It is not the kind of place that would immediately catch your eyes - at least not the ‘original Retro’ on Mecca Street, next to the Shooting Club.
It is, however, a place that would slowly grow on you, exactly from the first cafe latte you have there, and you could well get addicted to it.
A small cafe-bistro that has no more than seven tables and a few stools before a little counter, Retro is a ‘warm place’ by definition: the windows bring in the nice daylight and the air-conditioning is generally properly cool; the waiters are pleasant and the setting has a certain air of ‘your own dining-sitting room’.
The plasma screen on the wall would never ever air ugly pop songs - it is always tuned to some neutral channel - usually sports or national geographic; and only in very few exceptions the waiters would agree to break the taboo and tune in to news.
If you are lucky enough to have one of the two tables next to the glass window, you could really enjoy a pleasant afternoon over generally good food that is offered in exceptionally large portions.
“It is so large - we should have come to this place some 20 or 30 years ago when we could hover through any amount of food,” said one of the group of five women friends as her Greek Salad - with no onions as requested - was placed before her.
“We should have settled for two main dishes and one salad - to share; these portions are so challenging for our declining metabolism, “said another as she smiled to her fillet - grilled with no sauce as requested - was served with the huge sides: green salad and French fries.
The initial hesitation is knocked out for both dishes as for the chicken retro - slices of white-sauced chicken breast with white rice on the side - , Moroccan burger and Tuna salad.
“I like these small places where there are not so many people and where there is no Shisha - even if they allow smoking still,” I said to the approving nod of a clearly old-fashioned and firmly non-smoking crowd whose members were all more than willing to lament the Shisha domination over all cafes and restaurants.
And typically, a chat of five women in their late forties that start with an appreciation of the no Shisha rule for the restaurant ends with a pile of complaints by mothers over their boys and girls addiction to Shisha - with one particularly shocked of her 16-year old daughter invitation for her to join in Shisha smoking.
“I cannot think how my mother would have reacted if I went home from school one afternoon to suggest that we should go out smoking - I guess I would have given her a heart attack at once,” said the disappointed mother before ordering another super cold and rightly sweetened Lemon-Mint.
The blessing of being at Retro for a relatively early lunch on a week day means that the place is not half as busy as it gets post the working day when the light gets too dim and the cigarette smoke is too intense.
“It is so bad that the portions are large and the food is good - and of course we have an entire afternoon to spend together; will have to do two hours and not just 50 minutes tomorrow at the gym,” announced a third friend while staring at the displayed desserts in way that ended with an order of a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream - “two scoops please” and a caramel cake to share for the five women - with five single espressos along.
The four women, including two Dokki residents, who were at Retro for the first time were absolutely delighted and convinced that this is a perfect place for our so far between meetings.
The check came to close to LE 900 and everyone was more than willing to leave a generous tip for a prompt and un-intrusive service.
Having been the one who proposed the place, I proudly noted “this is one of the very few places where the waiter would not jump on your half finished coffee to take the cup away”.
The selfies were in order, followed by a group photo on our mobile phones with the help of the pleasant waiter.