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

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

My favourite restaurant in Doha, Qatar Linkup

Nooooooooo  was my immediate thought when I read that this month’s Qatar Linkup was to write about my favourite restaurant in Doha. It’s a question I get asked so often and I always give a different answer as it changes daily if not hourly. My favourite restaurant depends on a variety of factors – what type of food am I in the mood for? Who else is going? Is it the day before or the day after I have been paid? Do I have to get dressed up or can I get away with a touch of makeup? How hungry am I? Can I walk there? What was my recent experience of the restaurant? Is it a school night or can I have vodka or two? The list goes on. Fickle I know.

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Can you guess where I have chosen yet?!

After much consideration I have concluded that my favourite restaurant (not the best restaurant, which includes a whole load more factors) is ……..Spice Market. The reasons I chose Spice Market are listed below

  • Convenience – we live really close so we can walk there in just over 5 minutes, no messing around with taxis. Even as it gets hotter is pretty do able. It also means we can go there spur of the moment i.e. when I can’t be bothered to cook.
  • Dress – I think you can dress up or dress down as much as you want here. I’ve worn a dress and heels, I’ve also gone here to eat before going to City Centre to do the weekly shop
  • Service – overall the service here is excellent. It does get busy during happy hour and you may have to wait a while for a drink (my advice is to order two). There is always plenty of staff about and the manager is happy to stop for a chat and seems genuinely interested in feedback.
  • Ambiance – a separate bar area, great use of decoration and furniture to give a feeling of space, subtle music. Everything comes together here. The toilets are also brilliant; Greg has been known to take visitors to Spice Market just to show them the loos.
  • Variety – whether you want happy hour drink with a free appetizer, a bento box, supper club, a taster menu, Friday brunch or a la carte there’s a huge choice. If you haven’t had the taster menu here you are missing out!
  • Food – finally….the most important thing. I have never had a poor dish at Spice Market regardless of when I have eaten or from which menu. The food is stunning. It is always well-flavoured, spiced, seasoned and presented. It also helps that Spice Market serves two of my favourite desserts – Ovaltine Kulfi and Red Velvet Cake. I also had tuna tartare for the first time a few nights ago and I have been having fabulous food flash backs ever since.
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    I love these popadoms
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    Dishes from the Taster Menu
  • The Bento Box

    My favourite dessert – Ovaltine Kulfi

To sum up, in my opinion if you want consistently good service and excellent food served in lovely surroundings then Spice Market is the place to go. That’s why it’s my favourite restaurant in Doha.

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If sometimes I can’t squeeze in a dessert I love to get a ‘cakeaway’ and a coffee to enjoy on the corniche

My Doha, Bloggers Link Up

My Dream, My Doha

Doha for me is where my dream to live overseas turned into a reality. I have always believed I was born to live in warm country and from a young age been drawn to the Middle East. I started to visit Dubai and Qatar about 12 years ago when my friend worked for the Ritz and I loved it. For many reasons my plans to teach abroad never came to fruition but all that changed in February 2014 on a dark, wet, miserable, gloomy Tuesday. After a tough day at work I said to my equally fed up husband ‘let’s apply for jobs overseas’. He looked at me like I was crazy (Greg will admit he isn’t very adventurous) and I thought no more of it until a few days later when he told me he’d written a CV and filled in application forms for Qatar, Dubai and Spain. I was gob smacked but over the moon. Fast forward 3 months and we had both resigned from our jobs in the UK and secured jobs in Doha, two months after that we had sold our house and we were on a plane. It was like a whirlwind but I was so excited and even though Greg was pretty terrified we knew it was the best thing for us both.

 

Leaving our Sheffield home

 

Packing the essentials!

 

Barely room for poor Dyson

 

My main memory is of landing and being driven along the Corniche and pointing out things to Greg I remembered from previous visits, being in awe at how much development had taken place. I also remember  waking up the next morning and looking out of our apartment window to the view of West Bay, the view we had looked at so many times online was now on our door step. Goose bump time!

The view from our gym

 

The view from our lounge

Life here is good;  very good. I think Doha is a bit of a marmite place but we feel very settled. We are both happy in our jobs, we have a fantastic home, we get to travel regularly and on  weekends we get to go to the desert, the mangroves, eat at 5* hotels, grab a 6QR shawarma, go to the Souk,  watch world class tennis, laze by the pool……the list goes on.

 

The Inland Sea

 

Quad biking at Sealine

 

MIA Park

 

Al Thakira

 

My Blog, My Doha

Doha is also where I developed my confidence enough to start a blog. I have always loved food ( I am by nature very greedy) and in the UK we ate out quite a bit but nothing on the scale as we do here. I often found myself recommending places to eat and following other bloggers such as Pinay Flying High, Life on the Wedge, Quest and Mark, Follow your Sunshine, Lemon and Mint and Boulangerry among others, but never felt I knew enough to write my own.

My site

However, with technical support and encouragement from Greg, in May 2015 I got my site up and running, ventured into the (sometimes scary) world of social media and started to write about places we ate. I am keen to highlight that I am not a food critic, I cannot suggest that a dish would be improved by the addition of some rare spice or an extra dash of truffle oil, I am not always able pick out flavours – but I do love reading the reviews of people who can. For me it’s about the whole experience. Was it easy to get a reservation? How comfy were the chairs? What was the ambiance like? Was the food well presented / cooked/ flavoured? Was the service good? How much did it cost? And, more importantly,  would I go back / recommend it to others? My reviews all follow this theme. I also write my blog so I remember where I have eaten, a record of our foodie exploits! I was a bit embarrassed the first time I clicked the ‘publish’ button. Was my English terrible? …….had I repeated myself? …..would a friend ( or even worse an English teacher colleague) read it and think it was rubbish?……to be honest those doubts are still there at times but many people tell me they like my reviews as I write like I speak and it’s just me!

Melia Brunch

 

Choices at the Oryx Rotana

We have lived in Doha for 18 months now and have no plans to move on just yet. If and when we do move to pastures new Doha will always be special to me as the place where I realised my dreams and lived a fantastic life with Greg. My main issue is if I do move on what will happen to Doha Dinners, something I didn’t consider when I chose the name!

Thanks for reading!