Mainland China, Barwa Towers

Greg often says I don’t concentrate properly and this is probably the main reason why we havent been to Mainland China. I had read some positive reviews and heard good things about the restaurant but I thought it was in Barwa City. At a recent Zomato meet up someone was giving a glowing report of their Iftar menu and then realised that it was in Barwa Towers on C Ring Road NOT Barwa City! As we had a few things to do nearby we decided to go on Monday evening for Iftar. Located just above French Olive (another lovely restaurant) I was impressed at how nice it was inside. Lots of dark wood, good use of lighting and lovely etched glass made it feel warm and welcoming with a distinct Asian feel.


We were immediately brought fresh fruits and vegetables, dates, nuts, a glass of juice and the Iftar menu. It was explained that we would be served everything on the menu and if we wanted an extra serving of anything this was included in the price.

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Our appetizers arrived quickly and were delicious. There was a nice spicy kick to the roast chicken, the spring rolls were crispy and packed with chicken and veg and I loved the morsels of crispy lamb which were deep-fried. We ended up ordering another serving of the garlic prawns as they were so tasty. We asked not to be served the tofu salad as neither of us like it and it would have been wasted.

The staff checked we had finished with our appetizers then one of the managers came over the chat with us to check the food and service were ok. He was keen to hear our feedback and luckily it was all good at this point. Our lemon and coriander soup arrived and it was piping hot. It was quite a large serving and the flavours of lime, coriander and lemon shone through with small pieces of tender chicken.Greg found the soup a little too fragrant but I really enjoyed it.

After about 10 minutes our main courses arrived, I was getting rather full by this point! Again all of the dishes were hot and freshly cooked. We liked the chicken with mantao bun, the white fish which was lovely and light, the fried rice and the noodles which weren’t in the least bit greasy or heavy. I didn’t really enjoy the lamb however as I felt the quality of the meat wasn’t very good. I think it was the texture, it didn’t seem like ‘real’ cubes or slices of lamb. The sauces were nice but we felt they could have had stronger, deeper flavours and maybe a little more spice. When we go again we will ask for more spice to be added.

By now we were full to bursting. I had looked at the desserts offered and didn’t think I would like any of them as I don’t eat nuts, honey or dates. Curiosity got the better of me however and I decided to try the noodles with honey and almonds. They were a bit of a revelation especially with vanilla ice cream. The only way I can explain it is they were like honey nuts cornflakes with ice cream – probably not the best description I know! We really liked them. The date pancakes were unfortunately far too sweet for either of us to eat. If you have a sweet tooth you will love these desserts.

There were lots of good things about our meal here and we enjoyed it. Priced at 89QR each it is also very good value for money. I think, as previously mentioned, some of the dishes could have a bit more depth of flavour and the quality of the lamb could also be improved. Everything else was spot on. Throughout our meal service was warm and friendly. At one point it did get a little overbearing as we were asked 3 times in 5 minutes how our food was. Maybe they could ensure one server works with one table to ensure this doesn’t happen?. Our bill came to just over 200QR for the 2 Iftar meals, a bottle of water (other than the initial drink they are not included) and a tip. For someone looking for a slightly different Iftar I would recommend this and we will definitely go back to eat from the regular menu. They also offer a take away service.

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Aroma, Kempinski Hotel

Now we are finishing work a little earlier due to Ramadan we can get back home in time to catch a business lunch. On Thursday we chose to go to Aroma at the Kempinski as we often go to one of the outlets at W but we fancied a change. We’ve been to Aroma a few times before and also to The Lounge and Z Lounge  for drinks and always found good service and nice surroundings. We didn’t have a reservation but as there were only a couple of other tables occupied it wasn’t a problem. The restaurant is quite small and cosy with a light, airy feel and a semi open kitchen. It was nice to see a few decorations in recognition of the Holy Month.


We were brought the business lunch menu and were a little spoilt for choice.

Having placed our order we were brought a lovely selection of fresh breads with butter and pesto oil. I love a good bread basket!

For my starter I chose salmon with avocado and fruit. It was beautifully presented and tasted so fresh with a lovely zingy, zesty sauce and balls of avocado which packed a citrus punch in contrast to the subtle salmon. Greg chose the crepes which were fresh and tasty, with lots of chicken and mushroom however it wasn’t too heavy.

After about fifteen minutes our main courses arrived, another wow. My sea bass looked and tasted amazing. It was soft and flaky with buttery spinach and mushrooms. The crab bisque added depth but wasn’t too rich or overpowering. Gregs face lit up when he saw the camel burger. It’s their signature dish and certainly looks impressive. A juicy, thick, camel patty with melted halloumi and salad on a nutty bun. The flavour is hard to describe as its not like beef as its a bit richer, more like game with a sweetness and kick of spice. It didn’t last long!

