Named after the great merchant and traveller Marco Polo, the Meridien Heliopolis’ international restaurant promises a diverse and flavourful menu. A rich and cosy dining room and mouth-watering menu items suggest an evening of fine dining. Unfortunately for Marco Polo, it’s what’s on the plate that counts.

Excited by the table-side preparation, we decided to start with a Caesar salad (50LE) but were disappointed when our friendly waiter– not a member of the kitchen staff– wheeled a cart to our table. We felt bad for the man that was set up for failure: a jar of Dijon mustard, olive oil, factory-manufactured croutons, minced garlic and a single shredded anchovy simply cannot become the classic Caesar that we had ordered. Without egg or romaine (iceberg was substituted), it was just a salad; and an overdressed one at that.

Marco Polo’s beef carpaccio (60LE) was delicious, though. Thinly shaved, lean beef was drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction and accompanied by shaved Parmesan. The dish was light and balanced yet begged the question of why the shaved Parmesan hadn’t been incorporated with our pricey Caesar salad instead of the finely powdered variety.

We suggest that you stay away from soups at Marco Polo. Unable to decide between seafood soup and crab bisque (both 35LE); we left it up to the chef’s recommendation and were served a clear broth with greying salmon and overcooked scallops that tasted only of hot water.

The Cajun shrimp alfredo (70LE) should have had more flavour, yet with shrimp almost as white as the creamy sauce that it sat in, the dish lacked any discernable flavour beyond cooking cream. Beef tournedos with blue cheese over tomatoes and cucumber (100LE) was specified to arrive medium; but the meat arrived well-done on one side and bloody on the other. This wasn’t immediately obvious, though; as the large mound of cold mixed carrots, corn, courgette and mushrooms soaked up much of the blood. The meat was of good quality and had been seasoned well, leading us to believe that there is a breakdown of communication in the Marco Polo kitchen.

After voicing our grievances about the meat, we were offered dessert on the house, which at least speaks to the level of service at Marco Polo. Since the kitchen was out of marbled cheesecake, we opted for espresso crème brûlée dusted with pistachio and a praline crunch (40LE). The dessert arrived without the nuts, praline or espresso, and although only half of the sugar had been brûléed; the custard beneath the grains was rich and creamy.

It is clear that whoever had envisioned the menu at Marco Polo had some excellent ideas, yet the execution of the food leaves a lot to be desired.