Picture the scene: Rich and I had set out to Doha's West Bay area to grab a bite to eat in Gate Mall, which we had never visited before. The mall describes itself as a 'merging point of high-end fashion, art and cultures, holding the promise of complete luxury' - oo-er! And it's safe to say that it didn't sell itself short. Within 20 minutes of walking up and down the brightly-lit corridors of this Middle Eastern shopping centre in the heart of the Arabian desert on the hunt for a suitable supper venue, we had been confronted with shops, cafes and art exhibits from all over Europe, America and Australasia. We really could have been anywhere in the world.
It all started with a peruse around the Gate Mall art gallery, where there was a joint display by Crystal Caviar and Venini on show.
Venini is a Murano (the famous glass-producing island off the Venetian coast) based brand with a 90-year old history which is incredibly famous the world over - with pieces exhibited in the likes of The Met in NYC and the V&A Museum in London.
Colours, shapes and perspective make the pieces really unique and interesting.
Notice that I captured the exact moment that the shop assistant told Rich the price tag - timing is everything folks!
However, for me, Crystal Caviar was the real winner of the two. A pioneer in crystal glass design and innovation from the Czech Republic, this brand produces truly unique pieces of art which adorn the luxurious interiors of many a 5-star hotel, yacht, private residence and aircraft... But I like them simply because they're fun.
Next up, we headed for what we thought would be a more authentically Arabic experience as we entered the 'Salam' department store...but instead we found ourselves reminiscing about our home city of London as we lusted over their huge Burberry display.
Then as we left, I spotted the little American beacon of light that is the Stuart Weitzman shop, and
popped in spent the next 45 minutes in there trying on every single boot they have in stock. I know, bad girlfriend! But boots are like an addiction to me. Once I start I can't stop.
I eventually alighted on these over the knee beauties (booties). Whaddya think?
The shop assistant pointed out that these usually come a little further up the thigh than they do on me...oh, the joys of being a 5'11" giraffe.
All this shoe shopping was hungry work. Luckily, we rounded the corner and found ourselves at the Aussie delight, Jones The Grocer.
Now my Australian desk mate, Toufik reliably informs me that Jones' didn't do too well in Oz. People just weren't willing to pay a premium for what is essentially 'cafe style' food, no matter how pretty it's dressed up. However, out here in Doha, this kind of food is harder to come by, and in comparison to what we're used to, is also cheap as chips. It's amazing how everything is comparative.
As well as a bustling cafe, it also has a deli and a drinks station.
But the best discovery of all was that it was Truffle Month!
You should all know by now how I love a good truffle-infused dish...so a whole list of truffle-infused dishes is pretty much my heaven.
It was extremely hard to choose from this list of perfection, but we eventually plumped for the Mushroom Cappuccino with truffle cream and Thai-style crab cakes with corn salsa (and truffle weirdly enough!) to start, followed by the braised beef tossed in linguini with truffle oil and Grilled sirloin steak with truffled mash for our mains.
The starters were both delicate and delicious.
The mains a little more disappointing, but we put this down to being so used to 5* hotel food. I seriously question how we're ever going to go back to 'normal' society if we ever move elsewhere!
Now, when we had finished our supper, we decided we really had to return to a special place that had caught our eye on our way in.
A year last February, on our very first Valentines Day together, Rich treated me to a romantic weekend in Paris. We did all the usual touristy things like trotting around the Louvre, taking pics of Notre Dam, heading to the Eiffel Tower for sunset... but arguably, our favourite thing amongst all of this were our trips to Angelina on Rue de Rivoli for their famous thick and creamy hot chocolate and divine cakes.
Rich enjoying the decadent ambiance of the Parisian Angelina all those months ago.
Who knew there was an Angelina right there in Gate Mall? A little piece of Paris on our doorstep.
It would have been rude not to step inside for pudding.
I watched Rich pour the dreamy hot chocolate into my mug for me.
You know you're enjoying a hot chocolate when you don't even care about the sudden appearance of a creamy moustache.
Next came the infamous 'Le Mont Blanc' - a creamy pudding smothered in chestnut puree.
It was just as good as we remembered.
You also know a pudding must be OK when it makes Rich pull this face.
This is about as happy as Rich gets in photos, so enjoy it.
We left Gate Mall feeling full to the brim (quite literally) of worldly culture.
Until we stepped out into the sticky, Doha air once more, jumped into our waiting Uber taxi and sped off through our very modern, very uniquely Middle Eastern city towards home.