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Abu Tig Marina, El Gouna, Egypt.
Pier 88: One of El Gouna’s Main Dining Landmarks
Literally docked in El Gouna’s waters, Pier 88 is one of this Red Sea resort’s best and unique dining spots to date. Occupying a square-shaped floating dock on the water, Pier 88 can be reached via a wooden plank exactly as if you’re on a boat. The venue is given an effortless yet unique charm by its wooden floors, white wooden tables, a bar surrounding an open kitchen with red leather high chairs, and grey couches adorned with black and white pop art cushions.
Whether you walk in for lunch or have a booking for dinner and drinks, you can never go wrong with the variety of dishes on Pier 88’s menu, accompanied by the gorgeous view of the Abu Tig marina by night. A concoction of olive oil and garlic heated on the open fire always give off a tangy aroma of food being prepared, while soft background music by the likes of Michael Buble and French singers help set the mood.
For starters, we recommend their famous pil pil shrimps (58LE), which arrive in a small, hot pan cooked with garlic, olive oil and chilli with fresh bread to sample the juices with. Also recommended is the assortment plate (62LE) of goat cheese, smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail and chicken fingers, or their fresh and tasty tomato salad (45LE) with onion, chilli and olive oil. Pier 88 recently revamped their menu, mixing both new and original signature dishes, including salmon fillet in lemon butter sauce (109LE), jumbo shrimps in garlic butter (110LE), spaghetti with clams and broccoli (90LE) and gnocchi with gorgonzola (85LE).
Pier 88 is very famous for its tender, juicy and signature fillet, which you definitely must sample while there. For those who appreciate their meat, Pier 88 serves the best fillet in the world, the Wagyu fillet for a whopping 290LE; but it’s worth every penny. Other signature fillet dishes include the ladies’ beef fillet, which weighs between 160gms and 180gms at 85LE and the normal beef fillet at 108LE; all with a choice of Café De Paris, pepper, mustard, mushroom and balsamic sauces. The cheese burger (85LE) at Pier 88 is also a must-try and comes served with Tzatziki and fries.
Pier 88’s dessert menu might be a bit limited, but you should definitely leave room for their hot mixed berries (48LE); a tall, chilled glass of vanilla ice cream with a mixture of hot berries and berry coulis served straight from the pan onto the ice cream.
Pier 88 is also a great venue for drinks before a night out, with a Stella or Heineken ranging between 25LE to 35LE, and a range of wine between 40LE and 70LE per glass. On weekends and public holidays when things get moving, Pier 88 is known to play Arabic pop songs that get everyone jumping on the bars and couches; a night out in El Gouna that is not to be missed.
When Zamalek institution, La Bodega, closed down at the beginning of 2014, it left a hole in many a heart. While a beachside iteration has since popped up on the North Coast during Sahel Season, its closure has certainly left a gap that not even its replacement, the phenomenal U Bistro, has been able to quite replace in the same way.
But remnants still remain in the form of sister venue, Aperitivo, located on the same floor of the same building. It’s by no means similar in appearance or, one could argue, atmosphere, but La Bodega regulars have adopted it as a replacement and the spirit is very much cut from the same cloth. For those not familiar with Aperitivo, the bar and restaurant maintains a classic element in its décor and design (think wood and glass cabinets displaying various piece of crockery and ornaments) while also using various more modern pieces (the chandeliers are very cool).
Divided into two sections – the bar and the restaurant proper – there isn’t a lot that will jump out at you in its appearance; but that’s the best way to be for a venue of this standing – demure and unpretentious.
There’s been something of a revolution happening at Aperitivo as of late, including the launch of a new menu; one that walks the line between high-end culinary delicacy and the kind of wholesomeness you get with bistro food.
The concise but varied menu covers soups, salads, meat and poultry dishes, as well as pastas and seafood, which is where we began our evening.
We rarely give up the opportunity to try a dish with scallops in it – not only because it’s a rare commodity in Cairo, but because it’s also often mishandled, which felt like the case with Aperitivo’s seared scallop starter (155LE). While it was a creative and enticing dish, the scallops were slightly overcooked, the accompanying black truffle was too little, though the spiced apple puree that also accompanies the dish gave a pleasant sweetness to every bite despite tasting more like a beetroot puree. Meanwhile, four sticks of asparagus were cooked and seasoned perfectly, while a faint balsamic reduction did little to elevate the rest of the ingredients.
Among the menu’s salads, we were seduced by the camembert salad, which brought together generous chunks of deep-fried camembert cheese together with mixed greens, roasted pears, sundried tomatoes and walnuts. The greens were fresh, the sundried tomatoes added a sweet acidity to thick, pungent cheese and the walnuts gave the whole dish an earthy touch. However, the pears were undetectable, which is a real shame as it could have been the ingredient that brought everything together.
While various mains are included in the new menu, we decided to test the kitchen’s mettle with meats. Despite being served with far too much uncooked fat, a medium-cooked sirloin steak (150LE) was full of flavour and served in a very big portion, alongside some perfectly made oven baked vegetables. Our second dish, the roast veal fillet, was also of a noticeably good quality and served in a large portion, though it was unevenly cooked, meaning some pieces were a little tough and others had a perfect pink interior.
Unfortunately, there was not much else to talk about with the mains, despite the menu promising more; the veal dish, for example, should come with roast pumpkin ad soft polenta, but both were missing from the plate, as was the roasted garlic on the steak dish.
This, actually, defined our meal; what we were served was well-made, but with so much missing from both mains – as well as the missing pear from the salad – severely dwindling what promised to be a fine evening of fine dining. Would we go again? Absolutely – the new menu reads fantastically; but maybe the kitchen needs a little more time to perfect it.