For the entire month of Ramadan, La Gourmandise at the First Mall sheds its French–inspired menu to cash in on the Ramadan dining craze. Couches are brought in, lanterns adorn the rafters, and the central catwalk is now fashioned into an exclusive circular seating area for larger parties. Instead of a restaurant, Tagine is a Ramadan night lounge, à la Sequoia and El Shagara, but with less atmosphere and much better food.

Open after fetar, Tagine positions itself as a sohour venue. The service is exactly what you would expect from La Gourmandise; although it did seem at times that the staff were flustered with having to care for a full house. When put to the test, though, every single staff member delivered smiles, information and food on time.

So what is a jaded diner to do? Ordering one of everything for a party of two is both ruinous and ill-advised, since the prices are chic-expensive. Familiar sohour fare is on offer– oriental salads and dips of course (20LE to 25LE)– along with main dishes (65LE to 90LE) that are not suited for sohour, but worthy of sharing nonetheless. The lamb and apricot tagine was especially intriguing, and is served with yellow basmati rice. Sadly, the apricots were completely lost in the translation; the robust lamb flavour badly needed the sweet tanginess of the apricots as a foil.

There is a limited selection of sandwiches, and we opted for the mesakhana sandwich, which is like chicken shawerma, but not. The addition of thyme and parsley are the only differences between the two; and it arrived looking and tasting sub-par compared to the other dishes on our table. This reviewer is notorious for avoiding any liver dishes, but the chicken livers were absolutely divine, as was the labnah with mint, and the cheese and tomato salad. The tehina, a ubiquitous offering at most dinner tables, was also wonderfully flavoured, but its consistency was far too watery for it to be enjoyed with our table’s basket of freshly baked bread.

As jaded as one can be, it was undeniable that the food and service were top-notch; the only caveats being the existence of a 75LE-minimum charge and the absence of a meaningful atmosphere, despite the live oriental band playing not ten meters from where we sat. At the end of the day, La Gourmandise – sorry, Tagine – suffers from its location at the centre of a mall, no matter how upscale the mall may be.