Let us start our journey along the eateries of Alexandria with a trip down memory lane. Here is Mona Klat reliving her experience as a child going to Unica, which no longer exists:

UNICA: a remembrance of things past, recollected in mature tranquility

With my memory of this particular morning in a cafeteria on rue Cherif (now the Credit Agricole Bank), I finally had my own version of a caffeinated, about town, story to tell my friends. The account I had been competing to match with one of my own was, of course, that of Mr. Fortis of The Union restaurant. He would drag his dog as he went round the tables making sure his customers were without complaint and never failed to remind them what prestige it was to dine at the restaurant that Churchill had frequented: he'd point his finger at a table by the door and half close one eye as though targeting the exact position that had been so prestigiously occupied.

My story involved a less historical figure, but for my purpose almost more flamboyant, for I had caught sight of an actress there, a movie star sitting by herself and brooding. I was later often to think back on my impressions of her and depending on my mood and age she would take on whatever guise I fancied and as I would remember her and the context, so they changed shape and took place. So much so, in fact that I sometimes wonder whether Unica, for which I also remember an alternative name that came from whence I know not now, a Vinchi (pronounced Vinki) was at all not a figment of my imagination and a recollection of a place not unlike the Petit Trianon with its garden that I sometimes wondered had existed at all.

If Madiha Yousri – the actress I had met when I walked in that day with my mother, and, it turned out, a regular client – only knew who the little boy sitting with his mother at a table nearby would one day become, she too would have something to remember today! Meeting Mohamed Awad for the first time in years, the first thing Samir Sabri fondly recalled and reminded his fellow Alexandrian of were “those times” when they would be dragged to Unica, to sit quietly listening to what their respective mothers were saying, but most importantly eating a mille feuilles, or two, if they behaved well. He seemed to relish the memory and the word gateau somehow sounded different from its recent version that I could see the very accent circonflexe atop the letter “â” like the hat of a khawaga ... most of whom did not wear hats, by the way.

The place was not very spacious, but I remember a pleasant effect on the lighting from curtains on the windows and perhaps one or two French windows; they may have overlooked a small garden, but I don't remember. All the tables had clean and well ironed tablecloths, almost a rarity today.

I remember a certain quiet about the place and the fact that it was frequented by a movie star denoted a certain cache and gave it importance, in my eyes; after all, Madiha Yousri could afford to go anywhere else she liked but, exactly, that was the place she chose. Dress code was, I remember, rather chic and definitely not dressed down. If I remember well, there used to be a street vendor who sold newspapers and magazines, maybe in a kiosk, and I remember my mother buying some publication on the way out, which was probably not the order in which his design for setting up shop there had been. Gentlemen most likely would buy the papers as they went in and would read them over coffee in the quiet of the place.

It was not a place for shady couples, or students, and probably not for a too young age group as was Asteria, for example, or for hardcore caffeinated intellectuals as was Elite famed for. Rather it was more of a salon de thé à l' Européenne with the light shining softly through the draped windows, with very little to disturb the quietude, and certainly very unobtrusive waiters, who probably knew their regular customers by name as they did the various French pastries. I don't especially remember a whole lot of other kids being there, but again the place was not too crowded and it was not common practice to take your child to a place where basically grown-ups want to have their cup of coffee in peace, read a paper or discuss matters with other grown-ups. I remember going there again, after communion one Easter for breakfast, with mother, father and Zeina. It was probably considered bien vue and convenable and comme il faut: all three epithets that were very much used then.

So, those of us with memories there must have been specially well behaved as well as tolerant, I suppose, but also very lucky. Who the regular clientele would have been I can only speculate: probably businessmen and men in the banking business, and at least four women we now know about: a movie star and three mothers who took their well behaved children there for what they believed was a treat. Looking back, they may well have been right!