Sophia Molly: Four and Five Month Update

Monday, 22 August 2016

Wow, what a jam-packed couple of months it has been! Not only did we head to England for a second time, where we traveled the length and breadth of the country attempting to meet up with all the friends and family we could (sorry to those whom we didn't make it to this time around...we'll be back!), but these 8 weeks of Sophia's life were also jam-packed full of new developments and exciting milestone moments. I've been such a proud mummy and can't stop telling everyone about how advanced she it just me or do we all end up like this eventually when it comes to our children?!

These two months Sophia has liked:

Meeting all of her family, as well as her two god mothers

Going on weekly play dates with other babies and mummies that live near us, and being very affectionate with her new friends (there's a lot of patting and face stroking!)

Laughing hysterically at funny noises mummy and daddy make

Her first exploration of grown up food - mainly grabbing bananas out of my hands before they reach my mouth! She's also had a bit of play time with some chunks of fruit in her high chair, but hasn't fathomed that she can eat it properly yet. All of the serious weaning fun and games start next month!

Reaching out to play with new toys and staring intently at them before putting them in her mouth

Bed times, especially long, warm bubble baths and reading books in bed afterwards

These two months Sophia has disliked:

What is supposed to come after her bed time routine. Sleep has not been high on her list of priorities this month

Doing one thing for too long, or going for too long without stimulation. This girl likes constant entertainment!

Having her first ever cold, which dragged on for a good couple of weeks. Who knew a tiny baby could produce so much snot?!

These two months' firsts:

First time rolling both ways and in both directions

First time making new babbling sounds, including consonants and a new, strange shrieky noise!

First time she has been really clingy to me, and upset when I have left the room

First real round the neck cuddles

First time sitting up!

Mr Sunshine and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in July, and a couple of weeks later, the anniversary of the day we found out I was pregnant. What an awful lot can happen in a year!

Authentic Thai Cuisine at Mango Tree, London

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

It was the hottest day of the year in London. We'd ambled for miles around the Royal Parks, sweating in the midday heat, but inside the entrance to Mango Tree in Belgravia, we were provided with a very welcome respite from the glaring sunshine. The contrast of the cool, dark interior of the restaurant and chic minimalist decor which looked as though it had had the full Feng-Shui treatment was exactly what we needed.

We had come to sample the menu, as well as the new Dim Sum menu, which I was rather excited about. The London branch used to have a sister restaurant in Doha, which closed shortly before we arrived, and we had heard so many good things about it from our friends.

But before we got stuck into the food, I really needed a drink. As if reading my mind, a member of staff welcomed us with a warm 'sawadee kah!' (hello) and showed us through to the bar.

It is one of those bars which reminds me of ones I used to frequent in my younger, care free pre-child days, with comfy seating, an extensive cocktail list and lots of strategically-placed uplighting. It was reassuring to see that even though it was lunchtime on a random Monday, there were still a few office workers inside, enjoying a rather leisurely post-lunch drink - they looked quite at home and had obviously made it their local.

One delicious and fruity mocktail later, and we were shown our table to peruse the extensive menu. The starters all looked delicious, and being the indecisive people that we are, Mr Sunshine and I went for the platter to share.

Chicken satay, Thai fishcakes, prawn spring rolls and duck spring rolls were brought out on a beautifully-presented slate. I loved that the chicken had been char-grilled, giving it that lovely barbecued taste, and the accompanying satay sauce was sweet and crunchy. The Thai fishcakes were perfectly seasoned, and both Spring Rolls, although a little greasy, had that deliciously crispy bite to them.

I'm a big sauce fan, and delighted in dunking everything in the satay, plum and sweet chili sauce, and then spooning more on top. Being married is great because Mr Sunshine knows and accepts this kind of behaviour. If I was on a first date, I'm not sure my date would want to take it any further!

We were also keen on trying the Dim Sum platter, but unfortunately two of the Dim Sum that made up the selection were not available, so we opted for the Tom Yum Chicken Siu Long Bao instead.

