Imagine a headland, a Ras, overlooking a beautiful bay with a backdrop of mountains and the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Imagine the sun glinting on the gentle waves as boats make their way to the harbour and the sun descends slowly leaving a crimson glow across the landscape. Imagine all this and then add first class Italian Cuisine coupled with fine wines and spirits. If you are having a problem imagining this then you need to be at El Fanar in Sharm El Sheikh where imagination becomes reality.
El Fanar means ‘lighthouse’ and this beach bar and restaurant is located on the headland overlooking the bay at Ras Umm Sid right near the lighthouse. There is also a stunning monument in remembrance of those souls lost in the air crash in 2004. The term ‘Beach bar’ does not do it justice, as the area comprises of an open air bar, ‘lunch’ area, sun terraces for relaxing on the beach during the day, a covered restaurant and disco area for the weekly party nights.
The main restaurant has a simple yet sophisticated feel, there is seating for around 500 people, but it is cleverly grouped so as to be suitable for large parties or intimate dinners. Although the main structure is a tent, once inside you are transported into a cavelike area which seems as if the whole building has been carved from rock, leaving just a few pillars which could be the meeting of stalactites and stalagmites.
The abundance of plants and greenery softens the room and makes the restaurant cosy and inviting despite its size. There is a bar serving imported wines, beers and spirits and seating at the bar if you want to sit and chat before you dine. There are plenty of fans and air-conditioning to keep the diners cool on the hottest summer evenings.
At the back of the restaurant there are the pizza ovens and the kitchen is ‘open’. The pizza chefs, Mohamed and Mido were busy preparing welcome snacks of pizza squares for the evening guests when I visited and were happy to share some of their delicious food.
The pizza menu boasts an impressive list of ingredients including lobster, asparagus, and Parma ham. The prices start from as little as 25 LE making it an ideal lunchtime choice. There are also a range of fresh salads and Italian ciabata style sandwiches starting at 30 LE.
For the evening the restaurant boasts a fine dining menu with the traditional antipasti, prima piatti, and secondi piatti courses. For the antipasti I choose Beef Carparcio with Roccula and Parmigiano, the beef was melt in the mouth delicious. Other appetisers include a variety of bruschetta, salted pork, grouper carparcio, and Parma ham and melon.
Depending on your appetite it sometimes best to choose between the primi piatti mainly consisting of pasta dishes or the secondi piatti which is the main dish. Both courses are plentiful so it would be quite brave to go for the full Italian meal and all the courses.
The primi piatti has all the traditional Italian pasta dishes such as ravioli, spaghetti, lasagne and gnocchi, with a few creative concoctions. My companion choose the Ripieni (small stuffed pasta parcels) with pear and blue cheese sauce. It was very tasty especially the creamy sauce which had a twist of the tang of fresh pear. We also tried the risotto with fresh asparagus served with Parmigiano. The food is severed with a plentiful and varied bread basket, olive oils and Balsamic vinegar.
For the main course there is an excellent range of steaks including T-Bone served with either a mustard, mushroom or brandy sauce. The steak is served with potato wedges and sautéed vegetables. There is also plenty of seafood dishes including the famous Il Fritto Misto (mixed seafood), seafood kebabs, grilled calamari which is so tender it just breaks in your mouth. Everything is cooked perfectly, as you would expect from a 5* restaurant and service is prompt and friendly. An ideal way to round off the meal is with the selection of Italian Cheeses, or for the sweet tooth lemon sorbet drenched in Vodka or Vanilla ice-cream drenched in an espresso shot.
El Fanar is definitely worth a visit for the unique architecture, relaxed atmosphere and stunning views from Tiran Island to your left, to the tip of Ras Mohamed on your right. Time your arrival for sunset and before you dine take a few minutes to admire the seascape in all its beauty. There surely is no better way to let the cares of the day drift away before enjoying perfect Italian Cuisine.