I know I sound like a broken record/tired old expat when I say that Doha’s dining scene has really skyrocketed since I arrived eight years ago.
But it has.
When I arrived we had a handful of five star hotels and few independent dining options for those who like something more challenging that a drive-thru burger. That said, there has always been excellent Arabic and South Asian choices at all price points.
In recent years, we have seen Alain Ducasse’s Idam open as well as a branch of Guy Savoy’s empire open (then close). We have also seen other dining options like French bistro La Varenne and its sister steak restaurant The Anvil Rooms open their doors as well as organic venture The Chef’s Garden at Qatar Foundation. Another “big night out” favorites includes the always special Spice Market at W Doha and Il Teatro at Four Seasons Doha. More recent spectacular entrants include Hakkasan Doha and of course, the greatly anticipated Nobu.
In recent years there have been two stalwarts on the fine dining scene – La Mer at the Ritz Carlton and Gordon Ramsay Doha. Both still deliver in terms of taste and elegance and I wanted to pay tribute to them while also hopefully opening them to a new audience.
One the challenges facing chefs in fine dining in Doha has been access to ingredients. Both outlets negotiate this by establishing strong relationship with suppliers but are also benefiting from Qatar’s increased access to the rest of the world (thanks Qatar Airways). Their chefs also know how to work around the occasional shortages.
I visited La Mer again recently at the invitation of the fabulous Ahlan Qatar who hold regular blogger dinners. Regular readers will remember I have already been treated to their new Blind Tasting Menu and it was a pleasure to return and try other dishes.
Canadian chef William Khala, the restaurant has revamped La Mer’s menu and dare I say, given it a daring twist. This duck confit was everything it promised to be – soft, gamey meat topped by a crispy “crackling” on a bed of mixed grains (quinoa included).
Khala plays with flavors and textures unlike any other chef in Doha. His scallops with a caulflower “cous cous” being a case in point. Cauliflower is not the most flavorsome of vegetables, but like the cous cous it emulated, it takes on board the flavors its accompanies.
On any given night, the restaurant with a stunning view plays host to hotel guests, foodies and even couples celebrating big events (the rose petals on the table a giveaway). The menu is mix of the daring (like the duck confit) and the familiar while the staff are charming and knowledgeable.
Not too far away from the Ritz, one of the first of the newcomers brigade to take the plunge into this potentially lucrative market was Gordon Ramsay Doha at the St Regis. One of the outposts of the Ramsay empire that now stretches to Hong Kong and beyond, it opened in a blaze of publicity generated by the presence of the (alarmingly charming) man himself.
I have visited the restaurant several times, but had always filed it under the “special occasion” food file. That special occasion rarely coming (cough).
Nobody does a special event better than the St Regis. I was invited last week to try a special menu for their Champagne Supper, which was a one off event with wines to match. Guest Chef Davide Degiovanni, Head Chef for Gordon Ramsay’s new venture Union Street Café in Borough, London.
The life of a food blogger can be charmed and I am the first to admit that and being able to try this before the event was a true privilege.
Starters included dried parmesan skins – the rind is air-dried until it become a salty, crunchy piece of deliciousness.
Remember my comment about living a charmed life as a food blogger? This was one of those moments. Gold leaf on a risotto. Creamy, al dente, and did I mention the gold leaf?
Ramsay is at heart an Italian-trained chef and his restaurants reflect that. This veal dish being a case in point. Just on the edge of rare, with sweet and moreish savory notes.
While this was a special menu and event, it was good to be back at Gordon Ramsay Doha. The dining room, with a little too bright to be truly romantic, is still one of the most gorgeously decorated in Doha. And the service and experience (from the private entrance to the best sommelier in town delightfully over-the-top atrium where you can have pre dinner drinks) is unmatched in Doha.
Eating and dining well doesn’t always have to be about gold leaf and golden touches. I’m just as happy with a burger and a pint as I am with a seven course tasting menu. For me it’s all about the company. but every so often, it’s nice to take that company somewhere special. And when those times come around, these two restaurants should be top of your list.
La Mer, Ritz Carlton Doha
Phone: +974 4484 8506