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.
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.
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.
Spicemarket at W Hotel is always a great place to start a night out. Happy hour is 5.30pm – 7.30pm with a selection of wines, beers and cocktails at half price and a complimentary snack such as samosas, chicken satay and tempura prawns, the atmosphere is lively and there’s a nice buzz. The drinks area near the bar is sectioned off from the main restaurant which means if you are dining it’s quieter and I think this works well. Happy hour is always busy and as you can’t reserve a seat it’s wise to get there early so you can grab a table. As there were about 20 of us arriving at different times we couldn’t all sit, so we spread out over a couple of tables and stood at the bar. We asked if more seats could be brought over from the restaurant but were told this wasn’t possible but as the night progressed people moved around so it didn’t cause too much of a problem. Service at times was slow as it was very busy but also because we were a large group. We had numerous servers who tried their best to keep our drinks topped up but a few times we had to remind them about our order especially the final order before the end of happy hour but everyone enjoyed themselves.
Spice Market was one of the first restaurants we ate in when we arrived in September 2014 so it seemed fitting to have our ‘ one year in Doha’ anniversary here. We opted for the bento box which is changes regularly and offers great value for money. When we arrived at 12.30pm it was fairly quiet and got much busier as the afternoon progressed but the design of the restaurant is well done and it never feels too crowded. Traditionally a bento box is a home-made packed lunch which is Japanese in origin and created for one person. At Spice Market you select an appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and a dessert from a choice of about 3 or 4. Everything except dessert arrives at the same time in small bowls on a wooden tray. At first you may think there isn’t much food but it is certainly filling and more than adequate for lunch or dinner. You are also served poppadoms and a spicy dip while you wait for your bento box to arrive, these are very moreish and I have to admit we managed to eat two bowls of these before having some self constraint and asking them not to bring us anymore!
For my bento box I opted for the chicken and coconut soup, roasted beetroot salad, beef skewer, hammour then kulfi. Greg chose shrimp and rice soup, market salad, samosas, hammour and the kulfi. The soups were delicious, packed with chicken and shrimp and piping hot. I always find the soup here very salty possibly from the fish sauce but Gregs was less so. I love beetroot and the beetroot salad is so good I ate it very quickly, the labneh adds a nice creaminess to the salad and caramlaised crunchy chunks give it good texture. Greg loves sesame seeds so the market salad with sesame vinaigrette went down well. As my appetiser two small beef skewers were very tender and perfectly cooked and the samosas that Greg had were quite spicy and well balanced with a corriander yoghurt. I was impressed at the size of the hammour which was our entrée, it was a big portion and perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and flaked away into the not too spicy chilli sauce.
Mains over we waited for a while before asking for our desserts. I was so excited for the Ovaltine Kulfi which I was pleased to see still on the menu (next to cheesecake at the St Regis it is in my opinion the best dessert in the city and would happily go to Spice Market just for it!). Kulfi is an Indian dessert similar to ice cream, here is it spiced chocolate flavour and served with a small caramelised banana, dollop of cream and a topping of popcorn, we were surprised to see a new addition of mini liquorice torpedoes which I was hesitant about but worked really well, Greg was less convinced.The kulfi is so creamy and not too rich at the end of a quite rich, flavour packed meal.
It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday lunch time and at 98QR pp for the bento box good value. For 2 bento boxes, 2 mocktails, 2 lattes and tip it came to 350QR which I think is very reasonable. Spice Market also does Vietnamese street food menu with 8 courses for 150QR pp, a taster menu 250QR pp including a bottle of wine, other set menus and a la carte. There is also a very vibrant happy hour early evening which has a great atmosphere and is a good way to start a night out. I will continue to recommend Spice Market as it has something to suit everyone – I just hope the kulfi is never taken off the menu!