My first impression of the Saturday culinary class offered at the Ritz Carlton was not great. In the confirmation email I was told to meet at Dolce Vita but the member of staff who I spoke to in the lobby told me it had shut down so he sent me to concierge. Concierge then pointed me (literally) along a corridor in the direction of a room which was crammed full of gingerbread houses which I knew was also wrong so, after asking a third member of staff, I again was pointed towards Lagoona restaurant where indeed the kitchen area was all set up for the class.
We started just after 10am and Chef Yusuke Aoki spoke to us about his passion for pastry, his training, experience and background. It was clear he was very knowledgeable and his enthusiasm shone through. The class started with a demonstration of how to make a Yule Log and throughout we were encouraged to ask questions and sample the ingredients.
Chef then moved on to show us how to decorate a gingerbread house – he made it look so simple! We were given biscuits and a gingerbread house to decorate and it soon became clear it was much trickier than we had been led to believe but it was really fun.
Soon the Yule Log ( which had been cooked the day before in true Blue Peter style) was brought out and we were shown how to fill it, roll it and decorate it in a variety of ways. I then went up and had a go at decorating one with ganache, chocolate shards, fresh berries,marshmallows and icing sugar.
Throughout the class the staff were fantastic, very encouraging and knowledgeable. There wasn’t as much ‘ hand on ‘ cooking as I experienced at Isaan at the Grand Hyatt but this wasn’t a problem as it was so good to see the professionals at work. I thoroughly enjoyed my couple of hours and even more so when we were told we could take home our gingerbread houses, biscuits and and Yule Logs – I thought this was very generous.
The Ritz runs a culinary class every Saturday with a different theme each week at a cost of 200QR per class, I will definitely be booking onto future classes. They would also make a fantastic Christmas present for someone who likes cooking and baking. I do have 2 pieces of feedback though – firstly make it clear where the class is taking place and ensure that the recipes in the booklet are proof read as some of the ingredients and methods were not as clear as they could have been.
On Friday afternoon I went to the Marriott to collect my turkey, trimmings and apple pie which I had won in a competition on Instagram run by Qatar Living and the Marriott. Turkey To Go isn’t a concept that I am familiar with so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I ordered 3 days in advance and when I went to collect it was all boxed up ready to go – very simple and hassle free. The drive to my apartment was torture as it smelt delicious and I couldn’t wait to tuck in.
It was like Christmas day when we opened the box, a HUGE golden turkey, foil containers of various vegetables, two tubs of gravy, a portion of cranberry sauce, trays of stuffing, candied pecans plus an enormous deep filled apple pie. Everything was hot and ready to be served so we laid everything out on the table and got stuck in. I didn’t even bother to transfer anything into serving dishes!
What a feast. The turkey was moist, succulent and well seasoned and I was pleasantly surprised that the garlic infused sprouts, carrots with honey and roasted potatoes were so fresh and crunchy. The gravy was thick, rich and deep with flavour and the chestnut and bread stuffing disappeared in no time. There were 4 of us eating and I felt that the turkey and sides would comfortably feed about 8 people with plenty of extra turkey – we barely made a dent in it!
There was a concern that we wouldn’t be able to find room for apple pie but after an hour or so we couldn’t resist. We all agreed it was one of the best apple pies we’ve ever had, the pastry was thin and crisp and the apple with a hint of cinnamon was soft and not overly sweet.
As I won everything in the competition I can’t say how much it would cost to buy but what I can say is if someone wanted a Turkey To Go I would recommend the service provided by the Marriott. We had quite a lot of food left so the next day I boxed it up and gave it to the security and maintenance staff who work in my apartment block. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it as much as we did
I complained to Greg that he hadn’t been romantic in a while so on Saturday night he booked a table at Porcini at the Ritz as a surprise. However, he knows I hate surprises, so he ended up telling me where we were going beforehand and I was really happy with his choice. I love the Ritz as it brings back happy memories of visiting Qatar many years ago and it is also a restaurant neither of us have tried before. Porcini is on the lower ground floor of the Ritz and is elegantly designed with spacious seating, low lighting, an open kitchen and a guitarist playing authentic Italian music.
We received a pleasant welcome and quickly brought the wine list, the a la carte menu and the white truffle menu. I was surprised at how reasonably priced the drinks were and we ordered a bottle of sparkling wine. We both chose from the a la carte menu starting with an amuse bouche of potato croquette with a white truffle cream, it was light, crispy and along with the truffle sauce a great start. Then came the bread basket ( top tip Porcini, don’t serve delicious focaccia in an uneven number – it could ruin a romantic evening deciding who gets the last slice!) alongside olive oil and balsamic dip. Again, absolutely delicious
I was a bit taken back when our appetisers arrived as they were generous portions. My fritto misto consisted of a selection of seafood and vegetables in a light tempura batter and were perfectly cooked retaining the crunch of the vegetable and the delicate taste of the seafood but not at all oily or greasy. Gregs chicken ravioli was packed with flavour and in a sweet tomato sauce with creamy mozzarella.
With a suitable rest between our appetisers and mains again I was surprised at the portion size. My fillet steak was seasoned and cooked to perfection and the little potato dauphinois were creamy and light. Gregs sea bass was superb – moist, flaky and accompanied by little roast potatoes and cherry tomatoes. I’d say throughout the meal we must have said ‘ wow’ at least a dozen times. All the dishes were well cooked, beautifully presented and unfussy, relying on the simplicity of quality ingredients.
The the bill for 2 appetisers, 2 mains, water, a bottle of sparkling wine and a tip was 850 QR which was good value for the quality of the food and the portion size. Porcini is a perfect place for a romantic meal, the New Years Eve menu also looks fantastic and is very competitively priced at 550QR pp for 4 course and 2 glasses of bubbly. I don’t wish to end on a negative however, during the meal the waitress accidently knocked over a full glass of wine which went over my phone and purse. Although she apologised it would have been nice to have been offered an additional glass, I mentioned this to the Sudeep the supervisor at Porcini at the end of the meal and he said he would take care of it on our next visit. He chatted to us about the menu, the concept behind the dishes and the head chefs vision for the restaurant which was interesting, it was clear he cares about the restaurant and customer experience. He then escorted us up to Habanos for cocktails on the terrace which was a nice touch.
We will definitely return to Porcini, Greg has set himself a high standard for the next night out he’s asked to arrange!