It’s all about the taste at Casper & Gambini’s and it delivers, finds Kate Ginn. Just don’t expect the service to match.
You know what it’s like. A busy morning turns into a hectic afternoon and then it hits early evening and you realise you haven’t eaten anything since a light breakfast.
This was me, along with a grumbling stomach demanding food, last Saturday evening. With a ticket booked to see a movie, I wanted something relatively easy as I didn’t have the time or inclination for a long, drawn-out meal, but a cut above fast food.
Nipping into Oman Avenues Mall, I remembered an eaterie that I’d made a retail pit stop at for a coffee a few months before and managed to find my way back to Casper & Gambini’s. Located on the ground floor, open to the mall, it looks sleek and modern, like those trendy eateries that are so commonplace in Dubai.
With my regular Taste Test companions either out of the country or unavailable, I was a “Billy No Mates”, which seemed to disappoint the waiter. “Are you expecting anyone else?” he asked hopefully. His face fell when I said no, it was just little old me. Table for one, please!
I didn’t know anything about C&G (as it likes to be called). A quick internet search revealed that it began life in a 40sqm kitchen in Ashrafieh, Lebanon, in 1996, offering a unique all-day restaurant/café concept. It’s now an internationally franchised chain with regional headquarters in Beirut, serving up good taste in 12 countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar.
A well-chosen menu offers dishes ranging from breakfast, sandwiches and light snacks to homemade pasta, handcrafted pizza, burgers and even sushi.
The emphasis is on healthy and natural ingredients.
My fresh carrot juice was excellent. A small bread basket with hot sesame and poppy seed rolls, bread sticks and crisps, with a sundried tomato and cheese sort of pate, was scrumptious.
Starter was Fig & Chavignol Crostini, a speciality of the house and a lovely marriage of tangy goat cheese sitting atop a caramelised apple. Beautifully presented, it was resting on a verdant bed of greens with pine nuts and walnuts.
It tasted good but the caramelised apple was just too sweet, with even the goat’s cheese not strong enough to counteract it, and it certainly didn’t need even more sweetness from the figs. The greens were also drenched in too much balsamic vinegar.
Still, it was a promising start. A word here, too, that the portions are big so this could easily do as a main.
The plate was cleared away without any word from the waiter or enquiry as to the food. A polite bit of pleasant chit-chat wouldn’t have gone amiss. By this time, a few other diners had turned up but even so, the five or so waiters were hardly rushed off their feet.
I quite liked the idea of the homemade, creamy mushroom or tomato basil soup, and “The Famous C And G Club Sandwich” loaded up with chicken or beef, fried egg, mozzarella and smoked turkey, to name but a few ingredients, sounded good. I was swayed by the Lemon Quinoa salad, which came with a lemon and extra virgin olive oil dressing on the side. I added extra grilled shrimps (you can also opt for chicken or salmon).
Full marks again for presentation and portion size. It looked wonderful, with vibrant colours. A big bite filled the mouth with diverse tastes, with the lemony quinoa, mint, cucumbers and tomatoes jockeying for position on your tongue with the meaty shrimps.
The shrimps were superb, well-cooked if a little salty, and I wanted more; four was just not enough. The dressing was a bit overpowering again, too.
Defeated by the size, I asked for a doggy bag. Lunch sorted for the next day!
I still hadn’t been approached by any of the waiters and was wondering whether it was me, when finally one came up and solemnly asked if the salad had been ok.
Despite being stuffed to the gills, I had to try dessert (for research purposes you understand). I so wanted the “famous” Bernadette’s chocolate cake with a secret choccy sauce, but knew it was madness to try given that my stomach was already groaning with food.
A small helping seemed sensible and I ordered the cheesecake from the mini section.
The dessert was the star of the show; creamy cheese offset by a tart berry compote. My cappuccino was good, too, strong and nutty, and I would recommend trying one of the speciality coffees.
When I paid the bill, a new waiter handed me a tablet to give my customer feedback electronically. He never came back for it so I left it on the table. No one said goodbye or even looked at me when I departed either.
There’s no doubting the quality of the food at C&G. It’s a shame that the customer service isn’t up to the same standard.
Casper & Gambini’s
Ground Floor, Oman Avenues Mall, Sultan Qaboos Street, Ghubra, Muscat
Opening Hours: 9am-12am Mon-Sun
Tel: 2206 0085
Dinner for one: RO20.63 (inc. Taxes)
6 / 10 Service
7.5 / 10 Food
7 / 10 Ambience
Stylish food let down by poor customer service
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