ON PAPER, THE CAVALLI CAFFÉ MIGHT MAKE YOU FEEL UNEASY. IT MIGHT EVEN MAKE YOU ROLL YOUR EYES. BUT IT WILL, GUARANTEED, INTRIGUE YOU. WE’RE HERE TO TELL YOU, HAVING DONE THE HARD WORK ALREADY (EATING!) THAT THIS PLACE IS NOT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING – YOU’LL BE WHOLEHEARTEDLY SURPRISED. THE CAVALLI CAFFÉ IS A TRENDY AND FASHIONABLE SPOT IN AL AALI SHOPPING COMPLEX, YES, BUT IT’S ALSO A BEAUTIFUL, CASUAL AND AFFORDABLE DINING OPTION THAT IN NO WAY ALIENATES YOUR REGULAR AHMED OR JOE.

For a start, you can’t miss this venue. The signature Zebra print, so symbolic of Roberto Cavalli bathes the stylish and comfy seating. The décor is opulence personified and makes you feel like you’re somewhere special. The walls pay tribute to the designer’s celebrity track record, where there are framed photos of him with a string of red carpet greats, posing in glamourous and tongue-in-cheek ways. But this is not a place for snooty posers, you genuinely get amazing food here. You can tell just by the menus. You don’t get just one, nope. You get (at the moment) a FW16 menu – this we loved – because it refers to the fashion season we’re currently in (Fall/Winter 2016), clever and appropriate, right? On this menu you have a solid selection of main meal options. You then also have the regular menu which has all your usual appetisers and mains – again, an impressive variety.

We started off with a silky Burrata San Marzano which was served over the Chef’s black tomato coulis and was lovingly doused in balsamic vinegar, making the dish authentically Italian. We paired this with the Salmon Tartare – the lavish presentation alone was appetising enough. This saw swimmingly fresh salmon sit alongside wild fennel, beetroot, fresh dill with tahini dressing mixed together over an ice dome to keep it as cool and fresh as possible. Top marks for innovation and style. And when it comes to the most boxticking Italian food, you can’t possibly skip a juicy, crowd-pleasing pizza. Keeping it traditional and a firm-favourite, we opted for the Truffolosa pizza; made up of four lipsmacking cheese, baby mozzarella, truffle and garnished with leafy baby spinach. This warmed us with the feel-good factor and confirmed that even the simplest of pizzas can win us over in a big way.

From the Cavalli Seasonal Menu (FW16) we got an elegant Pan Seared Salmon served over lime risotto with garlic sauce. The sea of risotto was creamy-soft and terrifically satisfying, it perfectly added filling weight to the lean salmon. For our highly anticipated dolce, being the chocolate fiends that we are, we got two desserts of equally rich ingredients. The Nerona, Nocciolina choco mousse wrapped in dark coverture, spicy banana wafers and poached pear. If death by chocolate means anything to you, dear readers, you’ll definitely have your fix of it with this divine dessert. It’s moussy where you want it to be and spongy elsewhere – the latter less so, but we’re not complaining! All the goodness lies in the liberal quantities of mousse.

Then we went for something closer to our Gulf shores, La Palma. This is a Sukary date pudding served with two scoops of saccharine vanilla bean ice cream with heavenly toffee sauce.The dipping and diving offerings of this dessert are plenty and SO, SO ADDICTIVE – the pudding is moist as anything and made our tummies very happy. Overall, as our first entry into the Cavalli Caffé goes, it’s not an intimidating venue and the food is as down-to-earth as you want it and as luxurious, too. To top that off, the menu prices are as similar to what you might pay at one of the neigbouring cafés in the Seef area – except, here you’re getting the same high-quality, creative food with a designer touch. How’s that for the perfect balance of pocket-friendly, elegant eating?