For dessert we’d both opted for millefeuille, but for me it was a little disappointing. Again, it certainly had the wow factor, it was like a mini work of art. The flavours worked well together but I felt there was a lack of strawberries and cream and my pastry was a little hard. The layers of the pastry weren’t really clearly defined so it felt a little heavy and crunchy, more like a biscuit. The pastry Greg had was a little better as it was softer. Overall it was refreshing and fruity but lacked the buttery lightness if that makes sense?

Our lunch was very nice, it was good value at 95QR each for 3 courses (excl drinks). The service was fantastic, the staff really care and show an interest, I also like that they identify the healthier options on the menu. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in West Bay during or after Ramadan I would recommend Aroma, the business lunch is served weekdays 12noon until 4pm.

Aroma - Kempinski Residences & Suites Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blogger Link up – Teaching during Ramadan : U.K. / Qatar 

Before moving to Qatar I was a teacher in the UK for 14 years. The school I taught in was located in South Yorkshire and about 35% of our pupils were Muslim. In the UK the school year finishes at the end of July and for the last few years Ramadan has fallen during the summer term. In 2014 I moved to Qatar and continued teaching. As part of this months Blogger Link Up I thought I’d write about how schools and teaching differ in the UK and Qatar when it comes to the Holy Month.


Ramadan in a school in the UK

At my school in the UK the day started at 8.40am and finished at 3.10pm. These hours did not change during Ramadan so pupils still did a full school day including Muslim pupils who were fasting. Muslim pupils, including those fasting, took part in all lessons during Ramadan including Physical Education, music and cooking unless they had a note from their parents excusing them but this was quite rare. The majority of the Muslim pupils I taught during Ramadan cooked once a week and instead of eating with the class they took their food home with them to eat at Iftar or Suhour. The school canteen continued to be open during Ramadan and pupils and staff could eat and drink openly at break time, lunchtime and in class.

Provision was made for pupils who were fasting as we set up ‘Ramadan Rocks’ which was in a quiet area of school. Pupils and staff could go there at breaktime and lunchtime to relax, meet with friends and pray. It was not just for our Muslim pupils however, anybody could go – but no food / drink was allowed and it was supervised by Muslim and non-Muslim staff. There was no prayer room at our school so during Ramadan 2 classrooms were set aside where pupils could pray.

At State schools in the UK attendance is very closely monitored and schools come under great scrutiny for their absence rates. Pupils can not take holidays during term time and can actually be taken to court for doing so. Pupils were not allowed any absence during Ramadan even for ‘religious observation’ therefore I would say pretty much all our pupils were in school during Ramadan. Pupils were allowed 1 or 2 days off for Eid and this was recorded as ‘religious observation’.

Overall, I would say Ramadan had very little impact on me as a teacher in the UK despite working with many Muslim pupils and colleagues. I was aware that some pupils were fasting but I don’t think I understood the full concept of the Holy Month, its importance and the impact on pupils such as tiredness. I guess I was quite naive to the demands it placed on some of my pupils.

Ramadan in a school in Qatar

The first difference is that as soon as Ramadan starts our hours are reduced. Staff work 8am – 1pm and pupils 8.30am – 1pm. A large percentage of our Muslim pupils do not come into school during Ramadan and this is recorded as religious observation and is allowed. As our normal curriculum lessons continue to take place in school some Muslim pupils who know they will be absent will ask for work to do at home. Some pupils chose to work with private tutors around their schedule so they do not fall behind with their studies.

Our whole school end of year exams for pupils in Year 7 – Year 12 took place at the end of May and at the moment the public iGCSE and A Level exams are taking place during Ramadan. Pupils can take a drink into the exam room with them and, if requested, Muslim pupils can been seated at the front of the exam hall so they don’t see pupils drinking. According to some scholars Muslims sitting exams during Ramadan can be given special consideration and are allowed to drink as its considered linked to their future success, as Islam is a religion of knowledge and enlightenment.

As school is a public place eating and drinking is not allowed. The canteen is the only room in which pupils can eat and drink at break time, our canteen does not serve any food or drink so pupils bring everything from home. Staff can eat and drink in the staffroom only (no cups of tea or bottles of water on our desks which is hard when you talk for the majority of your day!). We have male and female prayer rooms throughout the school and pupils can leave their lesson at 11.30am to pray if they wish.

All of our Muslim staff and some of our Muslim pupils who are fasting are attending school as normal and this is challenging for them as many of them have been up late. In this heat and dust teaching and studying whilst tired and fasting must be difficult.

Teaching in a Muslim country during Ramadan has given me much more of an insight into the Holy Month and what is means to my Muslim colleagues, pupils and friends. It has deepened my understanding and knowledge of Islam and although I haven’t fasted myself this year I am considering challenging myself next year!

