Galleria40, Egypt's first high-end green mall promises not only the best in designer-wear, but also houses gourmet restaurant Ovio, which offers some of the most delectable European cuisine around...
DISCLAIMER: This article contains sensitive content; as in, if you are currently fasting, you will be tempted to lick the photographs on the screen.
Last week we went on something of an eating rampage, trying out a variety of newly opened eateries throughout the city, from Tableya to Lujo's, in preparation for Ramadan (one must fill up ahead of impending starvation – kind of like when bears hibernate). So when we got invited to head out to Galleria 40, a high-end mall complex that's set to open in September, and exclusively sample their gourmet restaurant Ovio's menu before anyone else gets their hands on it, you can imagine our sheer delight. WE FELT SO SPECIAL! And also, we were really psyched to try the food.
The mall is located in October 6 City, a little ways after Hyper One. It’s still under construction, but we wandered through the empty halls anyway, feeling like the little rebels that we like to pretend we are, and it looks like they're building a brand new Four Seasons rather than a mall. It's all marble floors, sleek architecture and subtle, creative lighting, which might be apt as it's set to house purely designer stores, from Versace to Moschino. The mall is also the very first green commercial building in our environmentally-unfriendly country, even complying with international business standards of green building and everything. Eh da, e7na 3andena el 7agat di feh masr? Seems we do. Well, we have one building at least.
Way at the back of the mall, they've also got this gorgeous Green Wall, a lush vertical mélange of flowers and screen-saver greenery. We were confused – had we wandered into an alternate universe of botanical gardens? After just staring at the amazing wall for longer than necessary really, and naturally, Instagramming the hell out of it, we then headed over to Ovio to get to the most important part of the day: food.
The restaurant is a study in sleek-meets-industrial décor; black marble, glass and stainless steel abound. The eatery is essentially based on the concept of bringing elements of European cuisine to Egypt, with a menu that draws inspiration from a variety of European countries. With everything from Veal Milanese to Papilotte of Salmon on offer, it has a distinctly gourmet stamp. Its founder, Frank Heinen, who is originally from Vienna but has settled in Cairo, wanted to bring over food which was lacking in Egypt, and having been the Director of Food and Beverages for not one but both of the Four Seasons in Cairo, the man's clearly a veritable foodie, knows his stuff, and has now brought his extensive knowledge to his new baby, Ovio.
We perused the menu, initially unable to settle on anything because it all sounded so damn good. We finally proceeded to order as though we were kids who'd been forced to go to fat camp for a month and were seriously starved; picking an item or two from every single section of the menu. We started out with the best pasta salad we've had in a while, along with Buffalo Mozzarella Salad (yes, we ordered two salads, don’t judge us okay). There aren't that many places in Egypt that serve buffalo mozzarella; it's one of those mildly pretentious ingredients that nonetheless also happens to be insanely delicious, especially when it's as fresh as the one served at Ovio. And all the ingredients at the gourmet eatery are equally fresh; they specifically work with independent farms and suppliers, such as Makkar Farms, to get the organic ingredients, a lot of which are things you wouldn’t really find on a random shopping trip in Metro.
Our plates of Beef Tenderloin and Chicken Saltimbocca then arrived, looking like the pictures of gourmet food you see on Instagram; small portions, yes, but ridiculously amazing. The beef, which came with an accompanying glazed onion sauce, was so soft. We later discovered, when we spoke to Ovio's founder Frank Heinen, that this was because it had been aged, a process which most butchers in Egypt forgo altogether, and that's what made it basically melt in your mouth. Remind us to give our friendly neighbourhood gazzar a little lecture about the ageing of beef, because clearly we've been eating it wrong our whole lives. The chicken was equally amazing, thin grilled slices, topped with Bresaola.
The entire sandwich menu is a foodie's wet dream, with some seriously inventive creations, like a Brie & Braised Endive Sandwich to a Turkey & Camembert one, which we ordered. For the record, turkey and camembert are an effing amazing mix, and add to that the cranberry relish, all served on an imperial roll (WHICH THEY BAKE THEMSLEVS BECAUSE YES, THEY BAKE THEIR OWN BREAD). It was the epitome of a #foodporn post.
Undeterred by the amount of food we'd already eaten, because it was all like little bits of heaven on white plates, when Heinen ordered us not one, not two, but five desserts, we gladly got on board. I mean, who the hell are we to refuse epic gourmet desserts?? Also, Dessert History 101: Vienna was the birth place of the cake. And the croissant, and the Danish. Just FYI. We consumed enough sugar to get us high, between a chocolate mousse cake with whipped cream, a fruit tartlet, raspberry cake…it was just a smorgasbord of sweets. And it was amazing.
We left legitimately full. Here are some final important things to know about this delicious gourmet spot: they make their own bread, their own jam, AND their own honey, in cute pots that you can buy. They are also currently working on a breakfast menu, which will include items like Eggs Florentine and Swiss Oat Muesli. And they're officially opening this Tuesday. And for Ramadan, they'll be serving their actual menu and NOT converting to the Egyptian food you find everywhere once the Holy Month hits us. They also work perfectly as a coffee house, where you can enjoy some cafe latte in an oversized mug/bowl.