The waiter warned us that this Dim Sum was rather sloppy to eat, and he wasn't exaggerating! They weren't the firm little parcels that I was used to, and it was difficult to bite into them without juice dripping down your chin (once again, thank goodness I wasn't on a first date!). Still, the flavour was beautiful, and I wish that we had ordered more.

Our main dishes included a twist on the classic Pad Thai and Ped Makham - roast duck on a bed of Pak Choi with aromatic tamarind sauce.

The restaurant's signature egg nest made the presentation of the noodles instantly Instagrammable, but it was the taste which really made me smile. The signature sauce was sweet and oh-so moreish, and it was like no Pad Thai I had tasted before. I also liked that various elements of the dish had been deconstructed, so you could stir in as many peanuts or bean sprouts as you desired. The duck was something which I wouldn't usually choose on a menu, as I think it's incredibly difficult to get right, but it landed on our table perfectly cooked, with just a touch of pink, and the sweet and sour Tamarind sauce tied the whole dish together beautifully.

Now I rarely order dessert on hot summer days, as it usually makes me crave an afternoon nap, but the rest of the food had been so good that when I was handed the dessert menu, I couldn't resist. In fact, we both agreed that if we were doing this properly, we probably should go the whole hog, and ended up ordering the dessert platter.

The chocolate tart, layered banana pudding and matcha ice cream were all perfectly executed and indulgent without being overly sweet or overpowering. But the real winner in the selection was the mango Crème Brûlée, which tasted heavenly. I hoovered up most of this before Mr Sunshine had even had a look in. Sorry hubby, I couldn't help myself, desserts this good weren't made to be shared!

With quality such as this, it didn't surprise me when we were told that a Mango Tree had opened in the world famous Harrods food hall, as well as another restaurant in the Mango Tree empire, Pan Chai.

With kind service, deliciously authentic Thai food and a beautiful ambience, this is one Belgravia restaurant not to be missed. Even Sophia was content throughout the entire meal, looking around at the pretty vases of flowers and dozing on and off in the serene atmosphere. And that, for me, is a real win.

Mr Sunshine says:  
"Really liked this restaurant. Good food and drinks in an effortlessly cool environment. Was a little underwhelmed by the starters and I did think the Dim Sum was a little sloppy but the main courses more than made up for it. Look forward to trying the deserts next time we go as I didn't get a look in this time round!!"

Mango Tree London | 46 Grosvenor Place SW1X 7EQ | 0207 823 1888

We were guests of Mango Tree on this occasion, but as always all views are my own.

How To Travel With A Baby

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Travel. You used to take it for granted didn't you? Those long-haul flights curled up watching back-to-back movies, a glass of champagne in hand. Hopping on and off trains, packing in all of the attractions that a place has to offer. Lazing by a hotel swimming pool all day, only popping inside for your 3pm massage appointment with bronzed Lorenzo in the spa. Maybe knocking back a few cocktails with him into the early hours. OK, I might be getting a bit carried away now, but admit it, when it came to travel, you thought of  yourself as a kind of Michael Palin - Jack Kerouac - Beyoncé hybrid didn't you?

But then you had a baby.

Mr Sunshine and I (wrongly) assumed that as expats and seasoned travelers, heading to foreign lands with a baby would be a doddle. Besides the extra little package (and all of her associated paraphernalia) that we now had to lug around with us, not much would change right? Wrong! But somehow we have managed nonetheless. Now, with four long haul and two short haul flights under her belt, our four and a half month old has wracked up more air miles than many achieve in a lifetime. She's stayed in more than one luxury five star hotel, been to an overseas wedding and battled with cold, rainy beach walks and humid lagoon strolls alike. So, what coping strategies did we put in place to make it work for us? Here's what we've learned (sometimes the hard way) about traveling with a baby.

