Let’s face it, there is something perversely indulgent about eating alone in a restaurant.
I love eating out with AZ, but our schedules don’t always allow for it. And my Squad is also sometimes elusive for the same reason. Also, occasionally I just like a bit of alone time. So, armed with my iPad and some magazines, I regularly take myself out for a meal. It’s usually breakfast or lunch but sometimes I veer into dinner territory.
I discovered the innate pleasure of dining alone many, many years ago. I have dined alone all round the world – in Michelin star restaurants in Florence and also in shacks by the side of the road in Thailand.
Doha has been a little slower to catch on, especially for solo women diners. I’ve had managers hover by the side of he table just in case I needed company and been blithely ignored by others. Every so often I see a look of abject panic register on the face of a restaurant manager when they realise it’s a table for one.
But times are changing – for the better. I’ve seen in a significant shift in recent years to a more inclusive and accepting dining culture – not just in the big hotels.
This post (on my to-do list for a while), was expedited by a question in the lively Doha Foodies group on the Facebook.
For me, a good solo dining experience need a couple of key factors:
- Good seating options – nor just at the bar but smaller tables or even longer communal tables
- A buzzy vibe – there is nothing worse than being the ONLY diner in a cavernous dining room. Atmosphere is important – no one wants to eat in the equivalent of an airline lounge.
- Staff who “get” it – not too solicitous (see above) but also not completely absent. I have on more than one occasion had to go in search of a waiter when I was completely overlooked.
Here are my suggestions for a great solo dining experience in Doha:
Market at W Doha: The grand daddy of all the solo-friendly dining spots is also one of the city’s most popular. You can choose to sit at the bar or one of the smaller tables in the dining area. Works for both lunch and dinner, this place has a neighborhood vibe and clued in staff. One of my go-to destinations.
JW’s Steakhouse: I’ll let you in on a little secret – I love eating in this place alone. With a clubby feel and a menu full of quality steaks, this is an indulgent treat. The high backed chairs and room set up offers privacy and the staff are friendly and knowledgable.
Meesh Cafe Doha: With its hipster industrial interiors, good coffee and well placed power and charging points, this is my spot for blogging and catching up on life admin. Their legendary breakfast is just QR49 and they also have a range of tasty sandwiches for when the keyboard warrior needs a break. On weekends it is a hive of activity – lots of solo diners working or using the free wifi to Facetime family.
Little Yee Hwa: The baby sister of the popular Korean/Japanese Al Nasr legend Yee Hwa, this newly opened joint is perfect for a quick solo bowl of ramen or some kim bap. Table service is charmingly sweet and the cut down menu allows you to choose a couple of dishes. This will be on regular rotation for me in coming months.
Yen Sushi: I almost didn’t want to include this place as I wanted to keep it all to myself. Located inside La Cigale, in its “food hall” area, this is a sushi train set up offering freshly made maki rolls and sashimi. Perch on a stool at the bar and order as much or as little as you like. Not the most authentic sushi you will try, but perfect for a solo lunch.
Al Jazeera Cafe: I love this place for the food and also the multitude of distractions in the form of interactive displays and other curiosities. A regular on my breakfast rotation, their “Paleo Breakfast” is a winner as is their solo diner friendly set up both inside and out.
Quick Bites: Shamefully I only recently discovered this cafe at the Marriott Marquis in West Bay. While lacking in atmosphere, the menu and free wifi more than makes up for it.I can see why it has a loyal following and its long opening hours are useful for those of us who need a post-work chill-out.
Mezzo: On my most recent solo trip to immense the Mall of Qatar I rejected the heaving chain restaurants to return to this lovely hotel for a quick lunch and some respite from the crowds. Their Italian influenced all-day dining restaurant opens into the mall and while it IS a hotel venue, the food, comfy chairs and discreet service more than makes up for it. Great for groups and just a good for solo diners, ditch the same same restaurants in the mall for some quality food.
Dakshin: When your appetite calls for something more substantial, I can thoroughly recommend this gem in Barwa Village. While it may be filled with families and groups, everyone is too busy chowing down on the quality food to notice. Their thalis are great value and the staff are friendly and accommodating.
Evergreen Organics: Yes I know it’s expensive and vegan, but the food is good and the surroundings lovely. No judgement here for the single diner and you can pop in for a coffee or something more substantial.Sit outside or at one of the communal tables for something more social.
I’m a creature of habit and do have a list of restaurants on heavy rotation, so I want to know where do you go when you want to dine alone or just need some time out?
Very tempted to try these out. I too am fond of solo dining occasionally. Since moving to Doha, I found it a bit awkward if I ventured anywhere alone, because it is hardly the norm here.
In fact when I first arrived, some one said ‘you can’t be seen sitting along at a Starbucks or Pauls. Everyone meets up there with friends.’
Rachel Ann Morris
Wow! Someone said that? I eat out and have coffee alone at least once a week. Once you realise nobody is actually noticing it’s fine! go for it I say!
I always do now. I prefer my alone time anyway. I’m the one with her face buried in a book or laptop in a corner sipping on a hot mocha!
Good one Rachel.
I hope all is well in your corner of the world. Apart from the maniac cat!
Sent from my iPad
There are days when I see at least 1/4 of Paul’s tables with solo diners. I would have definitely included this one. I know you are trying to avoid “chains” but many of us like them…you know what you are going to get. Many of these small, independent joints have left a lot to be desired.
Rachel Ann Morris
Hi Jennifer, good point about Paul and also about consistency. And yes I was trying to give some diversity beyond the chains but people also go with what they know!
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