Having a visitor come to stay from home is by far the best thing about expat life. With their visit, they inject a little bit of your old home into your new, filling a hole that’s been nestling within you for far too long. They usually ADORE the things about your new city and culture that you’ve come to overlook and help you to look at your life with fresh eyes.
Oh, and they generally bring sh*t loads of chocolate and teabags along too. It’s great!
A couple of weeks ago, one of my bridesmaids, Lottie dropped into Doha for a few nights and we had the best weekend full of beach partying, boat tripping and fashion store openings. For three days straight, we chatted non-stop, about what we’d missed out on and what was to come (most of this chat seemed to gravitate towards the upcoming wedding, of course!).
But then all too soon, it was time for her to say goodbye. With a few hours left before her flight, in order to alleviate the imminent post-visitor sadness (technical term) that was about to ensue, I decided we should do something extra special.
Nestled at the very centre of the cavernous space of the iconic Museum of Islamic Art is a fine dining restaurant which has consistently been voted Doha’s best restaurant since its opening in 2012 by professionals and the public alike. It is Monégasque chef, and holder of three Michelin stars, Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East, and much like the building it lives within, it is rather special.
Having to say goodbye to a very special guest calls for a special celebration. It was only fitting that we paid Idam a little visit.
The first thing that strikes you as you step through the doors of the restaurant, is the use of space, light and interesting decor which is in keeping with the architecture of the beautiful building.
If you look up, you’re met with the stunning tessellated pattern which forms the peak of the museum’s sandstone ceiling.
Look down (if you dare!), and you get a view of the neatly stacked floors below you, and the beautiful use of symmetry and light.
The interior is designed by Philip Starck, and it contains some unique and innovative pieces, including these digital lamps, of which there are only six in the world (one of which is owned by Prince Charles, apparently!).
And yet the decor isn’t what sets Idam apart. The staff are. They are simply wonderful. Warm and friendly without being obtrusive. Knowledgeable and helpful without appearing overbearing.
Once seated in our cushioned, high-back chairs, we felt like kings as we perused the exciting menu.
At Idam, a meal isn’t just an every day occurance or something you have to do, it is a real occasion and event, starting from the moment that you take your seat.
As your glass goblet is filled (sadly with water, as Idam is a dry restaurant), nibbles and dips are brought to your table.
And then I was surprised to see our lovely waiter Abdulazim wheeling out a whole trolley fully-laden with doughy delights. It was around this point that I decided I was going to like this place.
I selected a rosemary number and classic baguette, and Rich and I both agreed that it was the best bread we had had thus far in Doha (quite a feat considering the quality of the rolls at The Anvil Rooms).
The next surprising element of our meal were the non-alcoholic cocktails (or mixed fruit juices to you and I). They were simply divine. Touches of chilli and hints of Lavendar laced the concoctions in front of us, and it took some restraint not to polish them off in one big gulp.
They were held in rather pretty receptacles too.
Now, all three of us are big believers in trying new things, and avid followers of the phrase ‘when in Rome’, so when we saw camel on the menu, we all knew we had to order it.
Tender camel with a gorgeously rich jus, duck fois gras and black truffle…
With an interesting salad…
And one of the best things I think I have ever eaten, Souffléed potatoes (or little crunchy air-filled chip pockets of heaven to you or me).
Now, while we guzzled the chips, and scraped our salad bowls clean, I am a little ashamed to admit that we all struggled with our camel. The meat was beautifully cooked to melt-in-the-mouth tenderness, but the portion was large and it was far too rich. After a while, we had to give up and admit defeat with a few morsels left on the plate (sorry Alain!). We just aren’t big fans of camel, I guess.
And now we come to my favourite part of the meal, and perhaps my favourite part of any meal I have ever eaten anywhere. This is huge chat, so allow me to explain.
Abdulazim came by with another trolley, and as he approached and its contents became clear, I could feel myself getting a little excited. The trolley was absolutely heaving with sweet treats.
Even better, this time, we didn’t have to choose. Abdulazim plated up each item one by one, and placed them neatly on our table.
Until it eventually looked like this:
Homemade chocolates, jellies, Madeleines, pistachio profiteroles, flavoured marshmallow cubes…I felt as though I had been transported to the dinner table of Willy Wonka himself!
We began to scoff, and then suddenly remembered that we hadn’t been delivered the actual desserts that we had ordered to share yet, and curbed our scavenging. Luckily, our real desserts weren’t too far behind this pre-dessert, and out came our grapefruit souffle and IDAM chocolate cube.
The souffle was the lightest and fluffiest I had ever tasted. Perfectly sweet, with a tinge of bitter grapefruit at the bottom.
This is the face of a man who is loving life after his first spoonful of souffle.
The IDAM chocolate cube has been designed to reflect the right angles of the Museum of Islamic art, and is simple to look at and yet stunningly complex inside, with several different types of chocolate layered in an intricate manner, producing truly decadent results (it’s also really pretty to photograph).
As we continued to polish off the plates in front of us, out wheeled a third and final trolley. The tea trolley!
With Morrocan Mint teas in hand, we were three very satisfied Brits.
As we said our goodbyes to Abdul and exited the building, we couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces.
Idam is a special occasion restaurant: it’s incredibly pricey but worth it for someone very special. And my friend Lottie is most definitely worth it!
PO Box 2777,
Phone: +974 4422 4488