Review: Can Bouchée conquer Korba’s food scene?
Strolling the soulful streets of Korba, Heliopolis – a hotspot for lively cafes, restaurants and bakeries – one place stands out from the rest.
With its bright red signage, overhanging plants and a steady stream of customers, Bouchée brings vibrancy and energy to the area, attracting shoppers from all over Cairo, from October 6th in the west to New Cairo in the east.
Living in New Cairo myself, I wanted to see what the fanfare was all about. In reality, I intended to pop in, try out a variety of articles, and silently begin the review process. That all changed when I saw Habiba Darwish: the teenage partner who, along with a spirited team, helps run Bouchée’s day-to-day operations.
The shop, a mix of pastry shop and café, opened in February 2022 – the product of a next-generation family business. Bouchée itself was the brainchild of Darwish’s father, who, along with his brothers, has decades of experience in the restaurant and café industry.
“My father has always been a fan of Parisian cuisine – the elaborate dessert presentation, the bakeries, desserts and the relaxed atmosphere,” explains Darwish. “Then one day he decided to travel to Europe and learn how to make desserts there.”
These trips took him to cooking schools in Spain, France and Italy – learning centers for every aspiring pastry chef. His children and nephews followed suit, taking similar courses and eventually opening Bouchée.
Darwish’s father may have conceived the idea, but it is youth that runs the business – a never-ending story of one generation passing the baton to the next.
As inspiring as Bouchée’s story was, I couldn’t help but worry: what if the food didn’t match the quality of the backstory? Nevertheless, the place was boisterous, the seats never empty.
While I consider myself a nature lover, the Cairo sun made it impossible to survive outside and Bouchée’s air-conditioned interior was a safe haven from the heat. In retrospect, however, an awning or a parasol could have served as a great source of shade for the outdoor seating.
I now sat inside with an increasingly hungry cramped stomach and started my breakfast with the store’s sandwich option. With a little help from Darwish, I settled on a focaccia turkey and cheese sandwich, topped with some arugula and not-so-hot spicy mayonnaise.
Within minutes the chef had it ready and on my table. The focaccia bread was a soft treat, with olives and cherry tomatoes baked in it that added zest and flavor. While I’m not a fan of overly spicy sandwiches, I was quite pleased to see that they didn’t overdo the mayonnaise. The turkey itself was delicious and I couldn’t have been happier with the way my stomach started its day.
An impromptu phone call at work inspired my next order, a refreshing Iced Spanish Latte – a popular drink that’s not really Spanish in origin but more akin to Vietnamese coffee or Karak in that it’s also made with sweetened condensed milk – with a strong Colombian twist coffee coffee beans. This also gave me a good excuse to finally try the outdoor seating, as a cold drink would help me take my phone call outside and away from the lively noise inside.
Back inside, it was time to end the experience with one of Bouchée’s iconic pastries. The pastry display in and of itself was mind-blowing. Each dessert is designed and presented much like a framed work of art: intricate and perfectly placed.
As Darwish shows me the plethora of pastry options, she proudly mentions that her brother is the pastry manager.
I ended up opting for the crisp white and pungent looking Exotic Fruit Pavlova, made with Swiss meringue, almond biscuit, tropical fruit and a whipped coconut ganache.
The dessert was artisanal in its presentation and delightful in taste. Although I think it got a little too sweet for my personal taste after half the time. On another day, during a sporadic sweet tooth episode, I would definitely have enjoyed more.
As I ate off the bottom of the cake, I began to worry that this review sounded too positive. Fresh and tasty food, a professional and courteous staff and a clear sign of craftsmanship.
I came to faintly realize that this is simply the level of quality Bouchée operates at – and it cannot be denied. This allows the store to stand out from the crowd despite competition from Paul, The Bakery Shop (TBS), Vasko and others who are taking over the street corners just across from Bouchée.
Perhaps the only downside is the size of the place itself. Throughout my time inside, I saw a handful of potential customers waiting at the door for a table to become available. Some waited, some didn’t.
But this is also being worked on; Darwish enthusiastically informed me that they are renovating the top floor for a wider and more comfortable seating arrangement. This features a balcony overlooking the lively streets of Korba.
“The road just past Bouchée, this is where Papa grew up.” Darwish expresses, “Consequently, this is where the soul of our family lies – although we may no longer live here, we still gather here frequently as a family.”
This line resonated with me: Bouchée was a place of soul, vibrancy and community, which shows in the delicacies, the staff and the experience.
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