Aqua E Luce: Estimable Restaurant at Cairo’s Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers
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Finding good, dependable restaurants in Cairo can be a hard task, but the city’s hotels usually deliver in terms of quality. Rooted in the spotless lobby of the Fairmont Heliopolis and Towers, surrounded by a small moat and the greenery of indoor plants, Aqua E Luce is difficult to miss; it’s retro light-up floor, white leather seats and vast, glass-fronted kitchen create a comfortable, contemporary dining setting.
The waiter presented us with impressive menus, enticing us with a wide range of French starters, grills, roasts and succulent sounding meats. The drinks menu was equally as diverse, sporting all the usual liqueurs, imported and local wines, beers and spirits. We stuck to chilled sodas (20LE) and one wholesome, sweet, freshly squeezed orange juice (27LE).
Baskets of fresh bread rolls were brought to the table, along with several dips; a garlic mayonnaise, an overpoweringly herby olive tapenade and an eye-wateringly spicy feta cheese spread, all of which left much to be desired. We requested the more usual additions of butter, oil and balsamic vinegar which were certainly less adventurous, but much more appeasing.
To start, we ordered one chicken Caesar salad (80LE) and a mixed leaf salad (55LE); both were crispy, fresh and delicious. The Caesar salad came with large, hearty pieces of chicken and a generous amount of creamy, slightly salty, sauce and delectably crispy croutons. The mixed salad was doused with a delicious lemon vinaigrette whilst the mixture of salad leaves provided a range of flavours. Luckily, the salads were placed on our table long before our mains arrived, which ensured our hunger was kept at bay.
For our mains, we went for a beef ragu with a side of fries and pasta (140LE), an Angus beef filet (325LE) with a tomato and basil sauce, and, although it doesn’t feature on the menu, a pepperoni pizza (95LE).
The beef ragu was better than we had expected; the large portion of quality beef had a melt-in-the-mouth texture and was swimming in a rich gravy sauce. Unfortunately, the small side of pasta sheets were served on the wrong side of al dente and were inedible. As a result, the dish became a little boring and one-dimensional on the pallet, although the beef itself was well cooked.
The Angus beef steak was a whopping 220gram slab of thick, quality meat and was cooked perfectly to our medium-rare requests; it was covered in copious amounts of flavourful sauce, brilliantly balanced between tomato and basil.
Our pizza was fairly decent – although not the best we’ve had – with a thin, crispy base, covered in creamy mozzarella, a thin layer of tomato paste and strong-flavoured pepperoni.
Moving on to dessert, Aqua E Luce have our vote for excellent hospitality as we received a complimentary, albeit dry, chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream alongside a plate of fresh, chopped fruit which included pieces of melon, apple, banana, pineapple and tiny, bitter kumquats.
Aqua E Luce provides the setting for a leisurely, well prepared meal. Despite some of the problems we experienced, the staff more than made up for them with their complimentary dessert offerings whilst the restaurant setting creates a relaxing ambience in one of Heliopolis’ most esteemed hotels.