I always look forward to Ramadan in Doha. For those that are celebrating the Holy Month, it means four long weeks of fasting during daylight hours, and for non-Muslims, out of respect, there is no eating or drinking in public during this time. However, come sunset, Qataris and expats alike pour into hotels and restaurants to break their fast together at ‘Iftar’. With family, festivities and lots and lots of food on the agenda, there isn’t much not to like.
Last year, I picked my very favourite Iftar, and my top two places to enjoy the nighttime / early morning meal of Sohour, but this year we have been to so many that I have found it impossible to narrow it down to just one or two. Instead, here is my pick of the Iftars for 2016, and the reasons why I think you should head along.
Best Authentically Qatari Experience
Intercontinental Doha The City
As you enter the atmospheric Al Jawhara Pavilion, the sumptuous fabrics, rich colours and ornate decorations make you feel as though you are walking into a Sheikh’s palace. The Arabic-inspired food at each of the stations which line the corridor outside are perfectly executed and authentic. The waiting staff give you a warm and typically Arab welcome, thoughtfully accommodating any requests you may have, and they help to give this Iftar the family-friendly feel which put us at ease from the moment we stepped in the door. Finally, with live entertainment, Shisha and Henna painting on offer, this Iftar adds much more into the mix than just good food.
Favourite Dish: the Chicken Mulukhiya or any of the Arabic Sweets
Iftar Buffet: QAR195
Sohour a la Carte: starting from QAR180
Tip: For an extra-special occasion, book a private Majilis for QAR 500 per person, or a social Majilis for a minimum spend of QAR 300 per person.
Best for the Whole Family
Cool de Sac
One of Medina Centrale on The Pearl’s most exciting new openings, Cool de Sac is a restaurant and fun-filled entertainment centre for children of all ages. This Ramadan, Cool de Sac is offering something for the whole family, as a diverse Iftar menu is available, with different dishes for every night of the week, which can be enjoyed while your youngsters get involved in activities at any of the seven different play stations. From face painting to ball pits; computer games to lego, there really is something for every child. And for the adults, the food is surprisingly good!
Favourite Dish: the Meat Sambousek
Iftar a la Carte: QAR 150 per person
Tip: Arrive early so that the kids can take full advantage of the variety of interactive entertainment options available.
The Marsa Malaz Kempinski
I was delighted to discover that the food stations at the Marsa Malaz Iftar were just as varied as they were last year. This hotel’s ‘palatial’ offering includes live sushi, wok, shawarma and pasta stations; plentiful salads and carvery meats; clay pot Arabic dishes and curries; Mezzes from Al Sufra; and a vast selection of sweets, including some of Cafe Murano’s delectable specialities. Returning from the buffet at one point in the evening, my plate contained food from three different continents. The Marsa Malaz doesn’t do anything by halves, and this Iftar is no exception.
Favourite dish: Because the sushi and sashimi is assembled by the dedicated sushi chef as the night goes on, I challenge you to find a tastier and fresher offering at any other Iftar.
Iftar buffet: QAR 240
Sohour buffet: QAR 290
Tip: If you aren’t fasting, skip lunch to leave enough space to try a bit of everything.
The Grand Hyatt Doha
The Grand Hyatt have scaled back on the decor of their Ramadanak Tent a little compared to last year, but they are still offering an extensive spread. However, the real appeal of this Iftar is the tremendous value of your meal if you take advantage of the various deals that are on offer. Not only is there a Buy One Get One Free offer in this month’s deals on The Entertainer App, but if you book online you can book an Iftar or Suhour for five guests and only pay for four. However, this second offer is only valid until tomorrow so you’ll have to hurry!
Favourite dish: Kadai Paneer
Iftar buffet: QAR 220
Sohour buffet: QAR 200
Tip: Order shisha following your meal; some claim it’s the best in town!
Best for Cheap Eats
If you love Lebanese cuisine, but don’t love paying the hefty price tags associated with some of the five star hotels’ Iftars, then head to Remman Cafe to break your fast this Ramadan. Not only is there an extensive a la Carte menu featuring hot and cold mezze, soups, mixed pies, main courses and sweets, but you can eat your fill in bright and sociable surroundings without breaking the bank.
Favourite dish: All of the cold mezze. I haven’t had Houmous, Mouttabal, Fattouch and Mohammara quite like that in a long time!
Iftar a la Carte: QAR 90
Sohour a la Carte: QAR 90
Tip: Save space to pop next door to Mokarabia coffee house after your meal: the art and decor is so Instagrammable, and the desserts are to die for.
Best Overall Experience
The St Regis Doha
The St Regis Ramadan Souq in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom will quite literally stun you. This is not just an Iftar buffet, but a whole Ramadan experience, with food stalls and live cooking stations decked out to look like the market stalls of a traditional Souq. As you wander around these ‘streets’, many a delight awaits you, from local specialities to a broad range of contemporary cuisine from around the globe. World class entertainment, and a broad shisha menu brings the sights and sounds of the Souq alive, and you will find yourself wanting to linger for as long as you are able to soak up the atmosphere.
Favourite dish: Butter chicken
Iftar buffet: QAR 230
Suhour buffet: QAR 290
Tip: Want to keep up with the European Championship while you eat? Instead of enjoying your Suhour in the ballroom, head to the St Regis’ other location at Al Gassar to take advantage of the plasma screens and 4K match signal.
Please note that despite visiting numerous Iftars this Holy Month, I am yet to try all of them, and therefore the above recommendations are based only on those I have been able to try. Some notable Iftars not included below, but which have received high praise from other Doha foodies include the Marriott Marquis, the Westin, the W Hotel and the Four Seasons.
I was a guest of the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, the Grand Hyatt, the St Regis, Cool de Sac and Remman Cafe to sample their Iftars. All opinions are my own.
I am posting this as part of the monthly Qatar Link-Up. This month, head along to guest-host Kay’s blog to link up your post.