Amica Sicilia voyages through history over a decadent breakfast at Le Colonial, suspended between Doha’s traditional past and international present
Today, Doha is a gleaming, modern metropolis. Its landscaped seafront lined with sleek towers, the city is a crossroads for global travellers, a melting pot of cultures and an international business hub. But to truly know a city, it’s not enough to experience its present, you have to voyage into its past. So while real travel is still a fantasy, why not try time travel? And why not try it over breakfast?
Le Colonial, Doha’s first dedicated breakfast room, at the elegant Alwadi Hotel Doha MGallery, bridges two iconic neighbourhoods of this multifaceted city: one a testament to its history; the other a vision of its future. Below its shaded terrace lies the most vivid living experience of the Doha of long ago, Souq Waqif. There has been a marketplace here for more than a century. Its renovation a decade ago revived and preserved the traditional architecture of low adobe houses around hidden internal courtyards. Between them wind lanes where visitors can still buy spices and honey, artisan textiles and intricate jewellery.
In the south-west corner, the sturdy white towers of Al Koot fort stand guard over the souq, as they have for a hundred years – though now the fortress houses a museum of Qatari crafts. But though Le Colonial looks out on this timeless panorama, it does not belong to it entirely. Alwadi Hotel Doha MGallery stands on the edge of one of Doha’s newest neighbourhoods, Msheireb Downtown. This groundbreaking sustainable regeneration project has transformed the old commercial district. In Msheireb Downtown, the simple geometry of the souq turns into something utterly modern. Soaring palazzi of cream stone intersect blue sky, with patterned screens shading halfhidden leafy piazzas and gardens where fountains play – a nod to the original well and riverbed that first drew settlers here, and today give Alwadi Hotel Doha MGallery its name.
Le Colonial effortlessly fuses these two worlds. Lured by the smell of freshly baked bread, we turn the corner and find ourselves in a time capsule. Welcome to the old port of Doha, circa 1930.
Every element adds to the illusion. Vintage packing cases, trunks and valises line the walls. Their details are picked up in the stylish furniture, iron-cornered and leatherstrapped, subtly weathered as though with many climates and miles. The walls are papered and stamped with old maps of Qatar, while the floor, tiled and banded with iron, is embossed with the names of Qatar’s historic ports.
We bag a corner table on the columned and shaded balcony, the cool white lines of Msheireb Downtown to our backs, the low roofs of the souq laid out before us. Breakfast is naturally the most important meal of the day, and Le Colonial ensures all visitors start the day with style. Just as the décor unites Qatar’s past and present, the menu connects Doha to the world. Local and regional specialities are presented alongside international classics, with equal emphasis on quality, local ingredients. The viennoiserie pastries are as authentic and fresh as the za’atar manakish flatbreads, steaming from the oven. Here, brioche French toast meets its match in lemon labneh, while Belgian waffles are bested only by balaleet – a Qatari classic of fine vermicelli scented with rosewater, cardamom and saffron, set against a velvety omelette. We opt to try both faces of Le Colonial. My companion can’t resist the Parisienne breakfast, a winning combination of hearty eggs Benedict followed by delicate crêpes sucrées. I’m seduced by the Levant. Foul medames, fragrant with cumin and garlic, is finished with the playful touch of extra virgin olive oil delivered by pipette. Beside it the essential shakshouka sizzles in a cast-iron skillet, the golden yolks of perfectly poached eggs escaping into spiced tomato sauce to be mopped up with eager flatbreads.
We wash down our feast with many, many foamy cappuccinos and gorgeous freshly-squeezed juices. The classic lemon mint is bursting with green leaves, while those in need of a lift other than caffeine can’t fail to be reinvigorated by what the menu cheekily dubs ‘Proper Lemsip’: a magical elixir of orange, carrot, ginger, turmeric and honey.
Below us, life goes on, the hum of modern Doha overlaid atop an older rhythm, constant as the tides that have lapped this wide bay since the dawn of memory. Savouring our coffees, we look out from our vantage point across a city rooted in a rich history that continues to inspire and shape its future.
For reservations and more information, please call 4009 9999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org