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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.
Hotels are notorious for housing some of the most high-end restaurants in Cairo and the Fairmont Heliopolis and Towers is no exception, housing an impressive 18 restaurants, bars and cafes, catering to every style of cuisine for discerning palettes.
Tucked away in the old Fairmont building, Leonardo’s dining area is placed in a small enclosure open to the hotel, but gated by indoor plants and clear plastic vases filled with fresh apples. Each table has delicate, glass place-settings stained in elegant peacock colors that were removed once we were seated. Returning with the menus, the waiter filled our glasses with chilled water and left us to our own devices with the strictly Italian menu.
The menu is easily navigated with sections marked for appetisers and soups, pizza, pasta andrisotto, seafood, meat, and of course desserts. Upon placing the complimentary breadsticks and tray of cheese pastries, the waiter patiently awaited our order while we struggled with pronouncing the names of our dishes.
To start, we selected the Penne Arrabbiata (85LE) and a Long Island Iced Tea (105LE). While waiting for our starter, we whetted our appetites with the savory cheese sambousak and mini quiches. Though a tad oily, the rich texture and salty interior of the turnovers quelled our rumbling stomachs just in time for the Penne’s arrival.
The pasta in our Penne Arrabbiata was cooked with a perfect al dente bite and was mixed in a light tomato and chili pepper sauce with a mild drizzle of pesto accenting the vivid red of the pasta beautifully. Incredibly spicy, the flavours were positively explosive and were highlighted by the intense kick of the peppers. The parmesan delivered alongside the dish helped to mute the heat of the sauce, as well as provide a savoury balance to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes. Presented in a tall glass, the Long Island Iced Tea was a powerful concoction that proved a little too strong for the casual constitution of the pasta.
Coming highly recommended by our enthusiastic waiter, we decided on the Seafood Risotto (160LE) from the mains section. Moving the decorative shrimp heads to the side of the plate revealed an aromatic mixture of creamy risotto bubbling in red sauce cooked with the delectable marine broth present in the dish. With pieces of shrimp, mussel, flakes of lobster and delicate white fish, every mouthful was a chewy delight of incredible textures and flavors from the sea.
Moving to dessert, a gorgeous Tiramisu (50LE) was presented in a cocktail glass and was layered with light cream, ladyfingers and rich chocolate espresso filling. Covered with a generous helping of powdered chocolate, the Tiramisu was a decadent ending to a very hearty meal.
Although prices are a bit steep, Leonardo provides great Italian dishes with rich flavors and generous portions which won’t have you walking away disappointed.