Do you have a favourite restaurant with a view? For me, there's something quite special about eating great food on a restaurant's open air terrace, with a breeze in your hair and a spectacular view spread out in front of you.
Now that the cooler Winter evenings are closing in on Doha, Mr Sunshine and I have been in search of the perfect outdoor spot from which to enjoy our food with a great view of the city, and we think we might have found it.
La Veranda at The Sheraton is an unassuming little restaurant, tucked away in a small building to the side of the hotel's iconic pyramid structure.
Having never visited La Veranda before, we were a little taken aback that we weren't dining closer to the main building, which is legendary in Qatar for being one of the first hotels to open its doors to Doha, and remains one of the more interesting and recognisable buildings on the skyline.
Instead, we were led down a corridor which took us past the hotel gym, where a shorts-clad group was just leaving, hot and sweaty from a workout and we wondered if we had come a little over-dressed. We had both assumed that the restaurant would deliver the typical Doha high end dining experience, but we were about to be surprised, for La Veranda is a-typical in a number of ways.
Firstly, because of this view from the veranda of the restaurant. After two years in Doha, I was yet to find a restaurant which combined proximity to the sky scrapers of the city centre, and an al fresco dining spot which allows you to fully enjoy the beauty of your location.
Secondly, because the restaurant is not trying to be something that it is not. Yes, it has a few touches of excellence which wouldn't seem out of place on the high-end dining scene in Doha. The gorgeously soft, doughy focaccia for instance, which is among the best I have tried in Doha.
But most of the food is unfussy, simple Italian cooking.
I started with a fresh juice, Mr S with a beer and we tucked into that perfect bread basket.
The third reason why La Veranda is special is that it is the only restaurant in Doha (to my knowledge) where the sea comes right up to where you are seated, which creates a really relaxing ambience.
(It's also a great excuse to gorge on even more bread...all that fresh, sea air just serves to make you even hungrier while you wait for your food to arrive).
After we (I) had polished off the bread, we were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to sample a selection of the restaurant's most popular dishes.
The Bruschetta La Veranda: cured tomatoes, smoked Provola and porcini mushroom on bruschetta, which were fresh and light, if a little lacking in seasoning.
A tasty traditional Caprese Salad, drizzled with tart olive oil.
A beef carpaccio with rocket and parmesan for Mr Sunshine, which I know he loved because as it arrived I left the table momentarily to take a couple of photos, and by the time I had returned, the plate had already been wiped clean.
While we waited for our main dishes, we watched the Dhow boats floating in and out of the harbour and chatted. After a couple of busy weeks at work, I realised that I hadn't felt that relaxed in a long time.
Mr S thought the Filetto alla Griglia (beef tenderloin) was tender but not as tasty as he would have liked.
We both agreed that the hammour fillet was a little dry and the seafood basque, although full of flavour, wasn't entirely to our liking.
The real star of the show, however, was the four cheese gnocchi. Plump little parcels were smothered in a creamy and delicious sauce, and the chef hadn't skimped on the grated truffle. Once again, Mr Sunshine practically licked this plate clean!
I had also asked for a plate of Spaghetti al Pomodoro, which was perfectly el dente. The tomatoes were delicious, but I was desperate for a little more seasoning!
After all of that pasta, we were too full for dessert, and instead took a little turn around the outside area, and enjoyed the gorgeous view one last time before we departed.
It had been a mixed experience. The space, situation and ambience of the outdoor terrace is unparalleled. The food was good, but not excellent. Would we return? Most definitely. With a group of friends on a cool winter's night, I can't think of anywhere better to enjoy a few relaxed drinks and a bowl of simple pasta.
We returned home feeling very full, and happy that we had discovered another hidden spot in Doha, just when we thought we had exhausted every dining option out there.
What other hidden gems is Doha hiding? I'd love to hear about some of your exciting finds!
We were guests of The Sheraton this time, but as always all views are my own regardless.