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Garden City, Cairo, Egypt.
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.
With its outstanding selection of food covering Greek, Mexican to Swiss and Italian cuisines, El Gouna is known to be one of the best places for food enthusiasts. As soon as we heard the news that Gouna’s Italian restaurant and pizzeria, La Scala, had opened their second branch at Sheikh Zayed's Arkan Mall, we could hardly wait to try it out.
La Scala has a simple interior design with dominant black white and red colours, simple seating arrangements, two prep stations, black and white portraits and an overall calming vibe. While the indoor area was very hot and the AC didn’t work, the weather at the outdoor area was fantastic – except a little ruined by an army of annoying flies.
We kicked things off with Insalata Tropicale (40LE); cubes of Gouda cheese, chicken, pineapples, peaches, oranges, bananas and cocktail sauce, the latter basically tasting like plain yogurt. The combination seemed an interesting one, but the flavours were unbalanced and it seemed like the Gouda cheese and chicken accidently fell into a fruit salad bowl.
We then decided to stick to pure Italian dishes with Spaghetti Con Vitello (195LE) and La Carbonara (89LE) which were far from disappointing. The former came in the form of five pieces of perfectly cooked veal medallions lying over a bed of perfectly cooked spaghetti with generous amount of fresh sautéed mushrooms. The exquisite mushroom sauce had an earthy flavour to it and would’ve been flawless had the veal not lacked seasoning.
Aside from the off-putting slices of red pepper and that the otherwise well-cooked bacon was cut into huge pieces, the spaghetti of the La Carbonara was cooked to perfection and the whole dish was rich in flavours, while the consistency of the sauce was on-point.
We finished our meal with Nutella Pizza with Bananas (27LE). As a soft and thin pizza crust smothered with Nutella and slices of bananas, this dessert was just moreproof that chocolate and bananas are one of the most underrated kitchen couples.
Overall, we had a fantastic time at La Scala, from the delicious food to the friendly staff. The restaurant delivers a promising start in Cairo. Let’s just hope they keep it up - the hardest challenge of all.