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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.
Sometimes you just need wholesome, dependable food – and there’s little you can depend on, when it comes to dining in Cairo. It doesn’t matter which cuisine, just one that you know you love and can have repeatedly. For this reviewer, that happens to be Italian, and while this is a cuisine we’ve discussed at length as the single most badly executed in Egypt, there are a few gems out there who get it.
One of these is a small diner on Road 231 in Degla Maadi called La Rosa. With a very casual atmosphere and framed photos of Italy combined with wine bottles covered in wax to set the décor, La Rosa is laidback and puts the focus on the food. The lighting is dim and when there’s music, it’s suitably low, only lingering in the background.
A waiter will greet you at the door when you walk in and set menus at the table for you. The prices at La Rosa vary greatly. On one side of the spectrum, you have very affordable pizza and pasta (27LE40LE), though on the other end, the main courses range between 75LE and 95LE.
We decided on the Pizza Funghi (32LE) as well as Tortellini (34LE) and Farfalle la Rosa (35LE). From previous experience we knew the Tortellini isn’t as filling as the other dishes and would serve better as an appetiser.
As per custom at La Rosa, a complimentary Bruschetta appetiser is served before the food. The soft in the centre, crunchy around the edges bread worked very well with the topping of seasoned and diced tomatoes.
The pizza at La Rosa is one of our favourites across Egypt for two reasons. The crust is the perfect thinness, crunchiness and doesn’t flap – and they don’t charge you 60LE for it.
Our Funghi Pizza was exactly that; the tomato sauce was delicious, the cheese wasn’t overpowering and the fresh mushrooms were the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.
Unfortunately, the pasta didn’t hold up as well. The Tortellini, one of the hardest to execute because of a specific folding technique to the pasta, came undone on our plate. While the ricotta cheese and spinach stuffing was flavourful and seasoned well, the cream sauce was a bit in terms of combining with the other flavours.
With the Farfalle la Rosa, consisting of pasta with pink sauce and cooked smoked salmon, was perfectly cooked and tasted fresh. The salmon wasn’t as plentiful as we had hoped, but delicious nonetheless.
While we may remember La Rosa as slightly better than what we experienced, at least in the pasta department, the pizzas were still up to standard and the restaurant prioritises the quality of the food over the shallow pizzazz that so many other restaurants seem to want to rely on.