Sign in using your account with
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.
We often lament the state of Italian cuisine in Cairo restaurants. While it is of course in no short supply across both specialist Italian restaurants and other eateries that carry the maddeningly vague ‘international cuisine’ banner, few places in the capital deliver when it comes to authenticity.
Located in Downtown Cairo, Grazie, located on the second floor of the Hilton Ramses Annex, makes a good go of it. Despite being in the centre of Cairo, the restaurant has a rustic elegance about it; modestly chic décor; delicate displays of spaghetti alongside cooking oils and musical instruments, are as charming as the waiters who deliver excellent service.
There is a menu outside the restaurant so guests can look before entering and it displays many of Italy’s most iconic dishes such as Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Penne Arrabiata.
After being seated, we were given a complimentary ‘shot’ – a green, mint-flavoured hot beverage – then, but a few moments later, the waiter arrived with another complimentary snack; a small plate of black pepper crackers with an additional tangy, tomato sauce.
For starters we ordered the Italian Salad (33.25LE), which consisted of a generous bed of fresh lettuce topped with chicken breast, tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers drizzled with an Italian dressing. It was delightfully fresh and the dressing gave it a nice, aromatic kick.
To follow we opted for Spaghetti Bolognaise (33.25LE) which was very generous in portion and very nicely presented, too. The edge of the plate was decorated with fresh finely-chopped parsley, framing the mound of spaghetti and meat/tomato sauce, and garnished with cherry tomatoes, a cracker and asparagus. The addition of grated-parmesan cheese topped off what was a top-notch tangy tomato sauce and basil, though the meat was meager in amount
Italian tradition dictates that one finishes a meal with a coffee or espresso and Grazie have provided a large variety of coffees on their menu, though there are also a range of soft drinks, cocktails and hot chocolate. We ordered a small espresso which was strong and robust and the perfect finish to this heavy meal.
Despite advertising itself as an Italian restaurant, Grazie also serves a large variety of Middle Eastern dishes such as Shish Tawook and Kofta with Rice.
But despite this, its location and its relative modesty, Grazie offers a pleasantly simple dining experience complete with good food at affordable prices.