Sign in using your account with
Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Villa Belle Époque: Quiet, Elegant Gourmet Dining
Since its quiet opening in 2009, Maadi’s elegant boutique hotel Villa Belle Époque has been reviewed by some of the world’s top newspapers. Despite minimal local publicity, the simple, white villa has garnered a reputation through word of mouth in Cairo for its excellent cuisine and luxurious decor.
Located on Road 13 at the back of the Maadi Police Station, the hotel is quite small and simple, with white walls, a cool conservatory-turned-dining space and a lush garden filled with sweet-smelling trees. The hotel feels like an elegant summer house that you’ve been invited into: faded tiles, white chandeliers and beautifully embroidered blue curtains add to the restaurant’s understated elegance. The decor creates an ambiance of 1940s Egypt, with minor graceful touches such as white roses in a vase in a corner and natural light streaming through the conservatory's large windows.
Our lunch party enjoyed a quiet and undisturbed meal, our silverware was genuine and possibly antique, and the waiters left us in peace except to whisk away our plates and place the appropriate cutlery.
The restaurant’s specialty is gourmet with a hint of local cuisine, from the shrimp falafel to the tehina coulis. Appetisers range between 70LE and 100LE, and main courses start at around 90LE; but you’re getting your money’s worth in an exciting yet delicate sensory experience.
After our complimentary (and rather confusing) amuse-bouche of a singular vegetarian maki roll with teriyaki sauce, we were quietly presented with a basket of hot and delightfully fresh bread, including toast and whole-wheat buns with melted cheese that finished all too quickly with the Elle& Vire butter served in an elegant butter dish.
Our appetiser of buffalo mozzarella (70LE) was artfully placed over a boat-shaped tomato arrangement, and piled on top of shredded white and red cabbage with a drizzle of caper purée. The dish was delicately flavoured and fresh, though it could have had stronger seasoning. The watercress soup with blue cheese (40LE) was watery yet absolutely fresh; the shreds of watercress produced a delicious aroma and taste. The blue cheese added an interesting kick to the soup, though this reviewer would have preferred the chunks to be blended into the soup.
The main course of roasted sea bass (110LE) was quaintly arranged over a bed of puréed sweet and sour potatoes, which contrasted sharply with the ruccola, tomatoes and kalamata olives. Tiny portions of goat’s cheese garnished the dish and worked fantastically with the wonderfully complex blend of flavours.
The chicken breasts and goats cheese wrapped in vine leaves (110LE) was less exciting, though nonetheless satisfying. Drizzled in a red pepper coulis and caper purée, the bite-sized chicken portions were just slightly too dry, while the vine leaves didn’t necessarily pair well with the purée.
For dessert, our cheesecake (40LE) was quite appetising in a biscuit-sized portion with generous berry jam and a chocolate flake on top, but sadly the cheese filling had not been defrosted properly and had an icy crunch to it.
Despite its few minor setbacks, the restaurant’s elegant and intimate atmosphere, delicious cuisine and prompt service make it a highly memorable and enjoyable dining experience.
Crepes aren’t unheard of in Cairo, quality crepes are though. So, we decided to visit one of few venues that specialize in crepes; Creperie Des Arts. Sporting an unchanged cabin look, the restaurant is very intimate and relaxed featuring off-white walls decorated with Mediterranean paintings and ornaments, while the doors, windows and shelves are all coloured turquoise and feature stained glass.
With an easy on-the-eyes venue and pleasant staff, it was time to focus on the food. The menu features sweet and savoury crepes, but also peculiarly offers main courses, salads, pastas and sandwiches.
We opted for a Normandy Salad (27.5LE) and a Hollywood Crepe (31.5LE), as well as a Beef Fillet (73.5LE) and a Banana Soho (26.5LE).
The Normandy Salad was served first and brought together sliced chicken breast, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, boiled eggs and a honey mustard dressing. The portion was ample and works out to be good value-for-money. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, with all the flavours combining very nicely, especially the chicken which was also generous in amount.
The Hollywood Crepe was quite the creation; chicken, walnuts, béchamel sauce and gruyere cheese. In theory, it sounds delicious, but unfortunately, we found that the béchamel overpowered the dish completely, with the taste of the cheese all but absent. In addition, the walnuts were relatively scarce and th flavour of the chicken inconsistent.
The Beef Fillet, ordered medium with a side of French fries and green beans, was uneven. The fillet itself tasted decent, but was served medium well, which isn’t a disaster, except when you combine it with the average soggy fries and tasteless green beans that weren’t topped with so much as a pinch of salt.
The Banana Soho sweet crepe, which was stuffed with chocolate sauce and bananas, and topped with vanilla ice cream, was the best dish of the night – this despite the fact that the kitchen was out of the promised whipped cream and the chocolate sauce being disappointingly flat. But when combined with the melting vanilla ice cream and generous portion of bananas, it all came together.
Why Creperie Des Arts chooses to serve these items is understandable; the reason there’s so few crepe specialists in Cairo is because it just isn’t a sustainable business in Cairo. We left feeling a little let down; it isn’t what it once was and the Maadi eatery’s non-crepes items are rather uninspiring.