Ramadan Collection 2016: Iftar/Suhour in Doha

It seems that the hot topic in town is where to break fast or eat before the sun rises so here’s my opinion on some of the Ramadan tents across the city. I will add further posts on individual places over the next couple of weeks. Wherever you go I hope you have a wonderful time, please feel free to send me your thoughts, recommendations and feedback.

The Grand Hyatt Ramadanak Tent (Iftar 220QR / Suhour 200QR – 241 Suhour Entertainer voucher can be used until July 5th 2016)

We loved the Iftar here last year and this year it didn’t fail to disappoint either. The Grill has been stylishly and tastefully designed. There is good range of different cuisines, the quality of the food is very good and service is excellent. Favourite dishes here include donner kebab, koftas, seafood and the cheese board. This is the kind of place I’d come as a couple or in a small group.


InterContinental Doha The City Al Jawhara Pavilion (Iftar 195QR / Suhour a la carte packages start from 180QR)

Lots of detail has gone into the design of the ballroom which makes it feel traditional, cosy, spacious and welcoming. Most of the food is on a ‘street’ set up in the corridor. There are screens to watch the football on and a large stage for entertainment during Suhour. There is a wide variety of food from the hotels various outlets, we enjoyed the Ouzi, lamb chops, shawarma and beef with broccoli. Service is excellent. This is a great place for a large group and is very family friendly.

Marsa Malaz Palatial Tent (Iftar 240QR / Suhour 290qr)

A very elegant, classy design with lovely tableware, everything is well presented. The ballroom holds the tables and the food is set up in the room next door. There is a good choice of different cuisines and some live cooking stations. We enjoyed the Arabic mezze, roast rib of beef and red velvet trifle – oh, and the cheeseboard! Service was good throughout and I liked that the chefs chatted to us about their cooking. A great Iftar for everyone.

St Regis Ramadan Souq (Iftar 230QR / Suhour 290qr)

We came here several times this year and I can see us coming back here again. The design is based on a souq and it creates a lovely atmosphere. Once again there is a good range of dishes including live cooking stations for savoury and sweet dishes. Our personal favourites were the roast beef, chicken in cream sauce, cheesecake and sticky date pudding. Service was good thoughout with plenty of staff on hand. A great Iftar for everyone.


The St Regis has also transformed the Al Gassar Grand Ballroom into Al Sukaria, a rustic Egyptian themed tent serving a small selection of savoury snacks and an array of desserts accompanied by traditional music. Priced at 145QR for Suhour only.


Melia Nidaaya and the Hala Ballroom (Iftar 160QR / Suhour a la carte packages start from 140QR)

Mmmmm, this is a tricky one. The Iftar is located in the hotels main buffet restaurant Nidaaya and it has not been converted into a tent. The food here was good, there wasn’t a huge range but what was there tasted great. I enjoyed the various fresh salads, mixed grill and white fish. Afterwards we went to the ballroom which is where guests can enjoy a stylish, contemporary Ramadan tent complete with savoury dishes, desserts, drinks and shisha. The room has been nicely set out, there’s a stage for entertainment and a large screen for the football. Good for groups and families.

California Tortilla (Iftar buffet 55QR)

Unlimited soup, nachos, tortillas, beef, chicken, fish, salad, accompaniments and drinks are available for this Iftar buffet alongside the regular menu. The restaurant hasn’t been decorated to reflect the season but there was a lantern on our table as a token gesture. The food was was pretty good and what we expect from this restaurant chain, although I found the beef chewy and a bit gristly. Everything was warm and quickly replenished and there were lots of staff on hand. Overall a cheap and cheerful way for everyone to break fast.

Marriott Marquis City Centre Wanassa Ramadan Tent (Iftar 215QR / Suhour from 75QR)

A great selection of dishes here including sushi, curries, roast joint of beef YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS!, salads, soups, cheese, desserts, ice cream plus live cooking stations. The food was very good, especially if you’re a meat lover. We really enjoyed the roast beef and yorkshires and the curry. All of the food is located outside the room so there is plenty of space inside the main dining area. Its been decorated nicely with white and gold furnishings creating a calm, contemporary space. This would be good for couples or small groups.

Sheraton Grand Ramadan Tent (Iftar 225QR / Suhour a la carte only 100QR minimum spend per person)

I went here for my first a la carte Suhour. The experience starts from the moment you you arrive at the majlis entrance. There are a small number of stalls selling a variety of products, free henna and a falcon to be photographed with. The tent itself it beautifully designed in rich reds and golds and with a live band during Suhour. We sampled a few dishes from the a la carte menu and the quality was very good. A great place for everyone to enjoy Suhour.

Please note that I was invited to all of the places but as always this hasn’t influenced my opinion and the photographs are all my own. Thanks to Greg, Emma and Jaime for attending these events with me, even on a school night! Greg, this weekend I promise I will go food shopping and cook at home 🙂