We visit Cairo's hidden gem of a Lebanese restaurant, Zeitouna Lebanese Bistro, to see if it passes our Valentine's Day taste test...
When popping out for a romantic Valentine's Day meal, the packed food court of the Nile Towers shopping complex isn't the first place which comes to mind. But ignore your perplexed partner's moody face and strap yourself in for a real taste of of Beirut, right here in Cairo. The atmosphere of the external seating area of Zeitouna was typical of a bustling shopping centre yet the restaurant's interior is cosy and warm providing the perfect ambiance and indeed the perfect venue to take your potential suitor this Valentine's Day. However, if you're still skeptical, the food at Zeitouna more than makes up for the unconventional location.
We sat browsing the restaurant's comprehensive menu, which includes a variety of Lebanese delicacies, hot mezzes and a mouthwatering selection of hearty main dishes. It wasn't long before a waiter appeared to take our order and soon we were on our way to sample the sights and sounds of Lebanon - from the safety of downtown Cairo. For starters, the fattouch was light and tasty with just enough crunch to leave a lasting memory on the palette of even the pickiest foodie. Meanwhile, the Baba Ghanoug was excellently smoked, yet creamy. Beverage wise, our group settled on a refreshing jug of rose-water infused lemonade, which complimented our tasty selection of starters perfectly and provided us with the perfect cocktail to savour the time spent waiting for our main course.
For mains we ordered Makanik sausages, which were delicious and hit all of the right notes especially when accompanied by the crispy cheese rolls. We also decided to try our luck with a tasty plate of beef Ras Asfour - and in this case we weren't disappointed. The tender meat was simply delicious especially when complimented with a portion of light and crispy Batata Harra. Needless to say, we finished our delicious platter with smiles on our faces. The main portions were filling enough to satisfy our hungry team yet, still left room for an after dinner treat.
This is just as well because our desert of choice, Succee Chocolate (which weirdly translates as lazy cake), a delightful chocolate, biscuits, condensed milk, served with ice cream on the side. Sublime. The restaurant's executive chef Jad el-Chovayeb said: "We offer pure Lebanese food with a twist which is what sets us apart from other Lebanese restaurants in Cairo. We have taken the best traditional recipes from Lebanon and given them a unique Zeitouna's flavour and all of our ingredients are imported directly from Beirut."
All in all, our crack-team of Middle Eastern food buffs left Zeitouna feeling thoroughly satisfied. So whether it's a Valentine's Day lovefest or a less than romantic business lunch, check out Zeitouna for an authentic Lebanese experience.