Humans in general seem to have a fascination with the fusion of chocolate and hazelnut. Earlier this year Michele Ferrero, founder of the Italian company that makes the famous chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella (and the exquisite Ferrero Roche), died the richest man in Italy, listed by Forbes as one of the world’s 30 wealthiest people.
In Egypt, the obsession with Nutella reflects this. Those who can afford to pay for it are likely to binge on a jar of Nutella at home, order it on a crepe at a cafe, spread it on a sandwich for a packed lunch, or indulge in one of the many Nutella cupcakes currently available across Cairo’s posh Zamalek district.
This April a new joint sprouted that tried to redefine everything about Nutella desserts: Nutellopia in Alexandria. Located on Fouad Street in a recently renovated neo-renaissance building from 1928, it’s part of a ground flood space dubbed “the L Passage,” which boasts upscale eateries, mostly imported from Cairo such as TBS, Mori Sushi and Mince, alongside international chains such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
The building’s renovations were carried out by Sigma Properties – the Alexandrian version of Cairo’s Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Development – who have been buying up and restoring some of Alexandria’s architecturally significant spaces. They own around 70 properties around the city.
So in this almost-century-old building is this new business focusing on everything Nutella. Walking in, one encounters a sleek dimly lit bar with a window display of the freshly baked cakes and cookies of the day. Besides these, you can order waffles or opt for the chocolate shawerma or chocolate burger. You can make your own fruity shakes or go for a coffee or tea.
With its Facebook page having 47,000 likes and an average 4.1 out of five star reviews, I was excited to try a variety of these products. But to my disappointment they all fell short.
The staff was very helpful at the counter where all the orders are taken, and the packaging neat and well-designed. Myself and my partner in crime went for the Oreo and Nutella cheesecake, the Nutella cake, the red velvet cookie sandwich, and a Nutella muffin. While none proved a success, the cheesecake was definitely the winner.
Its filling was a delicious rich creamy mix of cheese and Nutella, but its Oreo crust tasted overcooked, burnt even. If that had been saved, I might have highly recommended this item.
The Nutella cake consisted of a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of chocolate mousse, and a raw layer of Nutella. This was basically a sugar attack, so maybe someone who hasn’t had any sugar for a year or has a very, very serious sweet tooth would enjoy it. We felt, however, that it needed to be broken up with a layer of something crisp, or some cream — anything other than more chocolate.
Same for the red velvet cookie sandwich: Two extremely sugary cookies were filled with Nutella and marshmallows, which in writing sounds much better than in reality.
The muffin was dry, so it was difficult to chew with the layer of Nutella on top.
We were intrigued by the Nutella magic jar (a Nutella jar filled with pieces of cake, cream and Nutella) and the shawerma/burger, but could not have possibly taken in more sugar without serious heath consequences.
Overall, while every menu item we tried did have a Nutella component (or several) we agreed that Nutella just was not the star of any of them. We felt Nutellopia was simply trying too hard to create desserts out of Nutella when, let’s face it, Nutella on its own is genius in itself.
Perhaps if Nutellopia adjusts its recipes to neutralize the other tastes to allow Nutella toppings to really shine, the endeavour would be much more successful.