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.
Few cuisines are more saturated on the Cairo dining scene than Italian cuisine – Lebanese is a strong contender, but it’s Italian that, more often than not, is quit divisive when it comes to that tricky little thing called authenticity. Some restaurants are able to capture what the cuisine is about, while others fail entirely.
Cairo 360 had previously paid a visit to La Pizza Alforno’s Sheikh Zayed branch and the reviewer largely enjoyed their time there, but, in our experience, that doesn’t even begin to guarantee that its Citystars branch would be as successful – consistency is another field that few restaurants maintain.
Sporting the same redbrick oven, the decor is definitely part of the restaurant’s highlights, especially when you consider it a sanctuary of sorts from the hustle and bustle of the mall. The staff were immediately very helpful, and polite, upon entry, showing us to our seats and placing menus on our table with the type of subtle urgency that any growling, hungry diner needs.
We opted for a Mussels Trio (55LE) to start off the meal – mussels in a tomato sauce with garlic. While it was on the greasy side, it was so flavourful that we’d have been very happy with more.
Looking for some kind of lubricant for the carb-heavy meal ahead, we ordered Lemon and Mint (16LE) and Orange (16LE) juices – both were fresh and flavourful.
The menu doesn’t offer a lot of variety when it comes to pastas and we opted for the Shrimp Fettuccini (62LE). Though the pasta was cooked well – something that is by no means a certainty across Cairo – and it was all seasoned well, it was everything else that let the dish down. What was meant to be a creamy sauce was actually very runny in consistency, while the shrimp was cooked unevenly.
Hoping the pizza could salvage the situation, the Mama Mia Pizza (55LE) disappointed, too. The promised pepperoni was scarce – as was the mozzarella – and although the base was cooked to pleasing balance of crunch-and-chew, the addition of cheddar cheese did the pizza no favours; it dried and hardened to an almost waxy consistency fairly quickly and, if its use is the cause of having such little mozzarella, was just unnecessary.
Hoping to end on a high note with Crème Brule (26LE), the dessert disappointed, too. The best part of a Crème Brule, hands down, is the layer of caramelised sugar on top – call us pretentious, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about cracking through the brittle layer. Unfortunately, however, there was no such satisfaction; the top had barely been kissed by a flame and the rest was ever so slightly undercooked.
It’s unfortunate that, at the time of our visit, much of the food disappointed. La Pizza Alforno has all the ingredients to be a top Italian restaurant in Cairo, but lack of attention to detail derailed any hope of that.