With Ramadan, and the associated annual restaurant shut-down rapidly approaching, I'm on a mission to uncover the best fine dining restaurants that Doha has to offer - and over the next 3 weeks, I'll be sharing my discoveries with you along the way.
We start with an absolute stunner of a restaurant at number six: the very lovely La Mer on the 23rd floor of the Ritz Carlton, Doha.
It didn't surprise me to hear that La Mer recently won Doha's best afternoon tea for the second year running in the Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards 2015, because if you are looking for a relaxing few hours of cake and tea, then this place has the whole package.
The spacious restaurant is characterised by elegant and traditionally French decor with mahogany in abundance. However, despite the ornate surroundings, once you are seated at your table, the only place you will be casting your eyes is out of the floor to ceiling windows in front of you. The views over The Pearl and across the Persian Gulf to the city beyond are breathtaking.
La Mer by name, La Mer by nature.
Rich and I have returned to this restaurant time and time again, and all of the staff now know us by name. I have never had such a friendly and warm welcome from a restaurant I have eaten at anywhere else in the world, and to us, this is one of La Mer's major selling points.
Oh yeah, and you won't be disappointed by the food either.
An extensive tea menu accompanies the afternoon tea selection, with the traditional English Breakfast 'St James' sitting alongside some more interesting blends such as a Saffron Chai and 'Oriental Princess' which is a heady blend of blue tea, liquorice and vanilla.
The gorgeous silver afternoon tea stands are rather petit, but the whole ensemble is quite filling enough for one. You might be asking for a top-up of the beautifully buttery mini scones however, as they are more-ish to the extreme.
We opted for the Royal Afternoon Tea, which for 50QAR more than the Vintage, includes a glass of sparkling rosé.
I was really taken with how a French restaurant in Qatar has managed to produce a very British afternoon tea which is up there with London staples Claridges and Brown's in terms of quality and attention to detail...but then, isn't this what The Ritz is globally renowned for?!
My only sticking point? I am a huge clotted cream fiend and like to smother it aaaall over my scones, so we could have done with a little more than this teeny scoop of cream alongside our miniature pot of Tiptree jam and equally tiny spoonful of lemon curd. However, once we'd scraped our dishes, more was promptly fetched, and we continued to gorge...
After we'd had our fill of scones and cake, there was nothing for it but to have a brisk but contented stroll through the hotel grounds to walk it all off.
Now, believe it or not, afternoon tea isn't the best thing that La Mer offers. It's actually got a whole lot more going for it which is far more enticing to the Doha foodie. And it's all because of this man:
Chef William Khala came over to La Mer from Canada about a year ago, and has since made it his mission to revolutionise the evening menu, to great accolade. He specialises in using well-known ingredients in surprising ways, and it is obvious that he rather enjoys a little shock and awe amongst his diners when the real make-up of the dish in front of them is revealed.
I was recently invited, alongside some other Doha-based bloggers to sample a blind tasting menu at La Mer (a.k.a. a Chef Khala special treat).
We started with a traditional Qatari welcome - a date...with a not-so-traditional foie gras filling.
Gerald (Boulangerry) was quite taken with it.
So far, so Khala.
Next up was Foie Gras Torchon, accompanied by cocoa, apricot and pistachio granola, which I failed to get a photo of because I accidentally licked my plate clean before I got a chance.
And then came the Scallops.
Surrounded by a ring of raw cauliflower couscous, Dukkah, roasted almonds and hibiscus, the combination of textures and flavours was divine.
The next course was Black Halibut.
I loved the mixture of ingredients that came with this perfectly cooked fish. The celeriac puree, morel mushrooms, celery leaves and truffle air gave the dish an earthy and wholesome flavour.
The star of the show however, was the Duck Breast.
Sitting on a bed of seeds, with a smear of sweet potato puree and a crispy outer skin, this piece of duck was one of the tastiest and most succulent pieces of meat I have ever eaten.
I was very excited when for dessert, Chef Khala brought out his famous Chocolate Around The World.
Hot, molten chocolate is poured over a chocolate lid holding a scoop of chocolate mousse, until it all falls in on itself, into the glass bowl below which is housing yet more chocolate in various different forms. Heaven in a fish bowl.
We finished the evening in the same way that I finish every evening at La Mer - with huge smiles on our faces, still chattering away about the uniqueness of the meal we'd just had.
I was a guest of Ahlan! Magazine for this event.
Last but most certainly not least, La Mer offers a series of very exciting food and wine pairing evenings which everyone from the casual foodie right up to the most discerning diner will enjoy. You can read all about what these nights entail here and here.
These are just a handful of the reasons why I think La Mer is an unmissable fine dining hotspot in Doha. Head over there to experience it for yourself and sample some extraordinary Khala-cuisine (and be sure to have a good old natter with the lovely staff while you're at it).
Have you been to La Mer since Chef Khala took over? What did you think of the food?
23rd Floor, The Ritz Carlton Hotel
West Bay Lagoon,
+974 4484 8000