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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.
With over 150 branches around the world, German restaurant chain, Vapiano, arrived in Cairo in July of last year with the promise of authentic Italian food and its unique, trademark ambiance.
As a concept, Vapiano stands out with a novel smart card system; a serve-yourself approach where you’re given a card that keeps track of your orders and saves you the trouble of asking for the bill.
As soon as we entered, a friendly host greeted us and explained how to use the smart card as we took in the restaurant’s four main stations serving pizza, pasta, salads and desserts.
Vapiano’s menu is divided into three categories ‘Vapiano Della Casa’ – offering the restaurant’s specials— ‘Classico Italiano’ –a selection of classics from the Italian kitchen – and ‘International Inspired’ – Vapiano’s picks from various international cuisines.
After some thinking, we decided to opt for some of Vapiano’s specials; with Insalata Al Funghi (55LE) as an appetiser, Pesto Rosso (Italian for red pesto) Pasta – (55LE) with additional chicken (18LE) and Pesto Con Spinaci Pizza (60LE) with additional Scampi (27LE) as our mains.
Roasted on the grill, our warm Insalata Al Funghi salad had an earthy flavour, thanks to the three types of mushrooms used, which in turn were complemented by the sweetness of the onion and the corn, as well as the smokiness of the beef bacon. The lamb’s lettuce – also known as corn salad – cherry tomatoes and radish, on the other hand, gave the dish a brighter, zingier taste that was made complete by a perfect slice of Grana Padano cheese. Overall, it’s a must try, considering the concept of a warm salad is quite unfamiliar across the Cairo dining scene.
The pesto rosso, meanwhile, was excellent, though not perfect. Sprinkled with roasted pine nuts and tender well-seasoned chicken cubes and infused with homemade sundried tomatoes with a hint of spicy flavour, our pesto rosso was delicious; only the dish needed more tomato flavour, in spite of the generous amount of cherry tomatoes.
We were also expecting big things from the pizza and we weren’t disappointed. Boasting a chewy and crispy crust with puffy edges, the creamy pesto sauce worked perfectly with the fresh baby spinach, scampi and marinated tomatoes, which all came together to form one of the best pizza’s we;ve tried in some time.
With barely enough room for anything more, our last stop was at the desserts station, where we opted for a simple Crema Di Gragola (40LE). Served in a cup full of homemade mascarpone cream – which had perfect consistency and just the right amount of sugar – slices of strawberry that added freshness and fruity flavours that worked perfectly with the richness of the mascarpone cream; overall, it was exceptionally creamy, but still somehow light.
Even though the restaurant’s serve-yourself concept might be a little inconvenient for some, we there was little to complain about at the time of our visit. The food was fresh, excellent in quality and who doesn't enjoy watching chefs in action?