Trader Vic’s, Hilton Hotel

For some reason I always think that going out on a Thursday night makes the weekend feel longer! The difficulty is dragging myself out on a Thursday, especially because it’s been so cold and miserable recently. I find that if I get in from work and get ready to go out straight away it’s much easier than sitting down then heading out later. Trader Vic’s at the Hilton has a happy hour that starts at 4pm so we decided to start our Thursday night there.


We arrived just after 4pm and grabbed a table. It started to get busy fairly quickly partly because the weather was better than it had been for some time. The views from the jetty area are lovely, you can see across to the Pearl and over to Nobu plus it catches the late afternoon sun.


We ordered food and drinks, both arrived quickly and the service was friendly and efficient. There is a happy hour menu for food and drink with most drinks priced at around 30QR and the menu offers a range of snacks and main meals. Greg and I decided to share 2 main dishes of Singapore noodles (60QR) and crispy duck (65QR). After waiting about 15 minutes our food was brought over, it looked really good. However, it looked better than it tasted!


The noodles were only just warm and didn’t really have any distinctive taste. There was a fair proportion of tender chicken and plump prawns to noodle and veg but there wasn’t any spice or heat to the dish, it was just bland. The shredded duck was crispy in that it was dried out. It was so dry it looked like it had been heated or kept under a grill as some pieces had a crust on. There was a small dish of tasty plum sauce and some nice, crunchy cucumber and onion strips but not enough for the number of pancakes.


However, because we were absolutely starving it was soon polished off. Unfortunately our friends had ordered the same as us and theirs were identical, which I felt showed this was the standard of these dishes.


The drinks on the other hand were good. Fresh, fruity, tangy cocktails and the atmosphere was pleasant too. It was quite busy and as the sun set and the music came on it was really enjoyable. My opinion? Go for the drinks and views but skip the dishes we chose. I had heard some negatives about the food from other people but I’d eaten here before at the Friday brunch and thought overall it was pretty good so this experience was a bit of a surprise. In addition, when we received the bill it was explained that you can’t use an Entertainer voucher on the happy hour main meals which our friends wanted to do so be aware of this. Our bill came to about 330QR for 3 cocktails, 3 whiskies with coke and the 2 main dishes.

Trader Vic's - Hilton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L2, Double Tree by Hilton

When I received an email inviting me for lunch at the Double Tree I was a bit stumped, I couldn’t think of the names of any their restaurants just Pure the rooftop bar which by the way, is a great place for a drink. I tried to carry out a little research about L2 but there were no reviews or mentions of it online so off I went to investigate. We arrived on Saturday lunchtime and even on entering the hotel couldn’t locate the restaurant, we had to ask to be pointed in the right direction. I was quite taken back when we arrived as it’s really modern and the interior is very comfortable, in addition pretty much every table was taken. Not quite what I expected.

L2 has two choices available for diners – the buffet or the a la carte menu. At first glance the buffet is quite small but on closer inspection there are a good variety of dishes. Hot and cold mezze, soups and fresh bread, salads, hot mains (which change daily) such as roast chicken and lamb kofta and a good selection of homemade desserts plus cheeses. From the buffet we really enjoyed the chicken soup with focaccia, the beetroot and blue cheese salad, potato salad with yoghurt, the seafood stew and lamb kofta not to mention the traditional Umm Ali. The fresh fruit drinks in huge lightbulbs were a fun touch and very refreshing.


We also sampled two dishes from the a la carte menu. The sea bass with crunchy vegetables and micro salad was a very generous portion size and full of flavour. The vanilla cheesecake with fresh strawberries was wonderfully rich and creamy with a crunchy biscuit base, it made me very happy.

