Here’s the thing…I’m a simple girl with mostly simple tastes. But I do draw the line in eating in what is essentially a Disneyfied fairy tale themed food theme park on a major aterial road.
At Romeo & Juliet the suspension of belief happens before you even enter the restaurant – there is a full blown Cinderella coach in the courtyard. There is something off about a 40-plus woman climbing into a carriage as semi trailers honk from the road.
Once inside, the theme – Romeo and Juliet and romance in case you missed this – is even more heavily labored. When I say labored…I mean applied with a shovel.This is fair Verona but with a Doha sensibility.
Every inch is covered in white, the ceilings layered with gold leaf, the place settings feature gold flatware. It’s as if the design brief was “Versace meets Disney but you know…more gold and keep it classy”.
This would be almost bearable if the lighting didn’t take its cue from an operating theater. It made me wish I had worn make-up, and my thermals because it was also Baltic in there.
For an extra fee, you and your fancy man or woman can sit under one of the “dome” tables. Which is a table…under an ornate dome.
The hostess and host are dressed like, you guessed it – Romeo and Juliet – she in a medieval princess style dress and he in pantalons. Every hour they would awkwardly link arms and parade across the dining room…to remind us…about…you know…romance.
Then there is the menu – all 15 pages of it. Running from Italian to French to Arabic and all that stuff Marco Polo checked out in between. Our first waiter, perhaps stunned by the bright lights, was a little off hand. When we asked for his suggestions, like a robot he suggested a “Mixed Grill”. In the end, after some assertive arm twisting we opted for something more in keeping with the Euro Disney theme.
We must have underwhelmed this waiter, because he palmed us off onto someone more amenable and actually possessing a personality.
It was at this stage I realised I was far too sober.
We ordered a selection of dips, a salad and two mains to share.
The dips themselves were tasty but served in completely redundant tart cases. We didn’t know whether you were supposed to eat those too? Are they for decoration? Do we use them instead of bread? What day is it? Jesus? Jesus is that you?
Sorry back now….about then we discovered this nifty little gadget, which I had hoped would either get me shisha or…Bill, my supposed Knight in Shining Armor. Alas, there was no shisha yet and Bill was occupied.
The salad was also fresh and the dressing had a lovely tang to it. But the parmesan on the top was an ingredient too far. That said, the intent was there.
The mains are where things got interesting. Both were “signature dishes”. The chicken with potato, mushrooms and tomato was pulled back from overwhelming by a well prepared sauce. The chicken was on a shy side of overcooked, but decent.
The risotto was a conflict for me – it bore no resemblance to any seafood risotto I have seen. A billious yellow blob, the taste was actually unexpectedly well seasoned. but, the consistency was wrong and it was sadly, overcooked and served in a bowl.
The desserts were relatively well executed. The new take on the traditional kunefah with pineapple slices and sorbet being the winner for us.
The restaurant has a small patisserie attached to it and it appears that desserts and cakes are a strength for them.
Someone asked me recently if I had ever held back on a review for fear of offending someone. This is the first time this has happened. I actually sat on this review for a little while for three reasons. One was that the PR who invited me is a terrific person. Secondly, this restaurant is clearly a passion project for the owners, you can tell by the detail involved. Even the handwipes were monogrammed. I respect that kind of commitment and desire to realise a dream – someone cared about this concept enough to bring it to fruition.
Thirdly and more prosaically, it coincided with Summer break from blogging.
But I’m not one of those food bloggers who pulls their punches, who thinks a free meal is a ticket to a five star review.
As we awkwardly negotiated our exit, I noticed the tables were filling quickly – big tables of ladies out for a meal. I started to doubt myself. Was I being a snob? Some dishes showed flashes of competent cooking and just because the interior was not to my taste… But the horseless royal carriage in the courtyard brought me back to my altered reality.
Romeo & Juliet is – proof that a theme, when overwrought, can become parody.
Romeo & Juliet
Opposite Al Jassim Group, C Ring Road
Al Nasr, Doha
Phone: 4492 9292