New Egyptian restaurant opens in Chiswick

Image: Abeer Abdelghany (L) and Sabrina Tolba (R) 

Modern Egyptian cuisine

A new Egyptian cafe-restaurant has opened in Chiswick, run by two women who have a track record of making excellent food – ‘Alaz’, which means ‘more delicious’ in Arabic.

The restaurant, at 448 Chiswick High Road is run by Sabrina Tolba, who set up the successful catering business Alaz Catering, and her business partner Abeer Abdelghany, the chef, who has not cooked commercially before. Her recommendations come from a happily well-fed family.

“Alaz will offer our customers a unique and authentic experience. Egyptians love gatherings over food and entertaining large groups so this will be like having lots of people over at my house and I get the chance to cook for them,” Sabrina told The Chiswick Calendar.

“Our Egyptian dishes are so wholesome, delicious and bursting with flavour, using simple yet versatile ingredients that will take our Egyptian guests on a journey back to their homeland,  but will also cater to all tastes and palates regardless of where you are from”.

They are wholesome because they use less butter, Abeer explained, and use fresh ingredients – tasty and filling, but not cholesterol laden.

Fresh, tasty Mediterranean food

The menu has some of Egypt’s most iconic dishes and famous street food such as Koshari, a vegan dish, a mixture of rice, lentils, pasta, a zesty salsa sauce with fried onions and chickpeas, and Hawawshi, grilled minced beef with onions and herbs in crispy folded pita bread. They also have Fiteer, a traditional Filo pastry pie.

Traditional drinks on offer include Karkadeh (Hibiscus tea), served cold and hot, and Karak, which is Egyptian prepared coffee with cardamon and saffron, very like the Indian chai latte, from which it is derived. These are a staple in any Egyptian household they told me.

To the uninitiated, it is Mediterranean food, such as you might find in Cyprus or Turkey, but Egyptian cuisine has subtle differences, said Sabrina and Abeer – different spices used here and there; Arabic touches such as pomegranate seeds added.

The Greek, Turkish and Lebanese influences reflect Egypt’s history of interaction with other countries of the eastern Mediterranean. The menu has Macaroni Bechamel, a Greek dish, but whereas the Greeks use minced beef and pork, Egyptians use only beef; and Moussaka, but whereas Greeks use Bechamel sauce in it, said Sabrina, she doesn’t.

The menu also has the Turkish Shakshouka, stuffed cabbage leaves (as opposed to vine leaves), served hot rather than cold, a rice pudding made with cream, nuts and cinnamon, and standard international cafe fare such as Smashed Avocado on toast, Eggs Royale, pastries and croissants.

“We have lots of vegetarian and vegan dishes in our food because we have a big Orthodox Christian community,” Sabrina told me.

Sabrina grew up in the hospitality industry, as her father ran the Pharoahs restaurant in Teddington, and she has always lived in west London, in Teddington, Chiswick and Acton. She worked for Selfridges and M&S, training staff in customer service and acquiring an MBA in marketing before setting up her own business.

As her family is well connected, she was given the opportunity to cook for the Egyptian embassy, and from there she built up her catering business to do dinner parties, garden parties and  corporate events. Like many other hospitality business, when Covid hit she started doing home deliveries.

Alaz is backed by business partner Egyptian restaurateur and media mogul Alaa El Kahky and his wife Abeer Abdel Ghani, who like Sabrina want to see modern Egyptian cuisine better recognised in London.

Image: Full Egyptian breakfast

Offering Club Card holders a 10% discount

I was invited to try the full Egyptian breakfast – more like a full Egyptian feast, with the traditional fuul, made with fava beans (nicer than I have had it in Egypt, tastier, with more tomato and spice); poached eggs with a green salad (eggs any way you want); freshly baked pitta bread with a creamy cheese dip, hummus and pickles, and falafel made the Egyptian way with fava beans (green inside) as opposed to the Lebanese style made with chick peas. It was, as advertised, both delicious and very filling.

Sabrina is very conscious of the reputation of the premises, where the previous owner lost his alcohol licence after he was raided twice and paid huge fines for employing people who did not have permission to work in the UK, paying them substantially less than the minimum wage.

She is quick to point out that she has no connection to the previous business and that she pays at least the minimum wage. In fact she is still looking for staff (previous experience in hospitality essential, Arabic a bonus, though not necessary).

As a Muslim she is not concerned at the loss of the alcohol licence, but she points out that if people want to hire the restaurant for events, they are welcome to bring their own booze.

She is going through the process of setting up delivery arrangements with Just Eat, Uber and Deliveroo, but points out that eating in is actually cheaper, because of the delivery charges.

At the moment their opening times are Monday-Thursday from 9am-5pm, Fridays & Saturday 9am-10pm, and Sundays 9am-9pm.

We are delighted to say that Sabrina and Abeer have joined The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme and are offering our Club Card holders a 10% discount off food & drink on any day of the week.

We wish them all the very best success.

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