Outside the bright lights of Doha city, hugging the C Ring Road as it bends round towards Hamad International Airport, lie two neighbourhoods whose culinary delights had, until fairly recently, remained unexplored by Mr Sunshine and me. For our first two years in Qatar we played it safe, preferring to stick to the acclaimed and popular hotel restaurants around West Bay and the marina-side eateries near to our home on The Pearl. But for months now, Al Sadd and Fereej Bin Mahmoud have been rapidly making their mark on Qatar’s food map, and several restaurants in particular are making it difficult for us to continue to overlook these residential districts when it comes to choosing a place to eat out.
Over the past year and a bit, we have made it our aim to push ourselves out of our central-Doha comfort zone to explore the places that these two neighbouring areas have to offer. Now, after extensive research in the form of many, many meals out (it’s a tough life!), in no particular order, here are my top four.
1. Mainland China
Behind an unassuming façade in Barwa Towers lies one of the most vibrant and aesthetically-pleasing restaurants to open its doors in Doha for a long time. Luckily, the artistic decor is not a ruse; the food is just as delicately beautiful as the restaurant itself. The menu is difficult to fault: extensive, diverse, interesting, refined and most importantly, value for money.
Don’t miss: the Dim Sum (particular favourites are the steamed sea bass dumplings with truffle oil), the Crispy Duck Rolls, the Steamed Seabass Fillet, the Lamb Chops in the most delicious ‘Chef’s Special Sauce’ and those so-naughty-they’re-nice Coconut Dumplings…
2. Lo Spaghetto
We first visited Lo Spaghetto on a beautiful Spring day when I was 8 months pregnant and I remember feeling slightly underwhelmed by the food but completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere. The pretty, leafy courtyard and Mediterranean vibe of the restaurant is unparalleled in Doha. Are there better Italian restaurants in Doha? Most certainly, yes. Are there any with a more authentically Italian ambience which can transport you straight to a village Trattoria in the foothills of Umbria? I’m yet to find one.
Don’t miss: the Caprése Salad and the Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino alla Gigi.
3. The French Olive
This dual Italian and French restaurant is an Instagrammer’s dream, with sparkling white tiled walls and a display of pretty blue and white patterned porcelain plates down one side; eclectic colours and character aplenty. The food is all freshly made, using only the finest ingredients, and the menu offers a healthier alternative to some of the other offerings in the vicinity. Just check the prices of each dish carefully before ordering: some are extortionate and it’s easy to get stung!
Don’t miss: the freshly baked sourdough bread and breakfast items from the on-site patisserie; the wagyu burger; any of the delicious freshly-baked pizzas.
Cicchetti Doha opened its doors earlier this year to widespread acclaim. It is part of the San Carlo group of award winning contemporary Italian restaurants, which have grown to become a £60 million restaurant empire. Over the past six months since its opening over 30,000 customers have graced the restaurant with their presence, and it’s easy to see why: its upmarket ambience and chic interiors are mirrored by a refined and sophisticated menu with a few superbly executed, completely stand-out dishes. The perfect date night venue.
Don’t miss: the Calamari; the hand made Truffle and Pecorino Ravioli; the Venetian Cod.
Best of the rest
Oishi Sushi: one of Doha’s more authentic and reasonably-priced Japanese restaurants, located in Royal Plaza Mall.
Roger’s Diner: a typically American joint with quirky interiors serving fast food and larger than life desserts.
Sabai Thai: one of Doha’s most recently-celebrated Thai restaurants, located in The Westin with an absolute killer of an express lunch deal (QAR 65 for three courses!)
Sky View: One of Qatar’s best rooftop bars, on the 11th floor of La Cigale Hotel, showcasing stunning views of the Doha skyline, and excellent sushi & sharing platters to boot.
Have you eaten at any restaurants outside of your usual stomping ground that have surprised you recently?