Travel lightly

Mr S always despairs at the number of bags and cases I rock up to the front door with before a trip. I'm one of those "if I am away and realise I NEED that dress and don't have it to hand, it might ruin my holiday" kind of people (spoiler: it never does), so I end up packing for every eventuality. Add a baby into the mix and suddenly the number of plausible situations that you might find yourself in which require extra clothes/blankets/medicines/toiletries quadruples, and with it so does your baggage.

But trust me, after lumping prams, changing bags, suitcases and handbags around a country for a fortnight, you'll consider spontaneously dumping one of them in the nearest bin to lighten your load. Remember that there are very few countries these days where it is impossible to buy supplies if you find there is something that you've forgotten or run out of. Save yourself some hassle and pack as few items as your OCD will let you.

But be prepared

Speaking of OCD, if you're packing lightly it's important to consider which items you need to have close at hand at any point in time. While I was back in the UK last month, I purchased an extra large changing bag, which I used to rotate items into and out of according to the needs of the day. On traveling days with long train journeys, spare clothes and blankets were displaced in favour of extra toys and fun things to distract Sophia with, for example. One friend mentioned that they buy a few small surprises which they keep in their changing bag, such as a new toy, app download or favourite snack, which they bring out at regular intervals throughout a long journey to keep their little one entertained.

Your changing bag should never EVER be short of spare nappies or wipes however, or a portable changing mat. Sophia had one of the worst poo explosions we have ever had to deal with in a first class train carriage between London and Stroud the other week, and although we ended up having to change her nappy and clothes on one of the tables in the carriage (I'm not proud) and throw the sodden changing mat in the bin afterwards, I was so relieved that everything that we needed was easily accessible.

Choose some key baby products which make your life easy

Apart from my new, snazzy changing bag (blog post to follow on this in due course), there are three items that I could not be without on our travels.

Firstly, our Bugaboo Cameleon with Cybex car seat attachment, which meant that we could hop into and out of taxis, keeping Sophia safe in her seat while folding the chassis of the pram away neatly in the boot. The car seat also doubles up as a really handy rocker for your baby when you aren't on the move and you need to be hands free.

Secondly, I could not have dealt with all of the hassles of airport check-ins and passport control without my Boba wrap. Although we've taken our Bugaboo right up to the gate on every occasion that we've flown, there were certain times that popping Sophia into this stretchy wrap was the only option - when she was being clingy but I needed my hands free to locate our passports, for walking up and down plane aisles trying to hush her to sleep, and for the long walk to the luggage carousel before we were reunited with the pram once more. We also loved our Ergobaby Cool Air for longer walks around busy cities, across beaches and through fields.

The final product which kept us sane on numerous occasions was our Sleepyhead. It's a portable baby pod which is small enough to fit inside a large suitcase, or light enough to be carried separately as the 10kg extra piece of checked luggage you receive with most airlines for traveling with a baby. Where hotels or family members weren't able to provide cots, or Sophia simply didn't want to sleep in one which she wasn't used to, we put her down in her Sleepyhead for the night, either on the floor or between us in bed. As she is used to sleeping in it during nap times at home, it also provided an extra bit of home comfort which allowed her to settle much more quickly, giving us a handful of long, peaceful nights. Bliss!

Don't panic

Before we boarded our first plane with Sophia, I was super nervous. It was a very long, overnight flight and I was terrified that we were going to be one of "those" couples who couldn't shut their screaming child up and kept everyone awake for seven hours straight. I was pleasantly surprised when our usually nocturnal baby slept for the entire duration of the flight, and some more at the other end!

We immediately relaxed into the flight by trusting our instincts. Almost everyone that we consulted before we flew told us that if we were able to persuade her to suck on something (most likely my boob) as the plane took off and landed, then that would not only help to balance the pressure in her ears and prevent any pain, but also soothe her to sleep at the right times. I tried it and it worked. But they also said that we could not go without a baby bassinet which hooks onto the wall in front of the extra legroom seats, but our daughter downright refused to sleep in hers. I kept her on my knee for seven hours instead, where she fell asleep immediately in my arms.

Basically, traveling is just like anything else with a baby: you need to take some advice, and disregard others. Trust that you as parents know what's best for your baby. But don't, whatever you do, panic!

