Champions, Marriott Marquis

Brunch on a Saturday for some may sound like a dangerous concept, especially for those of us who have an early start on a Sunday morning! After the long summer break we decided to take advantage of a Monday start and try the Saturday Brunch at Champions. This sports bar is well known for its great sports coverage, decent bar food and lively atmosphere so this (newish) brunch sounded like fun. As usual we were I.D’d at the door and, as we were having brunch, given a wrist band to show we’d paid our 225QRpp.

When we arrived just after 12 noon a handful of tables were taken, we grabbed a place in the non smoking section and checked out the menu. Basically the brunch offer allows you to order unlimited food from the brunch menu and unlimited drinks. I was happy to see favourites such as fiery wings and cheesy fries but also items I hadn’t tried before such as the wasabi prawns and chicken sliders. There is also a dessert option and a rather healthy sounding fruit platter. The drinks selection was good choice of bottled or draught beers, wine, spirits and soft drinks.We decided as a table to order a few dishes to share – wings, sliders, fries, prawns and onion rings. Everything is waiter service so you don’t have to keep getting up and down!

Soon the band started playing, the room got busier, drinks flowed and the food arrived. We all agreed the wasabi prawns were delicious – we ordered them several times, the sliders were juicy and flavoursome, the wings were fiery and the cheesy fries as moorish as ever. The only thing we were disappointed by was the onion rings as they weren’t very tasty, we’d have preferred them to have been in the same tempura styled batter as the prawns rather than breadcrumbs. It was also felt that the nachos needed more cheese, salsa and sour cream as they were dry and lacked flavour. We did have to tell the staff to stop bringing out food as it just kept coming!!

Up until about 2pm the service had been good but as the bar got busier it was clear that standard of service started to slip. We were having to wait a long time for drinks, the table wasn’t cleared and it was difficult to get anyone’s attention. I did notice that there were some new faces among the staff so maybe they are new to their roles but it did seem they were understaffed. Lots of people had arrived to watch the football and most tables were full. Staff were having to take food and drinks orders from people who had paid for the brunch package as well as those who were ordering from the main menu.

At 2.30pm we were told it was last orders for brunch and we were told to order 2 drinks each, unfortunately it was almost 40 minutes later when those drinks arrived. We asked about our order a couple of times and I then asked a manager to chase them up. He agreed it was a long time to wait and they extended the brunch time for us so we could have 2 more rounds which was a nice gesture and appreciated by our group. It did seem at times that the staff weren’t sure what they were bringing to the tables as the orders weren’t always right.

Brunch runs for 3 hours but many of us ended up staying for happy hour which starts at 5pm. We all had a brilliant afternoon, the atmosphere was fun and lively – we enjoyed the band. The food overall was good, the service was friendly and it represents value for money, especially for those using an entertainer voucher which meant it was 241. The one frustration was the service towards the end of the afternoon. This was not due to staff being lazy or inattentive they were just rushed off their feet. If this Saturday brunch becomes as popular as it should – its a very good deal if you plan to stay for a few hours – staffing levels need to increase to provide acceptable service levels as this is the only aspect that was missing but perhaps one of the most important.

*On this occasion I was a guest of Champions. As always my review is completely honest and the photographs are my own. The 241 Entertainer voucher can be used until the end of September 2016.

Champions Sports Bar -  Marriott Marquis Doha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Belgian Cafe, Intercontinental Hotel

I just love it when a restaurant replies quickly to information requests. I know a lot of places put their opening hours, menus and prices online but as its summer and some places are restricting their hours and menus I Facebook messaged InterCon to check what time their happy hour was. Almost immediately they’d confirmed timings and booked me a table, fantastic customer service. I was surprised at how long the happy hour is at the Belgian Cafe 12.30 -6pm, surely one of the longest in Doha? The Belgian Cafe is a place I’ve only visited a handful of times since living here but always had a good time. We were meeting up with friends after the long summer holiday and wanted somewhere informal with pub style food and drinks and the Belgian Cafe came to mind.

To be fair our greeting on arrival could have been friendlier. Greg gave our name and after a bit of mumbling and computer clicking the member of staff said ‘oh, your booked under a brunch but we don’t have a brunch’ I replied that I’d not booked for brunch (it was a Thursday), I had a reservation for 1pm and, as it was pretty much empty, asked if we could have a table for 4. I was assured it was fine and we were seated at a non smoking table. The design of the cafe is typical of the chain – dark wood, chalk boards, drinks on display with a long bar and wooden floor. A great escape from the heat of an oppressive Doha summer.

Menus were quickly brought over and we placed our drinks order. A selection of beers, spirits, wines and cocktails were on offer priced at about 30QR, I was impressed with the choice as I know in some places happy hour drinks can sometimes be limited. We then ordered food. The menu is varied and obviously has a Belgian / European theme. We ordered pasta with mussels, chicken vol- au -vent x2 and a Flemish stew. I was a bit annoyed I’d forgotten my entertainer voucher as its 241 on main courses but it’s pretty reasonably priced with the mains in the at 85QR range. After a few minutes we were brought a cute paper bag stuffed with bread rolls and portions of butter. The bread was delicious with bits of walnut, the herb and sundried tomato butter was also tasty but it was difficult to spread as it had clearly just come out of the refrigerator and couldn’t be cut through. I think I’d prefer the bread warm and the butter soft!

Shortly afterwards our meals arrived. My stew was delicious, slow, tender braised beef (like my mum used to make) with veg, fries and thick mayonnaise. I really enjoyed it. The pasta was packed with mussels in a rich tomato herb sauce and the vol -au -vents were cheesy and creamy, full of chicken and mushrooms. Portion sizes were good and everything was hot and well cooked. Proper, filling pub grub!

Even though were sat in the non smoking area but we could still smell cigarettes. I appreciate that they are making an effort to have separate sections and I really like this and it’s a lot better than some places where there’s no segregation. Also, take a moment to look at the art work on the way to the bathrooms because it’s fabulous.

We all really enjoyed our meals, every plate was very clean at the end! Service throughout was good – friendly and efficient. Our bill came to 900QR for 8 cocktails, 4 vodkas, 4 whiskies, 5 mixers and 4 main courses which we felt was reasonable. It would have been less if we’d remembered our Entertainer vouchers but I’m in no doubt we’ll be back as we had a lovely time. Overall, if you’re looking for a long happy hour, comfort food and good service I’d recommend the Belgian Cafe.

Belgian Cafe - InterContinental Doha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato