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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 so few restaurants in Cairo offering a consistent balance of good fod and good atmosphere, any restaurants that threatens to do so is music to Cairo 360 ears. The latest competitor in Heliopolis is Firestone; one of three restaurants, including Byblos and Rossini, situated in a small food court of sorts on the quiet Omar Ebn El Khatab Street.
Firestone specialises in wood fired pizza, but also serves a range of soups, salads and pastas, as well as a selection of limited main course options.
The food court itself is rather elegant, utilising a small make-shift waterfall and plenty of greenery. With a dominantly white and reddish-pink colour scheme and mostly plastic and glass furniture, Firestone is both aesthetically and physically comfortable, though the atmosphere could have done without the pop music playlist.
With drinks and dessert menus already on the table, the waiter handed us a larger, one page menu containing all the food. First, there’s the pizza section, ranging between 50LE and 70LE with additional toppings ranging between 10LE and 20LE.
From the appetiser options, we went for fried meat balls (38LE), The four balls served were fried in a batter and came with a barbeque sauce. The meat itself was rather bland, through the seasoning was pleasingly sharp and gave it a tang.
From the pizza menu, we opted for a Diavola Pizza, made with grilled sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and fresh tomato sauce (58LE). The pizza was very decent in size and the fresh ingredients tasted excellent, but the edges of the pizza were burnt from the wood oven, hurting the presentation and adding a scent of burnt dough.
From the main courses, we chose the Firestone Fillet (84 LE); a grilled beef fillet with mushroom sauce and spicy capers, in addition to sides of sautéed vegetables and potato wedges. This was probably Firestone’s best dish, and well worthy of holding the restaurant’s name. A generous portion of tender, fresh and cooked-exactly-as-ordered meat topped with an untraditional mushroom sauce with capers that was ingeniously put together and surprisingly tasty.
The dessert menu contains very standard international menu options, except for one; the Gelato Al Forno (32 LE) – ice cream served on a warm, freshly baked cake covered in a layer of biscotti and stuffed with fresh fruit. While it was extremely generous in portion, enough to feed 2-3 people, it was also extremely sweet, so be warned if you don’t have that strong a sweet tooth.
The service was great, the food was delicious and quickly served, the restaurant was extremely clean and the waiters didn’t hover, making themselves available only when needed. You won’t find any the next steps of culinary evolution at Firestone, but you certainly won’t leave disappointed.