Besides, if all of the recommendations above fail (and let's face it, babies are never predictable, so they might), there is always something to fall back on according to a friend of mine. "Calpol and wine" was her immediate retort when I asked for her tips following a 24 hour flight to New Zealand and back with her baby. Now that is the type of advice I can (literally) get onboard with.

I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Angie, JessiEmma and guest Nano. This month's all about lessons learned while traveling. Pop your post up on any of the blogs above before the 7th!

Home Is Where Your Sunshine Is

Friday, 1 July 2016

Back in October 2013 when I was a sprightly twenty eight year old residing in London, I was getting ready to move home. Not down the road, or across town, or even to a new county. Nope, I was 'following my sunshine' half way around the world to the Middle East to be closer to the man I loved.

At this point in time, as I was saying goodbye to all that was comfortable and familiar to me, the concept of home and what it meant was really important - so much so that it inspired me to start this blog. The second post I ever wrote talked about the places and feelings that I associated with home and it was pretty clear to anyone reading that the only place I was willing to call home at that point in time was where Mr Sunshine was. I was so in love that I would probably have moved to anywhere in the world if it meant waking up with him by my side every day.

But over two and a half years as an expat, one marriage and a baby later, the way I think about home has become far more complex - and it's got me a little confused.

Home is where my friends are. London and Essex is where the oldest and closest of them live. They're the steadfast ones that I stayed up until the early hours with, snuggled in sleeping bags and chatting about boys; the ones that I snuck into clubs with underage using fake IDs and passports pinched from older siblings; the ones that I picked up the phone to first after Mr S got down on one knee. They have seen me at my very best, and have seen me at my godawful worst. Some were bridesmaids at my wedding and will be 'aunties' and godmothers to my children, and I miss them every day.

But not long after I moved I began to make new friendships in Qatar and these friends became my lifelines out here. They've celebrated some of life's biggest milestones with me. They have provided me with the support I've needed when I've felt far from home. They've baked, shopped and changed nappies for me. And they are at the centre of some of my most amusing and precious memories.

Home is where my family are. When I was new to Qatar, I missed my family terribly. I pined for all of the things that I associate with family time at home. Sunday roasts, chats over breakfast, watching films by a roaring fire, cuddles and Christmas and days out and debates. These days I still miss those things, but I miss my family for additional, and bigger reasons - for the little things they are missing out on as Sophia grows up, for the relationships that she is missing out on on a daily basis and for the support I am missing out on when I need it the most!

Now we have our own family, and Qatar is the only place we've called home. I know that when the time comes for us to leave, we will miss things associated with here too. The weather and food, days at the beach, walks around the marina. Nostalgia is the quickest way to forge a feeling of home.

Home is where I feel safe. England used to be that place for me, where everyone I met was polite, friendly and welcoming. Where neighbours were concerned with each others' welfare and whoever you were you were able to walk the streets safe from judgement or harm.

Then Sophia was born and it wasn't just about me any more. I had a mini human to keep safe. Politicians became embroiled in campaigns of hatred, Brexit happened and then we started to receive reports of racially-targetted attacks. All of a sudden, the muti-ethnic, accepting and largely crime-free society of Qatar felt a far more safe and homely place for us to raise a child.

Home is where I feel fulfilled. This has always been England for me. It has all of the things that make me feel alive. History, culture, greenery and countryside, excitement and entertainment, variety and life.

But there are of course, new things that make me feel fulfilled these days and Qatar provides them all. Having a job that challenges and excites me, and helps me to feel like I'm giving something back; being in a place which allows me to save money and to provide for our family; blogging, traveling and opening myself and my family up to opportunities that we could only have dreamed of before.

Basically I think I've come to the conclusion that home doesn't have to be just in one place, and nowhere on earth will tick all of your perfect home ideals, but instead there are opportunities to build a home wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances. Home is where your sunshine is. And even on the gloomiest of days it is possible to create your own sunshine!

