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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.
In a city like Cairo, diminishing daily meals to a fast bite here and there can often be the case – and the Cairo dining scene is largely set-up for exactly that. But from time to time, we all like elevate eating to a much more refined experience.
French boulangerie, Paul, has found a welcome home in Cairo over the last few years and the branch in Downtown Katameya Mall in New Cairo is just one of many.
During our visit, it was fairly crowded when we entered, and no one greeted or seated us. The outside seating area, overlooking the fountain, was filled with hungry customers and so we reluctantly walked in and chose one of the few empty tables available indoors in Paul’s signature blend of French artisan cafe decor and furnishings.
A waitress immediately came by our table and placed the tableware as well as the menu. The beautifully designed menu was absolutely alluring; we wanted to devour every single item on there. From hearty soups to light salads and sandwiches to full-on main courses and sinful pastries, the place has it all.
Wanting to stick to our plan of having a light brunch, we settled for a Pesto Chicken Sandwich (59LE), requesting a brown instead of white baguette, Pain Au Chocolat et Pistaches (17LE), and a Chocolate Crepe (35 E). For drinks, we opted for some fresh Orange Juice (20LE)
A couple of seconds after our waitress took our order, we were brought a complimentary basket of freshly baked bread with butter and olive paste. The bread was amazing and the olive paste definitely awakened our taste buds. The service was astonishingly swift and the food was gracefully laid on our table within minutes of ordering it.
The sandwich was absolutely lip-smacking satisfying, although slightly lacking in Pesto sauce. The crepe was fluffy, light, drizzled in delicious chocolate and topped with a scoop of sweet Vanilla ice cream. The Pain au Chocolat et Pistaches tasted freshly-baked, and was surprisingly light despite being filled with chocolate and topped with powdered sugar and pistachios. Finally, the orange juice was fresh, but unfortunately a bit too warm for our liking; some ice was definitely called for.
While the service was quick and pretty impressive, it was slightly over the top. At times it felt like we were being rushed with our tableware being lifted the second we put our forks down.
All in all, Paul offered us a lovely, authentically French dining experience. The service, despite being a bit too pushy, was quick and efficient and the food’s quality, taste and look were unbelievably close to perfection. À bientôt, Paul; we’re coming back soon.