As we are on a collision course for the summer months in Qatar, I’m loving a few things right now:
- The extended “Indian Summer” we are experiencing in Qatar right now – rain and cooler temperatures. Make it last forever please
- The new crime channel on OSN – Momsters, Beauty Queen Killers and Southern Fried Homicide makes it even harder for me to leave the house
- Here is a sentence I never thought I never thought I would write – you can now follow me at Snapchat @rachelannmorris. Yes I succumbed and frankly I love it. Of course I am hate-following a bunch of people but I relish the instantaneous nature of it.
- The growing and exciting selection of cafes, restaurants and dining offers in Doha and surrounds at the moment.
So in this spirit, here’s a list of foodie things that are exciting me right now – a mix of old and new, high end and low end, refashioned and old fashioned – to keep you occupied, fed and watered over the next six weeks or so. It’s not exhaustive, it’s just what I have been loving lately. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
Al Jamal Restaurant You have to literally trek the back streets of Bin Mahmoud to find it and it’s only open a few hours a day, but Mr. Jamal and his sons serve up some of the best food I have had in a while. the menu is written on a white board and when they run out, it’s wiped off and new ones added as the eponymous chef finds inspiration from his remaining ingredients. Pakistani style biryani and pulao, the white bean stew was a standout. Proof that good food doesn’t have to be expensive, this is a secret to be shared.
I have to say, the decision by The Pearl Qatar management to open up its retail areas to “mid-range” eateries has really changed my view on this place. Sure the traffic is apocalyptic and the parking scarce, but there are some new additions there to be celebrating. Canadian cafe chain Eggpectations just opened at Medina Centrale and looks promising and this coming week Lord of the Wings and a branch of popular Italian-style restaurant Biella will open nearby. One exciting newcomer is German Doner Kebab which opened last week. While not perfect yet (I found the meat a little salty), it has generated a great deal of buzz in the community. I loved the salad and sauce as well as the crispy fries. The test is – would I go back? Yes, I certainly would. Medina Centrale is attracting some buzz, with a couple of Qatari cafes including Karaki which serves up karak and luqmat (dough balls of goodness).
I’m on the record – I LOVE W Doha. I dine there regularly and consider it my “neighborhood restaurant”. Where it really excels is keeping its offerings fresh and relevant. With a dozen new hotels and restaurants opening in this city this year alone, coupled with the economic slowdown, they understand they need to keep relevant and value for money in a tight economy. It’s Supper Club concept of a three course meal between 5pm and 7pm for QR100 (QR120 with a glass of wine) is one of the best dining offerings in this city at the moment. It applies to all of their outlets – Spice Market, Market and La Spiga – and unlike other “deals”, is the full size starter, main and dessert focusing on their signature dishes. Something to note – the Market launches their new menu Sunday 10 April. For folks like me who like to dine early (listen! I get up early!), it’s exceptional value and I can be home by 8pm watching Scandal and playing with the new Snapchat filters.
One thing Qatar does well is cafes. I am very excited about the new venture Flat White Qatar which is located at the Oyster building on approach to The Pearl Qatar. Serving up speciality coffee (and yes, a good flat white) with a stunning location, this place and I will become very good friends. On the other side of town, the funky Meesh Cafe belies its five star links (it’s part of the Crowne Plaza Doha). With an industrial feel, good coffee and a selection of sandwiches, cakes and salads to eat in or take away, those of us who don’t live west of the bay are cheering.
Shamefully, many expats don’t really delve into Qatari cuisine. They try machboos or Umm Ali at a Ramadan buffet and think they have nailed. There is more there to explore. I’ve only managed to grab a quick tea at Shay Al Shamous but I am planning a return very soon. I is one of a growing handful of Qatari-owned cafes in and around Souq Waqif. Serving up favorites like rogag (kind of like a dosa), balaleet (sweetened vermicelli noodles with eggs – trust me it works) plus flat breads, tea and other items. Another venue in the Souq area is Al Enna, also Qatari owned and operated and Cafe Brouq at the Al Mirqab Hotel serves up some Qatari favorites.
Yes folks, there is life south of the city. Souq Al Wakra has been open nearly a year now and is slowly but surely filling its repertoire of eateries. Standout for me are Copacabana (Brazilian on the beach, yes please) and Qatari cafe Al Baranda. Even if you don’t have a full meal, a sunset walk along the promenade, an ice cream or a coffee is the perfect antidote to a “Doha Day”.
I’m a creature of habit. When given the choice between the familiar or the new and challenging, I will usually go the familiar, like my favorite pair of stretchy pants. But this year for hard core foodies and even casual ones there is a lot to be excited about.
What new (or old) restaurants/experiences are you excited about?
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of the German Doner Kebab owners for their opening last week but views are my own, because, you know, kebabs.