When Things Are Not OK

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Earlier today I sat in the back of a taxi and cried. I haven't cried like this in a very long time, with tears flowing freely down my cheeks and deep chesty sobs wracking my entire body. The taxi driver must have thought I was mad, but thankfully he said nothing, and simply passed me a tissue box from the front seat, giving me a sympathetic smile in his rear view mirror. 

It had been a difficult afternoon: after recovering from a 24 hour sickness bug that had been doing the rounds I had decided it was probably about time I looked after my health and paid a visit to the ENT specialist that I see every now and again with periodic ear infections. He looked down his Otoscope with a grave face and told me that I should never leave it so long before coming to see him again - I had one of the worst infections he had seen in his 15 years as a doctor and I should be recovering in bed. I almost laughed - he thinks I can spend the day lounging in bed with a three month old to look after?! He obviously doesn't have children. 

With antibiotics, nasal spray and ear drops tucked under my arm, I struggled to detach Sophia's car seat from the base of her pram and get her into the waiting taxi. Still weak from sickness and lack of food, after weeks of continually telling myself I was fine, the doctor had allowed me to give in to the fact I had been ill for a long time, and I struggled to remember a time when I had felt worse. 

Still, there were two more stops I had to make before the inviting lure of home. Firstly the office where I work when I'm not on maternity leave. Since Sophia's birth, our immigration team had been trying in vain to issue a Residents Permit so that she can legally reside in this country under my sponsorship. Rejection after rejection had come through, as the Ministry of Interior requested further documents in some kind of bid to prove her (or our?!) eligibility to live in Qatar, and after eight or nine visits to the office to try to sort it out I'd finally been told we had been successful and that I could come to collect the RP. However, at the immigration desk, a stern-faced lady told me that I needed a copy of her birth certificate (which I had already provided but which they didn't seem to have on file) in order for her to issue the permit - something which they had neglected to tell me when we spoke on the phone. "It's ok, you can come back tomorrow with it!" she chirped with a smile. For the second time that day I was reminded that people who don't have babies have no idea how difficult simple daily tasks can actually be, and I gritted my teeth to prevent me from pointing out that my little RP trips to the office were verging on double figures. Crest fallen, we returned empty-handed to the waiting taxi. 

Our last stop was the supermarket.  I was dreading making this trip, because by this point Sophia was ready for a feed and fussing, but I knew that there was nothing in the fridge and if I didn't go now I wouldn't get out again until late in the afternoon and I would have to forego lunch for the third time already this week. Now shopping with a baby in a pram on the best of days is difficult, but today nothing seemed to go to plan. I forgot to pick up a basket and realised too late that they were outside the automatic one-way doors which had already closed behind me, I couldn't find anything I was looking for and my pram had suddenly decided to stop steering in a straight line. 

Weary and emotionally drained, I returned to my flat, plopped Sophia onto her playmat and collapsed on the sofa, where I spent the next five minutes lamenting my life - the list of things I had to do before I head back to England next week; the long hours that Mr Sunshine works during tournaments like the Euros and Wimbledon, leaving me to look after the baby on my own; the number of unfinished blog posts in my draft box that would never see the light of day; the number of blog and social media comments and emails waiting for me unanswered; The heaving stack of dishes by the sink and the growing pile of laundry on our dining room table and the lack of time I had to sort it out; the lack of time I had for ANYTHING come to think of it; the little sleep I'd had since Sophia came into the world; how ill and wretched I felt and how far away from the place I call home I really was.

But there was nothing else I could do other than to pick myself up and get on with things. So I sat down with Sophia and wrote this blog post. She's just finished a feed, and is smiling up at me from the crook of my arm, and I can already feel my anger, sadness and frustration melting away.
The sad fact of the matter is, a day like today isn't all that unusual when you're a new mum. As well as being the best thing in the whole wide world, parenthood can be really hard. That's why if you're a mummy, I applaud you. If you're a mummy and you live in another country to your main support network, I salute you. If you're a mummy, an expat, you're single (or without help from a significant other for any length of time), tired or ill AND you're managing to hold it all together, well then I think you deserve a goddam medal.

