Aura: Lebanese at Cairo’s First Residence
11:30am - midnight -
Once the sole luxury hotel in Cairo, the
Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence stands out with its
stately, uncharacteristic architecture. I lacks the spacious lobby usually indicative of
Four Seasons Hotels, and its labyrinthine floor plan can lead patrons on a wild
goose chase when trying to locate a certain restaurant or shop.
Located on the fourth floor near the pool
terrace, Aura is the resident Lebanese restaurant and lounge. Customers can
choose to sit indoors, where glass walls offer scenic views of the pool and the
city below, or outside at elegant couch cabanas.
Inside, the decor is bathed in warm wooden
tones, with slick contemporary accents such as the slatted Lebanese lanterns gracing
each table, sleek dishware and weighty silver cutlery.
The menu presents an authentic selection of
Lebanese mezzas and entrées, offering the usual hummus Beiruti, fresh Levantine
fatoush, baba ghanough, the traditional raw beef kebbeh, the Palestinian chicken
dish musakkan alongside typically Lebanese savoury pastries with spinach,
cheese and meat.
We were excited by the prospect of enjoying the
refreshing Lebanese version of the traditional lemon and mint beverage (priced
at an alarming 45LE)– which is meant to be blended, and made of only fresh
lemon pulp instead of the rind and pulp concoction that lends Egyptian lemon
juice its acrid bite. However we were were disappointed when the first sip revealed that
the rind had indeed been thrown in along with the lemon, and the juice was
squeezed rather than blended.
The indoor seating allows diners to relax
and enjoy the view of the pool illuminated against the dusk sky. The restaurant
is quite excluded, making for an excellent location for a quiet catch-up with a
friend or for a private dinner event.
After jotting down our orders, the friendly
waiter whisked bowls of fresh vegetables to our table, a composition of leafy
lettuce, carrot sticks, cucumber and tomato slices, along with small tureens of
black, green and yellow olives. Closely followed by a basket of white shami
bread and our hummus, the greenery started off the meal on a refreshing note.
Our fatoush (around 24LE) was a little perplexing
with its heavy inclusion of both radishes and carrots, and its overpowering sumac
spices. Craving simple and traditional Levantine
cuisine, we opted for entrees of chicken fatta (around 55LE) and shish barak
(around 60LE). The chicken fatta was served in a massive portion with a side of
rice. The boiled morsels of chicken lacked substantial flavour, while the
surprisingly cold yoghurt– usually so flavourful and complex– tasted of plain Labanita
yoghurt seasoned with a sparse garnish of toasted pine nuts.
The shish barak was reminiscent of the
Armenian dish by the same name and yielded far more flavour. The yoghurt-based
soup was zesty and dynamic, with seasoning of parsley and garlic complementing
the gently cooked meat dumplings and rice.
Slightly let down by the cuisine, we turned
to the exquisite view, pleasant atmosphere and excellent company to round out a
pleasant evening, and hoped we would have better luck next time.