Ethar El-Katatney

Open-air Opulence

Posted in Egypt Today by Ethar El-Katatney on June 12, 2008

Open-air Opulence
Egypt Today
et Guide
June 2008

Available at:
Photo Credit: Omar Mohsen

The Fairmont Towers’ Aqua e Luce is a little oasis of gourmet delights

By: Ethar El-Katatney

The first thing that hits you as soon as you enter Fairmont Towers is the huge atrium with a seemingly sky-high ceiling, wrap-around glass wall to let the sunlight stream in and live palm trees and shrubbery. Amid that airy atmosphere is Aqua e Luce, Fairmont’s gourmet Italian restaurant. Glass demi-walls and a man-made stream tripping across a pebble-strewn channel are the only things separating the dining area from the rest of the atrium, while the lobby’s fountain and a classical pianist add a touch of old-world charm to the setting.

The restaurant itself boasts comfortable chairs, teardrop lamps and an unhindered view into a huge, Jamie Oliver-type kitchen. Although the tables are too close for comfort if you’re on an intimate date, the setting and the service more than compensate. The waiter personally set my purse on a little table and spread the napkins across our laps.

Complimentary pre-appetizers included bruschetta and rolls accompanied by cheese, olives, oil and butter; the bread unfortunately was hard to the point of stale. When we pointed this out to our server, he promptly exchanged it for warmer rolls.

Although my Vvirgin Pina Colada (LE 30), garnished with a pineapple slice and a pineapple leaf, was a tad creamier and less fruity than I would have liked, it was still enjoyable. The attention to detail extended to even the most ordinary of drinks. My companion’s Sprite can (LE 15) was served in an ingenious metal sleeve frozen to keep the drink cold, while the accompanying glass had a splash of lemon juice to add even more zest to the soda.

Our appetizers arrived promptly. I opted for the Spicy Beef Salad (LE 70): Angus beef strips with greens, toasted cashew nuts and lime leaf dressing. The sauce was divine, and the beef strips tender and sweet. My companion’s Red Sea Crab Salad (LE 65) included slices of smoked salmon dressed with dill, avocado puree and crab spread — his verdict was “delicious.”

For the main course, I chose an entree from the weekly specials, tiger prawns (LE 135) with mashed potatoes and parsley. Appetizing as the tempura-style prawns were, some kind of sauce would have made them scrumptious. And I’m still wondering what the stripe of fuchsia-colored paste on my plate was — perhaps some kind of decoration?

My partner went for the traditional Black Angus Beef Tenderloin (LE 175), which came with what he called “succulent” foie gras slices, charred root vegetables and crispy tempura onion rings. Although the steak was tender, it was a bit too well-done for his taste, as he’d ordered it medium. The beef was dressed with a foie gras sauce, which my companion found too bitter. The waiter brought the requested hollandaise sauce as a replacement immediately. The hollandaise made a delectable dressing for my prawns as well.

Really full but really impressed, we still managed to brave the dessert menu. My Chocolate Trio (LE 45), which included molten dark chocolate with chili, white chocolate and lime mousse, and a bitter chocolate espresso sorbet was yummy. What really took the cake, so to speak, was my partner’s Organic Siwa Dessert Date Tart Tartin (LE 45) with camel milk ice-cream — yes, real camel milk, our waiter assured us. The dates were soaked in just enought milk to be juicy and tender, and the ice cream was divine. Truly, the dessert alone merits a trip to this fabulous restaurant.

The bill came to just over LE 750 for the two of us — well worth the great food, service and view. All in all, Aqua e Luce is a delightful discovery.

Fairmont Towers Heliopolis Tel: +2 (02) 2696-0000 Open 6:30-11am for breakfast buffet, 12pm-12am for lunch and dinner Extremely expensive et


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