Lemon & Mint

If Lemon & Mint did dining awards…

The last couple of years has been incredibly hard for the hospitality industry so we’re going into 2022 channeling David Chang who said that everyone should just try and support 3-4 local restaurants. Like really support them. So, much so that the staff recognize you and get to know you a little. That this action, would really help that restaurant and help them learn about what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes you get the feeling that restaurants in Qatar are trying to do something for everyone rather than being everything to the loyal few.

We’ve subconsciously supported a few local restaurants for years. Going back again and again because the food and service has really hit the spot. So, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites with you by means of a Lemon & Mint dining awards. We may have gone over the 3-4 quota but pick of any one of these and you’re in for a great experience.

Best Thai Restaurant in Qatar- Isaan at Grand Hyatt Hotel

Picture taken from Isaan’s Facebook page

Isaan thai restaurant has taken its fair share of our wages – we probably were ordering takeout from them at least once a week during lockdown. And dining in is also a great experience. You’ll enjoy fast, polite service, fresh tasty, Thai tapas (the dishes are meant for sharing) and pricing that feels spot on. They have a few promotions on every week: Curry night and Happy Hours that last longer than most. But we tend to stick to theses dishes: Gai Satay (chicken satay), Guay Tiew Kour Gai (wide flat rice noodles with romaine lettuce and chicken), Larb Ped (minced duck salad) an absolute favourite, and Nuea Pad Prik Kra-tiem (stir-fired beef with chili and sweet basil).

Best Chocolate Brownie – 100% Arabica

Hani’s gripe about 100% Arabica is that they don’t offer you the choice between their blended or their single estate coffee, and then just go with the latter and charge the extra QAR 1 for it. But he keeps going back. Mainly because it’s one of the best coffees in Msheireb Downtown, and it’s also one of the least expensive (that topic is a worth its own article).

My gripe is that the air con never seems to work that well, so if you sit inside you sweat out a few pounds, which is ideal if you opt for a sweet something along with your coffee. And that sweet something should be the Chocolate Brownie which is around QAR 12/14 (I forget) and is the densest sweet and salty fudgiest chocolate brownie you’ll ever taste. It’s got some caramel thing going on inside it too, just in case you didn’t think it was sweet enough. It’s worth the calories and the slight gripes we have. Try it!

Best Business Lunch – Cut by Wolfgang Puck at Mondrian Doha

Asparagus risotto part of the Business Lunch at Cut

Hani had a week off and we decided to just try a few business lunches. See what was out there and what we would recommend. We did two separately (New York Steak House and Olive Oil at City Centre Rotana). We also tried the Italian at Banyan Tree together (nothing much to report there).

And even if I would happily recommend Olive Oil’s at City Centre Rotana (great value and flavours) Cut at Mondrian Doha pipped the others. It felt fancy. It felt like you should be treating yourself to eating this way at least once a week because it was a food memory you want to keep reliving. Food was beautifully presented. For starters, Hani enjoyed a quinoa salad while I had the asparagus risotto. For mains: I opted for the steak with grilled avocado and vegetables, Hani went for the burger, which he devoured. And then we shared dessert, a coconut cake with fruits and berries. It was a meal that we felt very smug about when we finished. You know the type that feels like you got some incredible deal and are one of the only few to discover it. If you get the chance to actually have a lunch break, or want to impress a client or date, take them here.

Best Steak – The Butcher Shop, Villagio Mall

It took me (Nats) a while to like Butcher Shop. I have no clue why. Maybe I tried a few mediocre meals and then couldn’t understand why other people raved about it. Then I tried their Ribeye steak and jacket potato with coleslaw and now that craving comes to me every couple of weeks. It’s just very satisfying. Their pepper sauce is perfect. The location isn’t: Villaggio never feels like a place you want to go and eat. But the service and flavors enamor you and your focus is on the meal and not the slightly depressing interiors. Hani tends to order the burger, which is huge and served on a tray with fries, onion rings and coleslaw. You’re not going to leave hungry. And they cook the meat just how you asked for it: quite a rarity in Doha.

