It is not just a deli; Le Marché at the Farimont Heliopolis packs a great gastronomic punch for something as simple as sandwiches and salads, in addition to its novel L’Entrecôte lunch concept.
Head Chef Hishem Lahreche, a French chef with Spanish and Algerian roots, and considerable experience in the kitchens of Lenôtre in France and reputable restaurants in the US, brings to the restaurant a lot of flavor and much humor. Ask him to have some tea with you during dessert, he’ll share a couple of recipes, and anecdotes delivered with much a few hearty laughs.
Located within the main dining area of the Fairmont Heliopolis alongside the hotel’s Thai restaurant Lan Tania and the Japanese restaurant Haiku, Le Marché is a one stop shop for breakfast, lunch or a quick snack with friends.
There are many parts to Le Marché: a fridge for grab and go sandwiches, salads, other light snack options such as muesli and yoghurt servings and a fantastic Vienoisserie section that produces the most buttery croissants, danishes and rolls. A build-your-own-sandwich bar is available for you to pick and choose what you prefer from various cheeses and toppings. But the biggest favor you can do to yourself at Le Marché is to sit and dine.
Start off by sharing a few items with your dinner partner, just to get a sense of how delicious everything is. Share a salad and ask for the sandwiches to be quartered so you can all sample.
Le Marché also offers the most novel salads in town with fresh and delightfully crisp greens and delicious toppings. My favorite? La Salade du Marché (LE 75), with smoked duck, mesclun, figs, crackling green beans, and almonds all laced with a 20-year-old balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The flavor of the soft duck is of something so subtle in its smokiness.
As for sandwiches, gone are the pathetic slivers of cold cuts and a limp lettuce leaf mostly found elsewhere. Here, sandwiches start off with either smoked salmon, shrimp or fine cheeses and fillings such as avocado aioli, caramelized onions and rich olive tapenade. My favorite, and one light enough to nibble on before our main lunch meal, was the shrimp sandwich with roquette, tomato, onions, avocado, yellow cheddar, and avocado aioli (LE 65) with flavors somewhat refreshing and hinting at summer.
But the must order lunch item is l’entrecôte.
L’Entrecôte in Paris is a restaurant with a long guarded secret: a sauce to compliment the succulent slivers of shank. At Le Marché, the sauce is a secret that has been concocted by the hotel’s general manager, and although we pressed the restaurant’s chef for even a hint of what’s in the sauce, he would not waver and tell us. But never mind that for now.
The l’entrecôte is a standard dish of salad greens, here served with a walnut dressing, Angus beef with its special sauce and thick fingers of golden fries for LE 195 ++. The beef is served as thin slivers, pink and rosy yet dark on the outside. The meat is soft and malleable in your mouth melting quickly like ice cream on a hot summer day. Absolutely delicious. And should you want wine with your meal, for a fixed price of 225++ you get a glass of wine to go with it and a few free top ups too.
What I personally enjoyed about the restaurant-cum-deli was the fact that it was a truly relaxing area to sit and dine in. Subdued, and off the beaten path for most Cairenes, the majority of guests grabbing a quick bite and coffee were businessmen staying in the hotel, people about to leave to the airport or Heliopolis residents seeking refuge from the limited and outlets available in Heliopolis.
But dessert here also competes with the restaurant’s savory offerings. If it is delectable pastries and dessert treats you seek, Opera, lemon tarts, bavaroise vanilla and éclairs are on offer, in addition to a myriad of colorful treats lined up in the display fridge. Each piece seems to have been made with the most talented of hands; a visual pleasure to simply stare at while choosing dessert. Thick and creamy homemade ice cream by the restaurant’s talented chef can be scooped up and had with a variety of toppings: sauces, chocolate chips, nuts and jams.
Fairmont Heliopolis:Oruba Street, Heliopolis, Cairo.Telephone: 2267-7730/40