It’s been a long time coming, but the rebuilt Msheireb Downtown area is becoming one of Doha’s foodie newest hot spots. For the uninitiated, Msheireb is located next to Souq Waqif and is the historical heart of Qatar’s capital, Doha. It’s been the subject of a billion dollar residential, cultural and commercial redevelopment and has emerged as a fully formed destination.While it’s still a work in progress, whether you are a local or on a stopover in Doha, there is already a real foodie buzz and is worth exploring.
But where to go first? Here’s my take on where foodies should be heading in Msheireb Downtown.
An artisnal bakery, this has become a regular on my weekend hangout regime. With pared back, neutral interiors, a background soundtrack that relies heavily on Sinatra and a short and sharp menu, it’s the perfect antidote to Doha’s frenetic energy. The menu includes brunch classics like eggs Benedict, granola and croissants, but I also love their sandwiches and coffee. The cafe faces onto a square and has outdoor seating, so grab a table and settle in. Be warned – it gets busy on weekends so go early or put your name down and go for a wander.
Must order: the cheesy, egg topped croque madame and a steaming pot of tea.
Located a few steps from Rusk, MOC as it’s known has become a firm favorite. This is thanks to it’s funky neo-industrial interiors (check out the illuminated map of Qatar) and creative menu. The Uncle Sam sandwich is chicken filets marinated in amond milk and fried in crushed almonds, stacked between grainy bread along with cheese and other goodies. Umami bomb. Coffee is decent but it’s more about the sundrenched interiors and the food. They also have their own customer parking – just follow the many signs deep into the basement next door!
Must order: The sweet potato stack with crushed avocado will keep you fuelled up all day.
The Mandarin Oriental is killing it on the foodie frontline and Gelato is one of the reasons why. All pastries, cakes, icecreams and other concoctions are made in house. Sample the range of gelato made from fresh ingredients like honey from the hotel’s own hives. Or check out the fantastic and colorful croissants and icecream cakes. Eat inside the very Instagrammable store or take home for a decadent treat.
Must order: The Arabic coffee icecream or any of the “messy cups” of frozen treats.
Speaking of Instagrammable, the interiors of this cafe are just made for the gram. But luckily the coffee and service also lives up to the hype. Located on Baharat Msheireb, this cafe has a spacious outdoor area as well as a cute as a button interior with lots of seating.
Must order: the smooth and rich cold brew
The cult coffee chain from Kyoto has finally made it to Qatar. And judging by the lines out the door, it’s already a success. Minimalist interiors and an emphasis on quality over quantity, the menu is short and very focussed. Coffee beans include a single original and a blend – although this could be because it’s recently opened. You can also sample a small selection of slices and other goodies. There is outdoor seating in the square it sits on and the line moves at a mercifully brisk pace.
Must order: the rich and smooth latte (NOT Spanish) and their beautifully moist and tart lemon cake.
Venture into the tunnel that connects Msheireb and Souq Waqif and you will find an underrated coffee gem. Nomad is a small cafe with a a big story. Their Port of Mokha coffee hails from the Al-Durrar region of Yemen which is more than 2200 meters above sea level. they also use beans from Ethiopia and Brazil. Their interiors redefine minimalist – be sure to check out the stools, which are made from clay by a Dutch designer. The staff are friendly and have great pride in their work.
Must order: Their Nomad Special coffee which is blended with warming cinnamon.
I’ve extolled the virtue of this unique hotel restaurant before but it’s worth a reminder. The menu is breakfast until and they serve this until 3pm. It;s a great spot to start the day before exploring Msheireb and the Souq area. The menu includes interesting takes on breakfast classics like pancakes, Qatari-style spicy scrambled eggs and more. The terrace overlooks the souq and the interiors are inspired by the first Doha post office – check out the old school maps of the city.
Must order: The smoked salmon crepes are a thing of beauty.
Getting there: The easiest and most efficient way to get there is on the Doha Metro. The Msheireb station is the hub for all lines. Its fast, cheap and well located for exploring.
Parking: On-street parking is rare in this area. There are (paid) valet stations located around the area but Msheireb has one of the biggest underground parking set-ups in the world. Follow the signs and you will be fine.
Getting around: This place is made for walking but don’t miss the opportunity to ret the Msheireb tram which runs on a nine-stop, closed-loop circuit with a 2km track. It’s free to use and yes, the novelty value is high.
Other sites: The Msheireb Museums are a must visit when in this area. They have a unique and fascinating (in some cases unflinching) look at Doha’s complex history.
Future state: New places are opening weekly it seems. Watch out for Liang, the Chinese restaurant by the Mandarin Oriental which opens Mid-February and the street-level cafe Anis at the Park Hyatt Doha which will serve organic food using local produce. Also keep an eye out for New York cult burger spot Umami Burger which is due to open very soon.