Best Negroni – Ambar, Mandarin Oriental

La Peregrina Negroni at Ambar, Mandarin Oriental Doha

I’ve never gone to Ambar and seen it busy, which is a shame because it really deserves to be buzzing. The drinks are really well priced and there’s no compromise on quality. I love Kaiken wine, and a glass of malbec that would set you back around QAR 70 a glass in another hotel is QAR 50 here. The setting is subdued and sophisticated, which makes you feel that the bill is going to make you gulp (it doesn’t) and they give those little extras (nice nuts and olives with your drinks) so your experience feels thoroughly well deserved. But the one drink that I’m going to to back for is their LA PEREGRINA, a negroni with the addition of infused olive oil. It is truly delicious. I tried sipping it slowly but it doesn’t work.

Best Arabic restaurant – Jiwan by Alain Ducasse at NMoQ

lamb and quinoa kebbeh at Jiwan restaurant

We’ve written about the virtues of Jiwan before. The setting is very calming – whether you sit inside or on the terrace – and the flavours are fresh and a little intriguing. While the ingredients are inspired by Qatar, the dishes are a reimagined into a refined version of the original to offer you a lighter, more sophisticated dish.

When I worked on the restaurant’s marketing, I’d visit on the regular and order take out to be delivered to my desk. I do miss that. Good food that you don’t feel guilty about eating. I made Hani visit and he’s a convert. I also took Hani’s parent’s last Christmas. That’s how much I like it. It’s a restaurant that should be on your radar.

Best Manakeesh – Abajour Arabic restaurant

I think we won the apartment lottery. We live opposite to Abajour so every Friday we can crawl out of bed, order our favourite manakeesh and eat it alfresco or in comfort of our living room. It never used to be as busy at it has become over the last 9 months. Every weekend it’s difficult to see a free table. Pop in for the business lunch and you’ll be shocked with the scarcity of seats. It’s obviously won a lot of people over. And rightly so. The manakeesh dough is light, the toppings generous , and the service is as quick as it can be for a packed out place. We order the zaatar, Armenian beef, the Cheese and Zaatar special (a double decker delight) and the spicy cheese (warning: that will wake your tastebuds up).

We’ve tried others and nothing really compares.

Best salads – Casper & Gambini

Believe it or not we do eat vegetables (just not nearly enough). I want one that’s going to offer lots of different textures: think creamy goats cheese, and crisp toasted walnuts. I want that pile of leaves to look as appealing as a seared steak. To offer colour and variety. Not a limp afterthought because you should include some greens. That’s why we like visit Caper & Gambini. Their salads and tartines feel well thought through. And, if you do miss the meat, you can top it up, although we’ve never felt the need.

Best gelato – Ciccolati Italiani

Once you’ve tasted Ciccolati Italiani gelato you know this is the real deal. The flavours are intense. The gelato includes the very ingredients of the flavour that you’ve ordered, not some concentrate of it. You’ll taste the coconut flesh, pistachios or hazelnuts. You’ll feel a bit guilty about the calories but that’s soon forgotten once you dig in. It’s just glorious gelato. The type that makes you want to book a trip to Italy and see if it can be beaten (I don’t think it can).

Best vibes – Maya by Chef Richard Sandoval

Go on a Tuesday night for Taco Tuesday or a Thursday for Señorita Thursday and you’ll find Maya buzzing with an energy that’s rare to find in Qatar. It’s not pretentious. The crowd is always quite varied. And the staff are always happy to help. Go on a Tuesday and dine on some delicious tapas (the street beef and duck are some of my favourites) and slurp some flavorful margarita’s (jalapeño chili and passion fruit are my drinks of choice). And you’ll have that Thursday or end of week feeling. You’ll be surrounded by people who are out and having a good time and that feeling is quite infectious.

Lemon & Mint

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