to burger fiends (mainly youth) and been attempting to court them ever since.
Gourmet Burger is one of the newest kids on the block. Located just off of Brazil Street the small eatery is cozy and bright, awash in vibrant yellow and red hues. The place has a slightly kitschy feel, with high stools, wooden accents and funky plastic pepper dispensers for mustard and ketchup. It reminded me of a family owned North American diner located in a small town (think population 2,000) off of the Interstate Highway in the mid-west.
The menu is varied and, well, quite bizarre in some respects. It’s meant to be a bit more upscale than other semi-fast food restaurants so there are exotic items to choose from. Each burger is named after a different country, and aside from the more traditional options (New York) there are burgers made with shrimp, halloumi cheese, lamb and even one (the “Canadian”) with duck. There are also grilled vegetable skewers for those intolerant to meat, and a host of fries: wedges, sweet potato and slim cut with herb seasoning, to choose from.
For the first time in a long time I was in a beef mood, so I went for the Italian Burger with rocket, eggplant and red pepper. I asked for the kitchen to hold the mozzarella and pesto and hoped for the best. My carnivorous dinner companion went for the Spanish Grilled chicken burger without cheese.
The service was swift and our food was ready in a short 15 minutes. While my friend dug into his chicken burger, I sent my plate back because there was pesto smeared all over my bun and burger, clearly someone in the kitchen had missed my Intolerant request of “no cheese and no pesto.” The staff behind the counter were friendly though and they took my burger back without question. Seven minutes later I had a new burger, though when it came back it was not only without and cheese and pesto, but it was also missing all that delicious rocket.
I couldn’t be bothered to send it back again so I set my gluten aversion aside for the evening, added a bit of mustard to the eggplant and got to work. The meat was tender and juicy and veggies nicely grilled without being too greasy. The herb laced fries had a bit of zing to them and they were perfectly portioned, coming in a small cup that didn’t encourage a starchy overload. I also ordered a vegetable skewer that was comprised of grilled carrots, mushrooms, onions, pepper and zucchini on a bed of rocket (I got it in the end at least!). It was a nice compliment to the meal and a great option for vegetarians who eschew meat entirely. My dinner partner liked the veggies, fries and the bun, but he felt the chicken patty had a some ground to cover in terms of flavour and composition. While other places serve up a full breast, he felt he was gypped by getting half that.
Can’t win ’em all I suppose.
While it still has a ways to go, what keeps Gourmet Burger in the game is that their meat is locally sourced from family owned farms and is prepared on site in accordance with strict standards. This doesn’t happen every day in Cairo, so I take small victories where I can get them. For all the gluten-crazy people out there, their homemade buns are made with 60% wholemeal flour, a healthier option that isn’t laden with sugars and/or over-processed and enriched flour that has no nutritional value what so ever.
In all, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to give Gourmet Burger another try. I mean every new kid needs a period of adjustment.
Each and every one.
12 Brazil St.
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Open from 12:00 – 01:00