Every once in a while I find my natural born cynicism undergoes a forced correction. I’m a journalist. It’s inbuilt.
It happened recently with PF Changs Doha and yes, it’s happened again.
A week ago I received a truly interesting invitation to a preview of the Al Jazeera Cafe.
If my eyebrows could have arched, they would have.
Qatar, where I have lived for eight years is the home to the Al Jazeera network which broadcasts news in English and Arabic.
I thought the invite might be a once off for one of their programs and being at Katara cultural village, I knew it wasn’t in the network’s notorious cafeteria. At least I might get a good coffee.
But upon entry to the purpose built cafe at the foot of a giant pigeon tower, it soon became clear that this was more than just a once-off event. They were extending the brand beyond news into a cafe/restaurant concept.
Mohammed Al-Rumaihi, Manager of enterprise at the Al Jazeera Media Network said the plan for a cafe had been brewing since 2007. And now, at Katara in partnership with Aspire Katara Hospitality, it was a reality.
Unlike other TV networks, Al Jazeera sits on a compound, is difficult to access and a little bit mysterious to many. So, the network decided to bring Al Jazeera to the people. They have moved their in-house museum containing many important items from the network’s rich history which are now on display. There is also a studio where programs will be broadcast, an interactive area, and of course, a restaurant with live streaming of all Al Jazeera’s channels.
“It’s a little bit of news and a little bit of food,” said Samir Ibrahim, Director of Sales and Distribution.
The restaurant’s menu runs the gamut of Arabic and international cuisine, with some organic and locally sourced products included. It is presented on an iPad style menu which also doubles a live stream TV.
I was one of a group of local bloggers and social media fiends invited to explore the concept and the menu. I was, as usual, entering with my natural cycnicism. But I left a fan. the food itself was fresh, well presented and thoughtful. Care had been put into some unique touches like the fresh bread was presented on a Himalayan pink salt slab and served with organic olive oil from Spain (the homeland of the chef).
The starter of a selection from the salad menu was fresh, clean and well prepared. the highlight was the soft smoked salmon.
But the main, mine being a 12 hour slow roasted beef cheek, was one of the best dishes I have had in Doha this year. It was literally fall apart perfection with a sweetly moreish sauce.
Sides included mashed potatoes, vegetables and this mac and cheese which hit the spot. Al Rumaihi said the menu was carefully devised to showcase some local products (including organic honey produced not far from Doha) as well as international ones like mineral water from Poland.
Al Rumaihi told me there were plans afoot to extend the brand and concept to other locations with London being the first cab off the rank.
I entered this event thinking I had seen it all when it came to restaurants and dining in Doha. Again, I really shouldn’t be so judgmental. For a news junkie like me (the news ticker is always moving), this is what my fellow food blogger Gerald described as “like Disneyland”.
But this is also a truly unique concept and one that will appeal across the spectrum of nationality and age.
the Al Jazeera Cafe
Shakespeare Road, Katara Cultural Village (near the falcon hood)
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Website: Al Jazeera Cafe
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Al Jazeera