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By Hilary Diack

There is something about the Cairo Marriott Hotel that never fails to impress, no matter how many times you visit. Its sheer grandeur coupled with a friendly and relaxed ambience makes for a memorable experience on any occasion. And so it was when we popped in to their signature Italian restaurant for an early dinner.

Tucked away on the ground floor level, Ristorante Tuscany certainly evokes the mood of a typical eatery to be found in the beautiful region of central Italy. The décor is traditional, with warm tones of ochre and red, subdued lighting and impressively large paintings on the antiqued walls. The tables are well spaced around an elegant central display table, giving a good level of privacy. Our fellow diners that evening ranged from couples to a large group of friends with children of varying ages, giving a lively atmosphere.

As we studied the menu we nibbled on freshly baked bread with the red pepper, pesto and tapenade dips accompanying it going down in a flash. Finally we opted to share a Panzanella salad as a starter. The colours certainly were Italian, impossibly sweet and firm cherry tomatoes, crisp cucumber, a vivid assortment of fresh salad greens, and beautiful dollops of fresh mozzarella. The dressing was barely discernable, allowing the flavour of the fresh ingredients to shine, a point many restaurants could note.

After serious deliberation we decided against having a main dish, although dishes like Scaloppine al Limone, slow braised osso buco and Grigliata Mista di Pesce on offer looked interesting. We had been tempted by the pasta and risotto section, with its mouth-watering selection, and wanted to share a few plates. So, Risotto di Funghi (creamy rice with a mix of chopped mushroom) topped with a lavish helping of freshly shaved parmesan to give an extra burst of flavour, along with pesto-packed gnocchi in a tasty sauce, and a divine Fettuccini Trenette, with scallops, shrimp, crab, all bathed in a rich lobster-based sauce. The homemade pasta was al dente perfection, and the portions generous. We reminded ourselves to hold back on cleaning our plates, the desserts were calling.

A great decision, we went for the zabaglione, a creamy and crunchy delight with chunks of fresh and zingy chunks of pineapple and sprinkle of fresh berries, and the time-honoured favourite, tiramisu. Served in a delicate glass, the creamy cocoa topped confection looked deceptively innocent, but delivered a rich coffee kick to offset the richness. An absolute must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

As our excellent waiter brought refreshing cups of green tea to help us wind up a superb meal, we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the convivial atmosphere around us. The thought of spending another hour or two on the Garden Terrace a few steps away was tempting, but with rather a long drive ahead of us we reluctantly set out for home.

Ultimate Spaghetti Carbonara

Ingredients

60g of spaghetti
50g of beef bacon
2g of garlic
1 egg
A pinch of herbs
A pinch of black pepper
10g grated Parmesan
5g butter

Method

1. Mince the garlic, and chop the beef bacon, melt the butter and saute the garlic and bacon.

2. In a bowl whisk the eggs with a sprinkle of salt & pepper and the grated parmesan cheese.

3. In a pot of salted boiling water cook the pasta until al dente.

4. When cooked, place the pasta in the pan with the garlic and bacon, then add the eggs, while quickly whisking so the eggs don’t scramble. If needed add a little of pasta water to smoothen the sauce.

5. Plate and garnish with the chopped herbs.

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