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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Cortigiano: Family Friendly Restaurant in Heliopolis
Upon entering the restaurant, it dawned on us we must have chosen one of the busiest restaurants in the area as it was filled to the brim with hungry families. Surprisingly, noise was not a problem – we thought perhaps because everybody was too busy enjoying the food.
At the time of our visit, Cortigiano was naturally lit with the afternoon sun and the atmosphere was both comfortable and inviting with warm, wooden panelling, traditional lamp shades and art work. We weren't neglected by the staff either and were shown to a table within minutes and presented with their detailed, diverse menus.
For drinks, we opted for Sunshine (14.95LE) – a cocktail of Grenadine and lemonade –and a peach iced tea (9.95LE).
After pondering over their interesting selection of starters, we chose the one that intrigued us the most; Involtini Primavera Con Carne (24.95LE), described as pies stuffed with meat and cabbage, served with a 'special sauce'. Because there was so much to choose from, we had difficulty deciding on the mains so we reeled the waiter in for his recommendations and he assured us that the Filleto Alla Pizzaiola (79.95LE) – beef with mozzarella cheese and black olive sauce – was the way forward. We also chose the Pollo Alla Americano (55.95), chicken with sweet pepper sauce, tomatoes and onions.
A complimentary basket of crispy, buttery garlic bread was brought to the table, making a change from the usual bread usually presented at restaurants. The starter arrived quickly, and, rather than the small pies we were expecting, they turned out to be just meat and cabbage spring rolls. Despite the un-originality, we couldn't complain; they were hot, crispy and finger-lickingly juicy. The special sauce on the other hand was an incredibly sweet, fruit jam, more suited to breakfast toast than a savoury starter.
The priority on such a busy day was the food and, eventually, after we had finished the starter, the drinks arrived. The iced tea turned out to be a safe choice as it was a popular, canned brand. The Sunshine cocktail, although not difficult to mix, was scrumptious and refreshing with extra added lemon, making it the best we’ve tasted.
Once the starter had been cleared, without delay, the main courses were brought to our table. As promised, the large portion of beef fillet was delicious and tender with a large amount of sauce to eat with the smooth, creamy mash and fluffy white rice.
The chicken dish was equally, if not more delectable. The tomato and pepper sauce was wonderfully sweet with large pieces of onion and fresh red and green peppers to add to the flavour. The side of mixed vegetables was well cooked – although nothing out of the ordinary – and the mash just was as pleasant as with the first dish.
To satisfy our sweet-tooth, we chose chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream to end our meal. You can imagine our joy when it turned out to be literally a small, sticky cake, perfect for sharing, covered in chocolate sauce.
Taking into account the business of this place at the weekend, we were continuously impressed with the swift and polite service and thoroughly enjoyed our large meal. In our opinion, it's a great place to go with the family and good value for money.
In the few and far moments when Cairo's weather is both sunny and breezy, there's nothing better than dining outside. One of most popular spots to do exactly that in also happens to have an excellent Nile view; Maadi’s the Platform.
Having worked our way through almost all of the cafes and restaurants there, La Pietra was beckoning. While enjoying good weather and a great view is a plus that all the Platform venues enjoy, it also brings a lot of traffic and, more often than not, the Platform is packed. Service time is generally slow and you may end up changing which restaurant you’re going to eat at rather than wait for a table to clear up.
The outdoor decor in the Platform is almost universal across the venues. At La Pietra, simple yet elegant dark cushioned chairs and glass-top tables suit the general ambiance of the Platform quite well.
We browsed through the menu and opted for the Mushroom Soup (22LE), Chicken with Honey and Mustard (56LE) and Beef Escalope (75LE) - all of which we were really made to wait for.
It took thirty minutes to serve the soup and it arrived cold - cold enough, in fact, to send back. In fairness, however, once re-heated, the soup was actually better than most efforts across Cairo's restaurants, being extremely dense in ground mushrooms rather than just cream.
About fifteen minutes later, our main courses were served. The Chicken with Honey and Mustard is a dish we’ve previously tried before, and thankfully, they didn’t shatter our good memory of it. The dish was hot, the chicken was tender and the sauce was brilliant and deep in flavour. The fluffy side of rice was particular tasty with the sauce and the smooth mashed potatoes with sharp spring onions completed the ensemble.
The Beef Escalope, served with a creamy mushroom sauce and sides of pasta with tomato sauce and French fries, was equally as successful and this reviewer would have no qualms in recommending it to anyone. The generous strip of beef was well marinated, cooked right and coated with a crunchy breading. Dipping it in the rich sauce was the cherry on top. The side of farfalle pasta with red sauce was without fault but unspectacular, almost forgettable and futile, and the French fries were pleasingly crispy.
Cold soup and slow service aside, La Pietra's food is as good as any other’s at the Platform and manages to do something that few restaurants around Cairo do - keep things simple.