In my next life I want to be a flamenco dancer. There is something about the combination of fierceness, amazing red frocks and being able to dance in high heels that really appeals to me.
I have always loved Spain and visited Madrid twice in recent years. I even bought one of those stunning fringed Spanish shawls, determined to channel my inner Flamenco dancer. I’ve worn it once and nearly decapitated myself when it got caught in the door of my car.
But I love the Spanish combination of pragmatism and love of life and food. And their sense of humor. This is the country that gave us surrealism.
Spanish Chef Raul Cob Ferrer, head chef of El Faro at Kempinski Marsa Malaz and I have been corresponding with each other on Twitter for some time. Like many of my online relationships, we don’t always understand each other, it’s not always in English and I don’t speak Spanish. So it’s been interesting.
Chef Raul’s twitter feed is a lively mix of food and fun and he’s well worth following @elcabanyal128
When the team, including Chef Raul, invited me to an exclusive menu tasting last week, I had to say Si.
First things first – El Faro (which means the lighthouse) is hands down the best looking restaurant in Doha. Taking all the design flair the Spanish are famous for, a truly beautiful space has been created. The centerpiece is the Picasso-esque mural on the wall of the main dining room.
It is like no other restaurant in Doha – with every area reflecting a very specific design aesthetic – including the main dining area, tapas bar, bar area and even the bathrooms.The atmosphere is complemented by a background soundtrack of some crazy Spanish pop.
Now – the food. My sidekick Brooke and I were treated to a selection of the menu presented by Chef Raul. The menu runs from tapas through to paella and other traditional mains.
Being led by the chef, we started with a selection of tapas washed down with very generous glasses of house made Sangria.
The highlight for me being the Spanish version of frito misto, or deep fried seafood and three different types of croquetta (deep fried potato patties with fillings including cheese) and pattas bravas with a spicy sauce. And, of course, the cheese.
The Spanish cheeses includes the king of cheese – Manchego. But also two I hadn’t had before. Idiazabal is a pressed cheese made from sheep milk and hails from the Basque region. It is aged for a few months and develops a nutty, buttery flavor but if aged longer, it becomes firm, dry and sharp and can be used for grating.
The second new cheese for me was Mahon, which comes from Minorca on the Mediterranean coast. Depending on age, it’s soft to hard and made from cow’s milk.
Back to the menu itself. You can just order a selection of tapas from the menu and leave contented.
But my main reason for being there was to try the paella. Chef Raul sent out two types – one a traditional seafood paella thhe other replacing the rice with vermicelli noodles.
Using vermicelli noodles is common in Valencia, in Spain’s sun-drench south. Fideuà” is a very popular traditional main course similar to paella. Cooked in a pan, it is made with noodles and seafood cooked in fish broth. Fideuà is quicker and easier than making “paella,” and is as colorful and flavorful as well, making it a perfect dish for warm weather. It’s soupier and wetter than a traditional paella.
Both are perfect for sharing with a group. As I said, both paella were soupier than I have tasted elsewhere and as is the tradition in Valencia, the seafood is served in the shell so those looking for what they think is a traditional paella should be prepared.
I had been very excited about visiting this restaurant and I am glad I waited.
The service was impeccable and knowledgeable (when I asked the origin of the cheeses, they knew and even wrote the names of them for me to research on my own). The space itself,as I said before, is easily the most stunning in Doha. And the food – well, as a Spanish friend of mine told me this week – it’s the real deal.
As for that dream of being a flamenco dancer. Maybe after a few glasses of sangria (but have you seen my feet?)
Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl, Doha
Open for dinner only (at the moment)
Phone: +974 4035 5011
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of El Faro but views are my own.