La Gourmandise: Four Stars for Four Seasons at the First Residence’s Ramadan Tent
The Four Seasons at the First Residence’s annual kheima, La Gourmandise, is, without a doubt, one of the grandest Ramadan experiences available in Cairo this year. While many Ramadan tents have embraced a kitschier, and occasionally, whimsical side to the month, La Gourmandise has stayed faithful to the casual-chic approach that has made it so popular.
Having enjoyed fetar there last year, we were eager to test the mettle of a formula that hasn’t changed all that much for its 2015 set-up.
This year, the price per person for the tent’s open buffet menu is 320LE++, which roughly reaches 400LE per person with service and tax. Although one of the more expensive offers of its kind, the tent’s popularity hasn’t waned – we recommend that you make reservations a day earlier, while we were also told that larger groups are required to pay a deposit.
Arriving a good hour before fetar, a quiet hush washed over the space inside the First Mall, lead by the sophisticatedly simple decor characterised by airy, white fabric draped from the centre to the edges to take the shape of a tent, all bathed in surprisingly tasteful pink lighting.
Adding to the hushed anticipation of breaking our fast were the staff, who were both professional and friendly as they made sure everything was prepped. In between their sharp, efficient back-and-forth, we were offered the standard Ramadan drinks – sobia (sweet milk with coconut, amar el din (peach nectar with rose water) or erkesous (liquorice).
Heading into the buffet, which is located in the centre of the tent on a stage of sorts, we were immediately met by the smell of soup – we had to make the tough choice between duck or mushroom. We chose the latter, which provided a good, soft first eat/slurp of the day.
Said smells only bettered one other; the molokheya station in action, as the assigned chef prepared the ‘taqliya’ – an integral part of any molokheya that sees garlic lightly fried in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Overall, the buffet offered several well-executed varieties, especially in the way of meat and poultry, while became rather fond of the versatile food stations, including the Shawerma and pasta stations, the latter of which offered an excellent range of sauces. Amongst all of that, however, the food that jumped out the most wasn’t the perfectly homely mahshi, the succulent shish tawouk, or even the juicy kofta – it was, in fact, a deliciously crisp olive and tomato bread, which we unashamedly take responsibility for finishing that night.
Unfortunately, the buffet was lacking in the salad department, but what it lacked in greens, it more than made up in desserts, with both traditional Egyptian desserts – think konafa, etc – and more contemporary ones – think mini-cheesecake, etc – available.
Overall, we were left with few complaints; the food was good, the atmosphere was pleasantly unpretentious and, if you can forget the fact that you’re essentially sitting in the middle of a mall, you might well find yourself staying for post-fetar shisha and tea.