Follow Your Sunshine is a positive blog about positive things, but just for today I needed to get this out. And I already feel better. Business as usual will commence tomorrow!

Sophia Molly: Three Month Update

Saturday, 25 June 2016

It really is true what they say: the first three months of life with a new baby are the hardest. But with the last of those difficult, sleepless and frustrating months behind us now, Sophia has not only grown up in more ways than I could have imagined but has turned into the happiest and most contented baby I have ever known.

This month Sophia has liked: 

Swimming with mummy and daddy

Travelling in an aeroplane - she loved the gentle hum and vibrations and slept all the way to England!

Babbling away and making conversation with us, especially after a feed or when we sing to her

Chewing her hands...a lot

Falling asleep gripping onto her favourite toy - her Jellycat bunny called Rabbi.

This month Sophia has disliked:

Spitting up, which happens after nearly every feed at the moment

going for too long without a feed

Sleeping anywhere other than mummy and daddy's bed

This month's firsts:

First time meeting her grandpa when he came out to visit and first time meeting all of the Byles side of her family back home in Norfolk, as we returned to celebrate her Uncle James' wedding to Inger Johanne. I think it's safe to say that the whole family was pretty smitten!

First time rolling over from back to front in order to get closer to me and her toy bunny

First time she moved out of all of her newborn clothes and into 0-3 and some 3-6 month clothes

First time holding her head and chest up for more than a minute during tummy time

First real belly laughs

Sophia was an angel on the flight to and from England last week

She continues to change every day, and I can't wait to see how she grows and develops over the coming month. One thing is for sure, I am relieved to finally say with certainty that we are raising a very happy and bubbly little girl! While last month I felt like a bit of a failure as a mum at times, this month I have been nothing but proud of the job I'm doing. That's not to say that I haven't had my low moments! But that's one for another post...

Ramadan in Doha: My Pick of the Iftars 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I always look forward to Ramadan in Doha. For those that are celebrating the Holy Month, it means four long weeks of fasting during daylight hours, and for non-Muslims, out of respect, there is no eating or drinking in public during this time. However, come sunset, Qataris and expats alike pour into hotels and restaurants to break their fast together at 'Iftar'. With family, festivities and lots and lots of food on the agenda, there isn't much not to like.

Last year, I picked my very favourite Iftar, and my top two places to enjoy the nighttime / early morning meal of Sohour, but this year we have been to so many that I have found it impossible to narrow it down to just one or two. Instead, here is my pick of the Iftars for 2016, and the reasons why I think you should head along.

Best Authentically Qatari Experience 

Intercontinental Doha The City

As you enter the atmospheric Al Jawhara Pavilion, the sumptuous fabrics, rich colours and ornate decorations make you feel as though you are walking into a Sheikh's palace. The Arabic-inspired food at each of the stations which line the corridor outside are perfectly executed and authentic. The waiting staff give you a warm and typically Arab welcome, thoughtfully accommodating any requests you may have, and they help to give this Iftar the family-friendly feel which put us at ease from the moment we stepped in the door. Finally, with live entertainment, Shisha and Henna painting on offer, this Iftar adds much more into the mix than just good food.

Favourite Dish: the Chicken Mulukhiya or any of the Arabic Sweets
Iftar Buffet: QAR195
Sohour a la Carte: starting from QAR180

Tip: For an extra-special occasion, book a private Majilis for QAR 500 per person, or a social Majilis for a minimum spend of QAR 300 per person.

Best for the Whole Family

Cool de Sac

One of Medina Centrale on The Pearl's most exciting new openings, Cool de Sac is a restaurant and fun-filled entertainment centre for children of all ages. This Ramadan, Cool de Sac is offering something for the whole family, as a diverse Iftar menu is available, with different dishes for every night of the week, which can be enjoyed while your youngsters get involved in activities at any of the seven different play stations. From face painting to ball pits; computer games to lego, there really is something for every child. And for the adults, the food is surprisingly good!

