The thing about great ideas is that usually, you aren’t the only person to have that idea. And so it was on Tuesday, when, inspired, I called my occasional Partner in Cheese and Culinary Crime, Rachel B (more of her later) and suggested lunch.
You see, Tuesday was a last minute public holiday in Qatar, declared at 530pm the previous day for the succession of our new ruler. Without the structure of our work day, Rachel B and I (yes, we are both called Rachel. We are considering starting a girl band called The Rachels) thought an afternoon of gossip and people watching at Market by Jean Georges at the W Doha was in order.
Not that we are ladies who lunch. Far from it. And please, no tired Sex and the City references. We were two girls in search of decent feed and the W Doha’s famed Express Lunch fit the bill.
The thing it, it appears that half of Doha was also in search of a decent feed, more specifically between the hours of 12 and 3pm on Tuesday. After a couple of phone calls, a begging tweet and pretending to be Angelina Jolie, I secured a table.
Technically the point of the Express Lunch is to be fed, watered and out the door in 30 minutes. But I can’t even parallel park my car in 30 minutes, so the likelihood of us being done in that timeframe was slim. Luckily we were never made to feel rushed although the food did arrive promptly and with a smile.
It soon became clear that this was the only place to be on this public holiday. Packed with locals, expats and visitors alike, the compact space was pumping and filled with familiar faces.
The Express Lunch is a very Doha phenomenon with many restaurants offering three courses for less than $US30. W’s was one of the first and offers a selection of favorites from their regular menu for QR89.
While the restaurant maybe packed to the rafters, the service was seamless. Glasses refilled and food delivered promptly. From the warm welcome by staff led by Stavro the manager to the personal touches, this is one of the most popular restaurants in Doha for a reason.
First out of the box was the crispy fried calamari (and baby octopus) served with a tangy caper sauce. We both ordered this and because Rachel B can be a little bit English and Squeamish with baby squid, I was forced (under duress clearly) to polish hers off. Equal parts crunchy and tender, the squid was cooked to perfection.
Rachel B went down a familiar route and ordered the famed Market Cheese Burger for her main. A succulent beef patty smothered in cheese and served with fries, pickles, salad and a tangy Russian dressing it’s one of the restaurant’s signature comfort food dishes. I knew it was good because conversation ceased for around 10 minutes. Plus she got stabby when I tried to nick a chip.
I chose to relive past glories and selected the Parmesan Crusted Chicken fillet. This used to be on the main menu and when they swapped it out for another dish, I may have contemplated a Facebook campaign and #occupymarket style protest. But I was relieved to see it on this menu and was every bit as good as I remembered. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. The chicken was still juicy and the crust has a crunch and the luxe lemon butter sauce with the bitey asparagus are the perfect partners.
I am not one for the dessert menu. Born without a sweet tooth, I will always go for cheese or coffee over the pudding. However, when in Rome/Doha/W, you must do as you must do. My compromise was the Salted Caramel Ice Cream Peanuts and Popcorn Chocolate Sauce. Sweet an savory combined in a dessert and I do occasionally make an exception for icecream (it’s basically sweet cheese right?)
Rachel B found room for the Market Cheesecake with Glazed Cherries and Cherry Sorbet and she assured me it was worth the sacrifice.
As mentioned previously, the Market is one of the most user-friendly and popular restaurants in Doha. With a regular menu that pleases all tastes, the Express Lunch pares this down and offers excellent value for money. Public holiday or not, make sure you book ahead or be prepared for a wait or a seat at the bar area.
Lunch finished, air kisses dispensed to friends/colleagues/random strangers at neighboring tables and fullness proclaimed loudly, we waddled out into the harsh light of a 40-plus degree day happy and ready for a nap – being a public holiday and all.
Verdict: Whether it be serious business or serious hunger that brings you to Market, the Express Lunch offers one of the best value meals in town in one of the most buzzy dining rooms in Doha.
Market by Jean-Georges
W Doha Hotel & Residences
West Bay, Doha, Qatar
Phone: (974) 4453 5000
Choose from one of each appetizer, entree and dessert.
Price:QAR89 for three courses
Available from Noon – 4:00 pm Saturday thru Thursday.