This week Qatar Airways announced something that was music to to ears of any traveler – free transit stopovers in Doha.
But what about Doha itself? I’ve lived here more than a decade and managed to pretty much eat my way around the city. You can find something to suit all palates and budgets – you just need to know where to look.
But as a regular traveler, I also know what makes a great trip – food is always the answer to that question.
Here is my list of places you should consider eating and drinking at on your Doha stopover – a mix of luxe and affordable with some great views and experiences thrown in:
This outpost of the global chain has one of the best locations in town – with sweeping views of the Corniche from its rooftop bar (well most places in the venue). don’t be put off by the price, every night between 6pm and 8pm their happy hour serves up QR30 (USD8) cocktails and bites off the menu for the same price. Or you can eat in their spacious dining room and enjoy the full menu. My recommendations are the Black Miso Cod and the Canadian lobster salad.
2. Zengo Doha
We love a celebrity restaurant in Doha and Zengo is another in Richard Sandoval’s pan Asian fusion empire. While the menu still has some kinks, the views are extraordinary both during the day (on a clear day you can see to ummm…) and especially at night. The menu is a mix of sushi and raw bar elements plus some good curries. I recommend the green curry chicken. The restaurant is on the 61st floor of the tallest building in the city and also has a good bar if you just want a relaxed drink.
Located in the tourist-friendly Katara cultural village this joint literally does what it says on the tin – it serves karak (tea) and chapati (flatbread). A great place refuel and people watch while wandering around the village (always has art and photography exhibits and always free).
Still in Katara, this cafe is indeed the brainchild of the folks at Qatar’s flagship TV network Al Jazeera. While focused on being a “newseum” of sorts, with artefacts from the network’s history as well as a working studio, it’s also a foodie paradise. Excellent, innovative dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can watch the news, play with their interactive menus and just enjoy this unique place. I recommend their paleo breakfast plus their coffee, but you would be hard pressed not to find something you like. You can also pick up memorabilia to scare the folks back home.
5. Al Mourjan
Heading back out of the city and along the beautiful corniche, this restaurant inhabits perhaps some of the prime real estate in the city. With sweeping views and waterside seating, the menu is traditional Lebanese fare. A little kitsch, old school and very over the top, you can’t deny the “wow” factor of this place for a quiet dinner. My top picks from the extensive menu is the mixed grill and any of the mezze (especially the cheese rolls) to start.
For a completely different view of the city, in fact of the whole skyline, this hotel bar is unique. with extended happy hours and those views, it’s a good place to relax after a day in the desert of surveying Qatar’s art galleries.
Back on solid ground and located on the edge of the must-visit Souq Waqif, this Indian restaurant is still fairly new but serving up some delicious food. For many it’s a surprise that Indian food in Doha is so good, but you can thank a large expatriate population and trade routes dating back thousands of years for their culinary legacy. This is North Indian food served in a luxury setting, but with great views of the souq and also the Corniche. I recommend the sag paneer and of course, the butter chicken.
8. Bandar Aden
There are many good places to eat in the Souq, with every cuisine imaginable. But few are more authentic than this place. Don’t be intimidated, it’s always busy but service and customers are equally friendly. Sit at a table or sprawl on the floor in the family sitting areas, this sometimes chaotic place has traditional Gulf food – point at the menu or ask your fellow diners for help, you will not go wrong. And the hot, fresh bread, you will want seconds!
9. Cafe 999
While everyone recommends the Museum of Islamic Art Cafe, this outlet at the new 999 Gallery just outside the city is an absolute gem. The gallery has revolving exhibits and is free and the cafe just across the courtyard has salads, sandwiches, decent coffee and a cool vibe. For curious minds, this complex used to be the fire brigade’s HQ in Doha, hence the title! Ask your taxi to take you to “Fire Force Signal” if there is some confusion.
This is by no means exhaustive – as with any city we all have our favorites. But for a truly “Doha Experience, you can’t go wrong with these tips!
Happy travels and see you in Doha soon!