You know when you are wishing so hard for something to be awesome, or even just pretty good? When you know the ingredients are all there, it just needs that final touch to bring everything together?
Well that was me about The Chef’s Garden at the Marwan Club at Al Shaqab. On paper it has it all – interesting location, family friendly grounds and a brilliant concept. That concept, or more like a philosophy is compelling. It sources its ingredients from Qatar’s growing community of organic farms a well as its own vegetable garden and locally raised lamb and chicken. The menu features low fat and gluten free options.
See? What’s not to like about this?
Our visit on a warm October afternoon was spur of the moment. It was pleasant enough to sit outside and we were frankly looking for something fresh and not located in a five star hotel.
The welcome (or lack of ) was perhaps the first indication that this wasn’t to be a memorable lunch. The dining room – huge and frankly soulless – was empty. We led ourselves out of the terrace, which had a handful of tables occupied.
The setting itself is gorgeous – featuring the greenest grass in Doha and a lovely kid’s play area. We were finally given menus and let me be clear that service wasn’t bad, it was just, well, perfunctory.
The menu runs from a short series of breakfast favorites through to soups, salads, sandwiches and more filling mains.
We ordered the beet salad which featured beetroot, walnuts and goat cheese (I’m excited if this was local as it was creamy and tart) with a tangy vinaigrette. It certainly was a pretty plate and as salads go it was just good. The ingredients were also clearly fresh.
On the face of it, the mains we ordered held promise and there were high hopes when delivered to the table. But fell just short.
A plate of slow cooked organic chicken with (unspecified) local spices was unevenly cooked – the thigh perfectly juicy, the breast on the wrong side of well cooked. The skin was well rendered if a little on the burnt end of the spectrum but I let that slide as I like it that way. The vegetables accompanying them were a melange of overcooked and under cooked and the promised beetroot and potato mash lacked any specific flavor.
Meanwhile another main of crispy black lentil hamour was confusing on delivery. We weren’t sure if the lentils or the hamour were supposed to be the crispy part. I can’t remember clocking an actual lentil…but I am picky. The hamour on the cusp of well done. The salsa was a nice salty kick against the meaty white fish and the quinoa studded with cranberries was a surprise, but again, the dish lacked any real personality.
As I mentioned, service lacked any kind of enthusiasm or focus. This rubbed off on us, despite the lovely setting, we just couldn’t be bothered to stay for dessert.
I’ve read reviews from others praising their breakfasts, so maybe we missed a trick by going for lunch.
I appreciate the idea of letting ingredients shine, but there is also, when guests are paying good money, an imperative to deliver flavor and yes, a little bit of flair. To make it clear all the flavors/textures/plating seemed very…similar. And as you can see by the photos both dishes had the same vegetable garnish and the plate decorations.
The word I keep coming back to is – underwhelming.
Cost for two mains, a starter, soft drinks and water for two: QR285
Chef’s Garden at Marwan Club, Al Shaqab