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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.
With over 150 branches around the world, German restaurant chain, Vapiano, arrived in Cairo in July of last year with the promise of authentic Italian food and its unique, trademark ambiance.
As a concept, Vapiano stands out with a novel smart card system; a serve-yourself approach where you’re given a card that keeps track of your orders and saves you the trouble of asking for the bill.
As soon as we entered, a friendly host greeted us and explained how to use the smart card as we took in the restaurant’s four main stations serving pizza, pasta, salads and desserts.
Vapiano’s menu is divided into three categories ‘Vapiano Della Casa’ – offering the restaurant’s specials— ‘Classico Italiano’ –a selection of classics from the Italian kitchen – and ‘International Inspired’ – Vapiano’s picks from various international cuisines.
After some thinking, we decided to opt for some of Vapiano’s specials; with Insalata Al Funghi (55LE) as an appetiser, Pesto Rosso (Italian for red pesto) Pasta – (55LE) with additional chicken (18LE) and Pesto Con Spinaci Pizza (60LE) with additional Scampi (27LE) as our mains.
Roasted on the grill, our warm Insalata Al Funghi salad had an earthy flavour, thanks to the three types of mushrooms used, which in turn were complemented by the sweetness of the onion and the corn, as well as the smokiness of the beef bacon. The lamb’s lettuce – also known as corn salad – cherry tomatoes and radish, on the other hand, gave the dish a brighter, zingier taste that was made complete by a perfect slice of Grana Padano cheese. Overall, it’s a must try, considering the concept of a warm salad is quite unfamiliar across the Cairo dining scene.
The pesto rosso, meanwhile, was excellent, though not perfect. Sprinkled with roasted pine nuts and tender well-seasoned chicken cubes and infused with homemade sundried tomatoes with a hint of spicy flavour, our pesto rosso was delicious; only the dish needed more tomato flavour, in spite of the generous amount of cherry tomatoes.
We were also expecting big things from the pizza and we weren’t disappointed. Boasting a chewy and crispy crust with puffy edges, the creamy pesto sauce worked perfectly with the fresh baby spinach, scampi and marinated tomatoes, which all came together to form one of the best pizza’s we;ve tried in some time.
With barely enough room for anything more, our last stop was at the desserts station, where we opted for a simple Crema Di Gragola (40LE). Served in a cup full of homemade mascarpone cream – which had perfect consistency and just the right amount of sugar – slices of strawberry that added freshness and fruity flavours that worked perfectly with the richness of the mascarpone cream; overall, it was exceptionally creamy, but still somehow light.
Even though the restaurant’s serve-yourself concept might be a little inconvenient for some, we there was little to complain about at the time of our visit. The food was fresh, excellent in quality and who doesn't enjoy watching chefs in action?