Carnivore restaurant, on the Trianon boat in Giza, has been pleasing Cairenes to no end. With an all-you-can-eat red and white meat buffet for around LE 150, it seems like a great deal.
With a large seating area divided into various outdoor and indoor sections, an extensive drinks menu, and professional carvers slicing large skewers of meat with panache onto your plate, there is much to enjoy about Carnivore.
The concept of a carvery is new to Egypt’s dining scene. It’s a popular choice for weekend pub lunches in England, and in Brazil, churrasco is a cuisine unto its own.
Never having experienced a meal at a carvery, I was amused enough by the novelty to try Carnivore – although it’s not to my liking, many in Cairo are grateful for its recent opening.
Carnivore first opened in Nairobi as an open air dining concept featuring wild game and more domesticated meats on the menu, cooked and grilled simply on a masaai sword. Crocodile, ostrich and various wild game would be grilled on an open charcoal pit within the dining area in front of guests.
Although a sister restaurant was opened in Johannesburg and recently in Cairo, the Egyptian experience fails to live up to expectations of such exoticism and flair.
Carnivore delivers a meal that includes, for a flat rate, starters of soup and bread, salads and side orders to compliment the meat as well as dessert.
The restaurant staff helps you pair six available sauces properly with the different kinds of meat. And the meat is plenty. But where’s the wild buffalo? Zebra? Giraffe?
For an African-themed restaurant, there is only one form of wild game.
Diners at Carnivore have to contend themselves with docile chicken, beef, lamb, veal and ostrich.
Ostrich is consumed in North Africa and many locals might have chanced upon it while shopping for meat in the country’s hypermarkets. Perhaps this whole craze with wild game is overrated; the ostrich lacks any real flavor, tasting like bland chicken.
Starting off with the soup of the day, the zucchini and fennel soup was creamy and flavorful; and as one friend said, the best part of the meal. White and whole wheat bread with butter were served, as were sides of various salads, potato wedges and other starters.
A fiery tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, mint sauce and some others whose flavors were indistinguishable were also at the ready for the meats.
The bread was slightly dry, and I’ll skip it should I dine at Carnivore again to make room for the tasty salads.
Putting down the flag at your table signals carvers walking around the restaurant to come over and restock the meat. Lamb, turkey, beef and veal are skewered in large chunks and cooked to different degrees so diners can choose what most pleases their palettes.
After tasting the meat, it’s obvious that someone in the kitchen truly understands the notion of cooking meat medium rare. The flag goes up when you’re done eating, surrendering to your satiated appetite.
Although the various meats tasted fine, they were average at best. The sauces do little to help: the mint sauce has very little mint and a lot of oil while the BBQ sauce lacks a distinguishable flavor.
The waiters and carvers -who serve you hand and foot – are knowledgeable about the various cuts of meat and are eager to please, perhaps some of the most efficient and professional I’ve ever encountered outside a hotel in Egypt.
But there’s something missing. The experience is overwhelming, the food plentiful and the staff eager for you to eat. If seated close to the water’s edge it can be quite pleasant. However, the whole experience rests on gimmicky tactics that don’t all follow through. Not to mention, the kitsch interiors attempting to replicate an African environment were too contrived.
Though I had no room for the dessert of the day, my fellow diners described the crème brulee also as average.
Carnivore is a friendly family environment, yet the experience is intended for older patrons. Those carvers wielding large carving knives are a little intimidating for the little ones, and it isn’t often that you will find children overjoyed to eat from chunks of colossal meat.
CarnivoreTrianon Boat, Giza Behind Four Seasons at the First ResidenceTel.: 010-601-7928