Begrudgingly sent to brunch on a Friday morning, Seif Bibars cleans up and heads to Strada at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence, where he's in for the feast of a lifetime.
I'm half-awake, looking at my watch as it nears noon. The night before, I was asked last minute by my boss, Amy Mowafi - whom I love and respect to the point that I'm willing to scratch my weekend plans and forfeit on clubbing with my friends to obey her command - to go do a restaurant review over brunch at Strada, an Italian joint at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence. Nacelle’s House Sessions is at its last four episodes before it shuts down all together, and I am a die-hard Houses Sessions fan; but, I'm an even bigger Amy Mowafi fan, so I decide to do both – Nacelle and the restaurant review, not Amy Mowafi; sigh. Thoughts of ending my writing career and picking up selling generic Egyptian Viagra to impotent men did cross my mind but I pushed them aside and decided to embrace brunch.
As my watch draws nearer to my doom - if I don't get there on time my head will be chopped off and hung on the GrEEK Campus' entrance as a warning to all MO4 employees - I scramble to shower and get dressed, a pounding headache constricting my train of thought. I look for a Panadol in my medicine cabinet but all I can find is Antinal and Augmentin 1000 mg (both are antibiotics, the first is for stomach problems and the other is for swelling and inflammations). I down one of each and head off. I was allowed to bring one friend as a plus one; I picked Tallal Ziad, my lifelong pal and best friend from primary school. Anything cool or rebellious that I ever did was with Tallal, so I thought if I was to turn this restaurant review into an outing worthy of my weekend super fun times, Tallal was the man to bring. Also, I was so hung over from last night’s festivities that everything tasted like pennies. I needed Tallal's taste buds to write this review if it was to be at all accurate.
We arrive on time – Tallal is looking fresh; I look like an 18-wheeler just had its way with me and left me on the side of the road. The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence is a classy establishment, something that I know nothing of beyond my mom teaching me which fork is for the salad and which knife is for the fish - I can never remember. I'm thinking: ‘here goes my Friday morning; I should be at an after-party at some house right now, enjoying my time with friends, trying my luck with a girl I just met and have no interest in knowing.’ Instead, I’m in the hotel lobby tucking in my shirt and straightening out my hair in an attempt to make myself look as presentable as possible - with what little finesse is left in me after last night’s debauchery - in front of the kind of people I had anticipated to find. I thought I would find the usual crowd that attend such events – you know the kind, people who call themselves elite and wear nothing but Ralph Lauren shirts and boat shoes. I was surprised to find normal people like us; the Polo shirts were there, but also families and foreigners that weren't overdressed.
Staying over at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence is a joy that many of us cannot afford to do on a regular basis because, let’s face it - billionaires and the President aside - who can? Still, we don't have to stay at the hotel to enjoy its mighty decadent pleasures. One of the main reasons I enjoy my time at the famous world-class hotel is the food, and not just one cuisine or dish of the many that they have to offer, but rather all the dishes are to die for. Public Relations Executive at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence, Hassan Saraya, told me, "We don't try to highlight one dish or cuisine over the other, because at the Four Seasons, everything has to be flawless and delightful."
Tallal and I try a little bit of everything; salmon in many shapes and forms, – smoked with cream cheese, one infused with ginger, another topped with orange, and one with apple, and those are only the types we were trying. There’s more. Cocktail shrimp caught my eye, served with a mango chutney dip instead of the usual cocktail sauce, which is also available. A scrumptious crab toss, green shrimp fusilli, and many others – so much food; count was lost. The main courses are drool-inducing pieces of art; the Moroccan chicken and lamb shank tajeen would give Casablanca a run for its money for being the most Morrocan, and the fresh pizza and pasta could make a grown man cry ‘mamma mia’. These are just a small sample of what’s being offered; the list goes on.
All the dishes are equally fantastic, but the one thing that is exceptionally fantastic and I cannot have enough of is the dessert. The crème brulée and molten chocolate cake were sent down from heaven and entrusted to Strada. It’s 6:30 PM and the weekly Friday brunch finishes at 6:00; it's not that we don't want to leave, it's just that we can't. Well we can, but we’re hoping if we fake injury due to over-eating we can hold the hotel liable and sue them for a lifetime supply of cocktail shrimp and mango chutney, or maybe a free room, or an invitation to next Friday's brunch. Okay, we are willing to settle for one molten chocolate cake.
The ambience of the place is very refined but not pretentious, suiting the gourmet feast on offer; conceptual photography hangs from every wall, and the tablecloth, chandeliers, and silverware all scream five stars. The visitors are diverse in age, and are a mix of Egyptians and foreigners. The prices are very reasonable and for the quality of food, live entertainment, and the location; you are getting good value for your money. A band named Flamenca Cairo – consisting of a wooden flutist, a guitarist, and percussionist on the cajón – plays a selection of laidback classics, supplying the soundtrack for the amazing brunch experience. A kids area with a playground and activities – like face painting and arts and crafts – will keep your children entertained while you stuff your face with your favourite selection of gourmet morsels. It is a brunch worthy of royalty. I can't even remember what I was bitching about earlier; I wish Amy Mowafi sent me to all the restaurant reviews, especially the ones at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence. Maybe she will even come with me one time. Oh, crap! I just remembered she's married and that her husband is huge and scares the shit out of me. Actually, I hope he doesn't read this article!
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