Not just a good meal but an Egyptian experience. Try it at least once, but best to book if you want a dining room or a table on the roof.
And now for something completely different.
Away from the tourist hotels at the southern end of town, close to backpacker-land, not far from the station, is an unassuming single storey building with screens around its roof. This building houses a restaurant with much more character than most. The outside is well-presented enough, but once inside you step back 60 years and enter the world of colonial Egypt.
The Sofra has a general ground floor dining area with fixed two seat and four seat tables. For larger groups there are two rooms of varying size for parties of around 5 to 12, each furnished and decorated as a dining room from the colonial days, with a single central dining table and chairs to suit the capacity of the room. There is also an outside 'garden room', which misses most of the character of the building as is best avoided if you can get a table elsewhere. The most famous dining area is the roof, where colonial-age furniture is arranged to provide for groups of most sizes.
Elsewhere in Luxor there are restaurants that claim Englishness and replicate English food. There are others that sell English type food with a touch of Egyptian influence. The Sofra is an Egyptian restaurant offering traditional Egyptian cuisine in a bygone Egyptian atmosphere. Not a hint of Englishness.
One of the dining rooms
The menu explains the content of the meals, so even those unfamiliar with local dishes can find something to suit. Choices include a wealth of hot and cold mezzes from LE7, soups between LE12 and LE15, a wide range of meat and fish main courses from LE25 and vegetarian alternatives from LE18, plus rice from LE7 - LE12. There is a small selection of desserts between LE15 and LE20. As well as the economy main courses, there are some more elaborate ones up to LE55, so many budgets and tastes are catered for. It is easy to find a three course selection for two within a total of around LE100, or those on a very tight budget could just about manage two courses for LE30 each plus drinks.
If you are inclined to try local cuisine but wish to immerse yourself gently into the new experience you could choose a soup or mezze, tagine (stew) with rice and egyptian dessert with water and have enough change from LE70 per person to leave a tip.
Part of the roof area
You have to bear in mind that this restaurant prepares Egyptian food the Egyptian way. Meat may not be trimmed the western way and bones may be left in tagine (stew) kinds of meals. Here, the meat, bones, skin, and all is cooked together and you sort it out when it is on your plate. Allowing for this, we have found the food to be fine. Even if there are elements of preparation that may be different to 'western' norms, the food is quite well cooked, extremely tasty and taken in a setting and for a price that encourages you to forgive any imperfections. This is not a gourmet meal. This is a local meal in an excellent setting. You go for the experience, not to find the best food in town.
The roof also offers a spacious and sheltered venue for hot or cold drinks and snacks. Shisha is available but there is no alcohol and you may not bring your own.
The simplest way to get to the Sofra is to start at the railway station. With your back to the station, take the left turning that is signposted to Happy Land hotel. This is El Manshiya Street. The traffic is one way and coming towards you. Take the first proper road turning left off El Manshiya Street and the Sofra is on your left. If you are coming from the hotel area at the southern end of Luxor there are shorter but more complicated routes. If you are not confident walking in the narrower and busier local streets you may wish to take a taxi. It will be worth it.
Sofra web site http://www.sofra.com.eg/
Tel: (+20) (095) 2359752
Review updated February 2012
Prices at February 2012