Service throughout our meal was good and, considering how busy L2 was, our drinks were topped up regularly and our plates and cutlery cleared and replaced. There was a nice buzz with a mix of business people, couples, a large group of ladies and families. One thing I liked was as the buffet is quite small in terms of the size of the dishes everything was replenished and staff were always about to check if anything was running low. I also liked that the smoking and non smoking sections are in completely different rooms something which I know will appeal to a lot of people. The smoking room also has a bar area and big TV screens for a less formal feel. One a side note the happy hour is also one of the longest in town running from 12pm – 11pm with a 30% discount on drinks!

The restaurants at the Double Tree are undergoing some change and L2 is part of this. Open, the previous restaurant is now closed and rebranding is imminent. I felt that the pricing structure for the buffet and the a la carte menu needs streamlining as it appears a bit confused with too many options (see below). The staff are aware of this and they are looking at making it more simple and more appealing.

Current prices for the buffet

Breakfast is 110QR (8-10am is 70QR) a full a la carte menu also avilable.

Lunch is 60QR for 2 courses and 90QR for the full buffet. This price includes water and tea / coffee. The full a la carte menu is also available.

Dinner is 85QR and served from 6pm (65QR if you at between 6pm – 7pm) and includes water. The full a la carte menu is also available.

Children 6yrs and under eat free and 6-12yrs there is 50% off.

The hotel also offers airliners, hoteliers and teachers 30% off the price of the full buffet too.

To sum up if you are looking for a good quality buffet in a modern, relaxing restaurant this is a great place to go. Ideally located in the old town you can walk off your meal at the souk, along the corniche or at the MIA. I think it’s good value as it won’t break the bank and it’s fantastic for families due to the reduced price for children.

Here are a sample of the a la carte menus



*please note on this occasion I was a guest of the Double Tree. All opinions and photographs are my own apart from the image of the dining room as it was so busy when I was there I couldn’t get a good shot! *

 

L2 - DoubleTree by Hilton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zengo, Kempinski Residences

This is probably the shortest review I have every written. It’s not because I am being lazy but because my review of Zengo is very simple – just go. Cancel all other plans and go. Its superb! From the sexy, stylish interiors,the amazing far-reaching views, the friendly and knowledgeable staff and delicious food; it’s an all round great experience. I think I will let my photos speak on my behalf……






Why did I love Zengo?

  • As soon as you step out of the lift on the 61st floor I defy you not to go ‘wow’ when you see the view and go straight to the window
  • Attention to detail in the interior design with lots of natural light and good use of space with a clear Asian influence
  • Staff who obviously understand the food that they are serving and are willing to make suggestions depending on your tastes and preferences
  • An open kitchen (I love being nosy!)
  • The food, the food, the food! This diverse Pan Asian menu designed by Chef Richard Sandoval is fabulous. A few dishes made it onto our ‘most memorable meals of 2016 list’
  • Its versatility. Zengo is great for a business lunch with colleagues, perfect for date night, fun with a group of friends and a great place to take visitors

Why I didn’t love Zengo?

  • It was faultless. Zengo has recently opened and I was invited to try the Friday Brunch and give some constructive feedback. I hated that I couldn’t find anything wrong! It was, in fact a little embarrassing when Chef Marko and Operations Manager Nenad both came over to ask how they could improve the food and service and we couldn’t suggest anything. Greg mentioned the fat on the lamb ribs could be rendered a little more but we were truly clutching at straws!

Tips

  • Ask for a table by the window to take advantage of the views
  • Go to the kitchen and watch the chefs in action
  • Try the Friday brunch as you get to try a good variety of dishes
  • I really recommend the shrimp roll, seared tuna, shrimp tempura, salmon miso and beef Szechuan
  • If you go on an evening you can go next door to Z Lounge for post dinner drinks

*on this occasion I was a guest of Zengo as usual all photographs and opinions are my own.*

EDIT 6th Jan 

We enjoyed our brunch so much we went back! I’m happy to report the food and service was just as good second time. We paid 500QR for 2 non alcoholic brunches which is good value. I’ll continue to recommend Zengo as I think it’s just fab! 

