Cooking is a way of saying I love you
So when we received an invitation to lunch at Pampano by Hospitality Development Company (the lovely people that run the hospitality aspects of some of the restaurants on my beautiful island home, The Pearl), we were delighted to accept.
Pampano is the brainchild of Chef Richard Sandoval; an award-winning restaurant inspired by traditional coastal Mexican cuisine. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a special occasion, high end fine dining experience, but an accessible, family-orientated restaurant with a relaxed, friendly and vibrant feel.
And a view to die for...
We sat out on Pampano's large marina-side terrace for a few hours of chatting and filming with HDC, on the most beautiful warm winter's afternoon. I love this time of year in Qatar, when the sky is still a vibrant blue and it's warm enough to sit outside, but there is a slight breeze in the air taking the edge off the strong desert sun.
Rich and I had wandered past this place many times on our way to grab breakfast from Alison Nelson's Chocolate Cafe, but we were yet to step inside. It's an easy place to miss, as the terrace is so large, meaning the main sign for the restaurant is tucked away. Nevertheless, Pampano is starting to be noticed in Doha as one of 'the' places to go - and for good reason.
Their Guacamole is entirely unique, with innovative twists such as a dusting of grated halloumi cheese...
Or a smattering of pomegranate and chopped strawberries.
So fresh, creamy and delicious.
Their salads are also interesting. Before this next dish arrived, it was described to me as 'green salad'. Not much to write home about. But hidden under those simple green leaves were crumbled morsels of feta, flaked sweet almonds and cranberries, with a divine balsamic-sesame dressing. I've never eaten a salad which zinged with taste in the way that this one did.
But the main course was the real winner. Chicken Zarape may be recognisable only to the most discerning of diners, but it is a real crowd pleaser of a dish. Crisp but juicy fried chicken sits on a bed of coriander rice, topped with avocado and a creamy, spicy sauce, alongside a portion of refried beans.
Cue that cheesy grin again.
Stuffed to the brim, I wasn't sure I would be able to manage another course.
Until this bad boy was placed in front of me by the lovely Niranjan, that is. In front of me, on an arty smear of chocolate sauce, two layers of creamy, Christmassy, cinnamony rice pudding were sandwiched between layers of crisp, sugary biscuit. Suddenly, I had space for it all.
It was a great afternoon, chatting about food and Doha with these passionate ladies.
Thanks to Myra, Jawaher, Niranjen and everybody at HDC for a wonderful afternoon, and the Chocolate Bar goody bag of treats that I got to take home with me.
But most of all, thank you for introducing me to another fantastic restaurant on The Pearl.
It's going to be dangerous, as it's only about 5 strides from my very own front door...
Use the hashtag, #diningatthepearl on Twitter or Instagram to search for tips or dining options at The Pearl, Qatar.
We were a guest of Pampano this time, but all views are of course, as always, all my own.