Favourite Dish: the Meat Sambousek
Iftar a la Carte: QAR 150 per person

Tip: Arrive early so that the kids can take full advantage of the variety of interactive entertainment options available.

Best Variety

The Marsa Malaz Kempinski

I was delighted to discover that the food stations at the Marsa Malaz Iftar were just as varied as they were last year. This hotel's 'palatial' offering includes live sushi, wok, shawarma and pasta stations; plentiful salads and carvery meats; clay pot Arabic dishes and curries; Mezzes from Al Sufra; and a vast selection of sweets, including some of Cafe Murano's delectable specialities. Returning from the buffet at one point in the evening, my plate contained food from three different continents. The Marsa Malaz doesn't do anything by halves, and this Iftar is no exception. 

Favourite dish: Because the sushi and sashimi is assembled by the dedicated sushi chef as the night goes on, I challenge you to find a tastier and fresher offering at any other Iftar.
Iftar buffet: QAR 240
Sohour buffet: QAR 290

Tip: If you aren't fasting, skip lunch to leave enough space to try a bit of everything.

Best Deals

The Grand Hyatt Doha

The Grand Hyatt have scaled back on the decor of their Ramadanak Tent a little compared to last year, but they are still offering an extensive spread. However, the real appeal of this Iftar is the tremendous value of your meal if you take advantage of the various deals that are on offer. Not only is there a Buy One Get One Free offer in this month's deals on The Entertainer App, but if you book online you can book an Iftar or Suhour for five guests and only pay for four. However, this second offer is only valid until tomorrow so you'll have to hurry!

Favourite dish: Kadai Paneer
Iftar buffet: QAR 220
Sohour buffet: QAR 200

Tip: Order shisha following your meal; some claim it's the best in town!

Best for Cheap Eats

Remman Cafe

If you love Lebanese cuisine, but don't love paying the hefty price tags associated with some of the five star hotels' Iftars, then head to Remman Cafe to break your fast this Ramadan. Not only is there an extensive a la Carte menu featuring hot and cold mezze, soups, mixed pies, main courses and sweets, but you can eat your fill in bright and sociable surroundings without breaking the bank.

Favourite dish: All of the cold mezze. I haven't had Houmous, Mouttabal, Fattouch and Mohammara quite like that in a long time!
Iftar a la Carte: QAR 90
Sohour a la Carte: QAR 90

Tip: Save space to pop next door to Mokarabia coffee house after your meal: the art and decor is so Instagrammable, and the desserts are to die for.

Best Overall Experience

The St Regis Doha

The St Regis Ramadan Souq in the hotel's Grand Ballroom will quite literally stun you. This is not just an Iftar buffet, but a whole Ramadan experience, with food stalls and live cooking stations decked out to look like the market stalls of a traditional Souq. As you wander around these 'streets', many a delight awaits you, from local specialities to a broad range of contemporary cuisine from around the globe. World class entertainment, and a broad shisha menu brings the sights and sounds of the Souq alive, and you will find yourself wanting to linger for as long as you are able to soak up the atmosphere.

Favourite dish: Butter chicken
Iftar buffet: QAR 230
Suhour buffet: QAR 290

Tip: Want to keep up with the European Championship while you eat? Instead of enjoying your Suhour in the ballroom, head to the St Regis' other location at Al Gassar to take advantage of the plasma screens and 4K match signal.


Please note that despite visiting numerous Iftars this Holy Month, I am yet to try all of them, and therefore the above recommendations are based only on those I have been able to try. Some notable Iftars not included below, but which have received high praise from other Doha foodies include the Marriott Marquis, the Westin, the W Hotel and the Four Seasons. 

I was a guest of the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, the Grand Hyatt, the St Regis, Cool de Sac and Remman Cafe to sample their Iftars. All opinions are my own.

I am posting this as part of the monthly Qatar Link-Up. This month, head along to guest-host Kay's blog to link up your post.