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

Benihana, Amwaj Rotana, Dubai 

Some people may scoff at the fact I’ve never been to a teppanyaki restaurant before the same way that I scoff at those people who’ve never eaten a Parmo, a gastronomic delicacy of the small seaside town in which I was brought up. So, when on a recent trip to Dubai I was invited to dine at Benihana I jumped at the chance. We were asked to arrive at 7pm for ‘dinner and a show’ and didn’t have any idea what to expect! We were warmly greeted and shown to the lovely outside dining area where we ordered drinks and perused the menu.


Benihana started out as a small New York restaurant in the 1960’s and is now a worldwide franchise with 2 outlets in Dubai both at Rotana properties. At the Amwaj Rotana there are 3 teppanyaki tables –  each one seating 9 people – a large indoor dining area and a lovely outdoor terrace. We were told we’d be dining with a family of 4 and so once we’d ordered we were shown inside.


I opted for the Benihana Special (beef tenderloin and lobster) Greg chose the Benihana Combination ( beef sirloin, chicken and shrimp) and once we were all seated we were brought our miso soup. The staff were fantastic and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I dropped my iPhone into my soup sending it flying and creating a mess, I was simply offered a fresh bowl! The soup was lovely – with a good balance of tofu and seaweed, a light, tasty way to start our meal.


Next we heard a few ‘wows’ and we saw our appetiser heading towards us. The presentation of the Alaskan crab was as stunning as its delicate taste which, along with a selection of sauces and dips, was an absolute winner. While we were tucking into our appetizers our fellow diners were also eating theirs, it was very well timed and organized by the staff.

Then Chef Fernando burst onto the scene – the show was about the begin….

Then the teppanyaki station was lit, we all stepped back a little at this point!

Chef checked on allergies and it transpired that one person was allergic to shellfish so it was agreed the shrimp and lobster would all be cooked at the end which was fine with us. Throughout the show Chef chatted to us, made jokes, interacted with other staff and answered my many questions about the food! I get the impression that the banter is matched to the diners so in an adult only group it may be a bit more risqué! The first course of vegetables were crunchy with a wonderful garlic butter. The fried rice started with Chef recreating a diners face using only an egg!

We then gave our preferences for how we’d like our steak cooked with mine being cooked last as I prefer medium rare. The steak was mouth wateringingly good with a hint of salt and pepper, soy and garlic – it just melted in your mouth. The chicken, shrimp and lobster were equally good and the portion sizes were more than adequate.


By now we were full and the show was over but not the meal as we were shown outside and presented with a wonderful bento box of desserts. Consisting of banana and chocolate spring rolls, chocolate cake filled with yuzu creme, fried ice cream, Japanese  mochi and fresh fruit we had a pretty good go at finishing it all!

I know that some people may be skeptical of such a glowing review as I was a guest of Benihana but we genuinely had a great time. While we were there all the teppanyaki tables were full and I could see everyone was having fun and their service and food replicated ours, in fact the family who shared our table said they were regulars. I would really recommend Benihana for groups of families and friends of all ages and for couples. I think this concept would work so well in Qatar too, if Benihana did open in Doha I’d definitely be reserving a table!

To reserve a table and check current promotions

https://www.rotana.com/rotanahotelandresorts/unitedarabemirates/dubai/amwajrotana/dining


To check out the menu

https://www.zomato.com/benihana-amwajrotana/menu

 

Benihana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

img_1884

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.

<a href=”https://www.zomato.com/doha/mainland-china-restaurant-al-sadd&#8221; title=”View Menu, Reviews, Photos & Information about Mainland China Restaurant, Al Sadd and other Restaurants in Doha” target=”_blank” ><img alt=”Mainland China Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info – Zomato” src=”https://www.zomato.com/logo/6202039/biglink&#8221; style=”border:none;width:200px;height:146px;padding:0;” /></a>