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Bella: Cairo’s Corporate-Cosy Brunch
Lunching at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza’s resident Italian restaurant Bella almost feels like dining in New York's posh Upper East Side. The hotel restaurant emanates a feeling of crisp business luxury, with grand dining chairs, banquet decor and glass table tops. This is the sort of restaurant where a bottle of Aquafina water is whisked to your table in a silver ice-bucket, like any distinguished bottle of white wine.
While hotel dining generally threatens to border on sterile, Bella is just charming enough to provide a refreshing lunch spot. The stunning Nile view gives the illusion that Cairo is nothing but scenic and serene, with a gently flowing river snaking through. The service is impeccable, though we were not partial to the Four Seasons uniform, which is reminiscent of 1950s stewardess attire without that vintage edge.
Bella offers a business lunch set menu for 175LE, which includes an antipasti, a main course and dessert. With added drinks and service charges, expect the set price to increase somewhat.
Starters include roasted eggplant and buffalo mozzarella served warm on a bed of baby greens. The Four Season's notoriously fresh ingredients, reportedly imported from select international markets, make for captivating flavours in even the simplest of dishes. The lightly cured mozzarella contrasts divinely with the tart greens and tangy sundried tomatoes. The bruschetta of fresh tomatoes is light but full of flavour, while the salads have varied greens of arugula, endives and spring lettuce, light olive oil dressing and garnishes of toasted pine nuts. The beef carpaccio is served in slices that are more substantial than usual, and the salt of the meat is balanced with a balsamic dressing.
Main courses offer a range of gnocchi, pastas, risottos and fillets. The heavenly honey-and-black-pepper-crusted salmon is cooked to perfection, with a brazed crisp exterior encasing the tender texture of the fish. The dish was accompanied by an impressive potato mille-feuille layered with tomatoes and eggplant. The New York steak was cooked to our medium-rare specifications, and marinated in rich sauce with a tasty side salad.
The coffee at Bella is excellent; the well-brewed espressos and cappuccinos prompted sighs of satisfaction around our table. With dessert, we encountered our first worry: the quartet of crème brûlée tasted oddly artificial; with a selection of vanilla, coffee, berry and pistachio crème brûlées, a few even sadly lacked the crisp brûlée surface, and instead were sub-par mousses. Our tastebuds were rescued by the chocolate molten cake, which was a dark chocolate enthusiast’s delight, while the panna cotta with berry ice cream hit the spot.
Bella brings lunch in Cairo to new heights by combining gourmet dining with casual dishes in a way that gives lunch among friends just the right among of sophistication without being stuffy.
More often than not, Italian food in Egyptian restaurants ends up only remotely resembling the real thing; bready pizzas, pastas with questionable sauces and caprese with the wrong cheese. We did, however, manage to find one that ticked all the right boxes for us when it came to the authenticity of its dishes in New Cairo: Fratelli La Bufala.
Overlooking Cairo Festival City’s dancing fountain, the spacious restaurant offers both outdoor and indoor seating; both of which are equally tempting. The indoor décor is Mediterranean-inspired - more Spanish than Italian - with soft lighting and wood and iron panels that gave it a modern, yet nostalgic, air. We opted for the outdoor seating.
The menu was filled with pages of traditional Italian treats. The appetisers included some Italian salads, including La Bufalata and La Mozzata, which is fit for a large group wanting to share, as it features a large 500 gram piece of Mozzarella cheese. We also spotted some Bruschetta and Carpaccio. The main courses ranged from pastas and pizzas, to meat-based dishes, Risottos and, surprisingly, burgers.
As soon as we placed our orders, our table was garnished with a hefty bread basket. We immediately started munching on the doughy delights and used the olive oil and balsamic vinegar already. Our food arrived a little while later and to say it was pure eye candy is an understatement.
Our Caprese (65LE) - layers of tomato slices and mozzarella cheese sprinkled with basil and oregno - was delightfully light with, perhaps, some of the most delicious tasting mozzarella cheese we have ever had in Egypt. Our just-out-of-the-oven Neapolitan pizzas were just exactly that; thin-crusted, covered in real mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. We had opted for the Margherita DOP (67LE), a simple, traditional margherita pizza topped with some porcini mushrooms. We also went for the Diavola (60LE), which is topped with beef salami and fiery spices, which was pleasingly spicy and absolutely scrumptious.
Our pizzas were so dense and satisfying that we couldn’t even glance at the dessert menu, which featured quite an array of alluring options. We spotted some tiramisu, cheese cake, fruit platters, graffa, apple tarte and ice cream.
Fratelli La Bufala satisfied all our Italian cravings with its quality dishes; we fell in love with their mozzarella cheese and mouth-watering pizza dough. Our waiter was exceptionally helpful and quite fun to talk to and the whole place was impeccable. Sure, we paid a little extra for a simple salad, but it was absolutely worth every penny. Next time, though, we’re leaving room for dessert.