La Palmeraie: Moroccan Finery in Cairo
a reprieve from a prematurely sweltering Cairo summer evening, imagine our chagrin
when we discovered that La Palmeraie restaurant inside the Sofitel Gezirah is
open air. Even its proximity to the Nile offers
little protection from a ruthless heat-wave; but we soon discovered that nearly everything else
about the place is impeccable.
décor casts an enchanted glow over the dining area, with hanging Moroccan
lanterns and painted tiles. Terracotta tiling and elegant Levantine archways add
to the palatial ambiance. Ceiling fans and some well-placed ACs struggled to
stubborn heat as the evening wore on.
were ordered, and a basket of enticing fresh breads arrived, along with dates stuffed with blanched almonds and a platter of spicy dipping
menu offers a range of traditional Moroccan starters and entrees, with an
extensive tagine section, several salads and main dishes of chicken, beef and
lamb. Overwhelmed by the selection – yet refreshed by the slightly unfamiliar
fare – we opted for a mixed starter of salads (50LE). The platter consisted of
six cold salads; sweet yellow squash, raisins and shredded squash, potent
grilled eggplant, a savoury mix of tomato, onion and cucumber, sautéed zucchini, and bitter cured peppers.
The starter of briouats – delicate Moroccan folded pastries filled with meats
and cheeses – (also 50LE) was more modest, with what tasted like beef spring
rolls, dense chicken sambousak, and ground lamb wrapped in filo dough.
Palmeraie’s wait staff didn’t missed a beat, obliging with our requests for
more bread, more dates, and heeding our pleading, ravenous glances with a quick
check on the kitchen while we waited for the main course.
cous cous tfaya was surrounded in fine-grained cous cous, garnished with a
sugar-based glaze, currents and baked almonds. The chicken was tender, its cinnamon
undertones enhanced by the currents, almonds and finely cut onions. The veal entrée was stewed with green peas and artichokes. The mildly flavoured
meat was tender but slightly bland, save for the contrast of the tart olives.
menu offers an abundance of other enticing Moroccan fare. Speciality soups
include soup harira marakichia (32LE)
and chorba fascia (29LE). You can order full portion briouats of spicy kefta,
spinach and cheese seasoned with garlic; briouats seafood; a cake-like rich
almond and butter pastilla chicken and sea bass grilled with bell peppers. Choices range up to 95LE.
enthusiastically cleaning the earthenware dishes, we agreed that rarely can
you find a kitchen that serves such consistently delicate yet substantial
cuisine, in a setting that is at once intimate, detail-oriented, and full of
delicate character. While our dessert of fruit and ice cream was less than spectacular, the food gave us quite a lot to talk about. A full course meal for two can cost near 500LE.