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Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
La Maison Blanche: Fantastic Winter Wonderland at the First Place
“Welcome to La Maison Blanche” is the greeting bestowed upon guests as they enter the designer French restaurant at the Four Seasons’ First Place in Giza. That and a giant black horse, whose sole purpose is to display the lamp shade above its head. Thankfully, this is the lone, truly bizarre element in Didier Gomez’s imported French designs.
From the warm glow of the elegant fireplace in the Cigar Lounge to the dining room’s disco-ball petal chandeliers, or even the toilet’s fuchsia appliqué-floral walls– no detail has been spared in the fabulously stylish venue. The eclectic combination of modern and art-deco motifs risks being ultra-tacky but makes every room distinct. Mirrors everywhere, including the ceiling, make an already vast space even grander.
Our attentive waiters stepped into play at our intimate table for two, bringing us still water served in a square, silver decanter and hot towels to wipe our hands on. They offered a selection of delectable crispy and flaky rolls with light, flavourful herb butter, before presenting shiny, silver menus and leaving us to discover what they had in store.
After reviewing the tasting menu, which seemed to highlight their specialties, we decided on three courses. We started with the smoked salmon soup served with scallops and asparagus; and the ravioli au foie gras. For our main course, we selected the Australian rack of lamb with hazelnut crust, Anna potatoes and Forestière sauce and the roasted veal tenderloin in cocotte served with autumns’ vegetables.
While waiting for our appetisers, we enjoyed the bottomless bread and butter basket accompanied by a salmon amuse-bouche that was continuously refilled thanks to the fast and seamless service. The appetisers arrived just as swiftly: the smoked salmon soup was poured dramatically onto a plate of three large scallops with sprigs of asparagus. The ravioli au foie gras was drenched in rich, mushroom-infused sauce. Both appetisers were creamy and divine; the scallops were tender and the ravioli delicate.
Our main courses were just as impressive: the roasted veal tenderloin and the Australian rack of lamb were cooked to perfection with tasty, roasted vegetables.
For dessert, we shared La Maison Blanche lingot-au-chocolat, which was recommended by our waiter. The combination of thick Valhrona mousse and praline chocolate bar garnished with gold leaf was heaven.
A sixth course of complimentary flavoured chocolates, macaroons, marshmallows and Turkish delight left us thoroughly impressed.
The genuinely friendly servers were wonderful; they made the experience unpretentious and welcoming. At 800LE for a dinner for two minus wine, we received the exceptional food and excellent service that we would expect for such a price tag.
With space at a premium in the centre of town, new restaurants in Cairo are increasingly setting up shop on the outskirts of the city, with New Cairo quickly becoming a giant Skittles bowl of food and drink.
Striving to conquer the art of authentic French food, La Cuisine in the Concord Plaza takes over a large outdoor patio area, as well as two floors of indoor seating.
Surrounded by glass railings, the outdoor seating area is kitted out with numerous patio heaters and sun shades, whilst the restaurant itself boasts an all glass front and a semi-circular window on the upper floor.
Opting to sit upstairs, we headed up the wooden staircase to the dimly-lit, cosy dining area. With wooden panelling to match the furniture, turquoise benches, deep red, textured walls and classical music in the background, there’s a slight French charm about the place; however, the emblems strewn across the walls and the flat-screen TV’s manage to damage the romantic feel considerably.
Throughout our meal, the staff members were courteous, polite and professional. The menu carries a vast selection of appetisers (24.95LE-49.95LE), salads (12.95LE-44.95LE), chicken (49.95LE-63.95LE), meat (59.95LE-83.95LE), seafood (49.95LE-97.95LE), pizza (34.95LE-54.95LE) and pasta dishes (32.95LE-57.95LE) which, other than the French titles, are largely international. The drinks menu, meanwhile, boasts all the usual suspects; our pot of earl grey tea (12LE) arrived nicely brewed, whilst our lemon and mint juice (15LE) was both sweet and tangy.
To start, we ordered one Insalata Caprese (28.95LE), before our mains of grilled, marinated sea bass (64LE) and escalope pane (74LE). After waiting a while, a bread basket was delivered, alongside a dish of flavourful sogo’, lightly stuffed, cheesy quesadillas and fresh, flavourful salsa and finely chopped olives.
Shortly afterwards, our generously sized, well-presented Caprese salad arrived. The large, fresh tomato was sliced almost all the way down, with the pieces of cheese slotted between. A small dish of pesto was served on the side and, although described as buffalo mozzarella, the cheese was more rubbery than we were expecting.
Our main courses were swiftly delivered, a little before our starters were cleared. Faring as the best dish of the two, the veal pane was fried to a golden-brown and flavourful crust, whilst the side of fries were also delicious. Unfortunately, the soft sea bass fillet was far too salty and we relied on the fluffy side of rice and perfectly-cooked, buttery vegetables to satisfy our hunger.
For dessert – at the waiters’ recommendation – we opted for a Nutella crepe (28LE), which was every bit as soft and sweet as promised.
Despite advertising itself as a French restaurant, La Cuisine is far from authentic. However, with a charming workforce and generously-sized dishes, La Cuisine is far from offensive.