SHARED PLATES FOR ALL PALATES

For a Levantine feast, Ailsa Whyatt heads to Antika, an eatery that offers flavourful dishes and themed nights with exciting live entertainment.

It’s Wednesday evening when we arrive at the unassuming basement entrance to Antika – Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha. There is, however, nothing unassuming about this place. A stunning, high-domed ceiling with all the trimmings of Levantine grandeur awaits us. There are Arabic lanterns, traditional pottery, teal walls…there’s also an enormous stage, ready for Antika’s trademark live entertainment. Tonight, 500 guests will be welcomed to catch up with friends, share food and dance the night away.

We are whisked through the plush interior to the terrace, which overlooks the sights and lights of The Pearl and Lusail. With sultry lighting, greenery and awnings, it’s a terrace like no other.

Deep-house vibes mixed with live musicians are the perfect backdrop against which to relax, sip a mixologist’s concoction and enjoy the views. Head Chef Hossein Kattan explains the sharing concept and the roots of Antika’s foundations. This is no ordinary menu – there are twists and turns adding excitement and a touch of the Orient to many of our wellknown favourites. Sharing food is a way of life in this part of the world, and goodness me, there is plenty to share!

Our host, Housni, brings plate after plate of Levantine fare – Mezze on crockery bearing the trademark patterning of this wonderful region. Our food is scattered with pomegranate seeds – the jewels of Levantine cuisine. And there are further culinary gems to come. The Labneh Makdous hides some delicate aubergine chunks and the unmistakable but wonderful hint of green chilli, topped with walnuts for added crunch. You can taste the green of the chilli, but not the heat…it is wonderful.

Some slightly off-road, and extremely delicious additions to the menu include the White Mushrooms in Urchin Cream (creamy mushrooms blanketed in a duvet of cheesy goodness), Akkawi Swiss Balls (a gooey blend of cheeses, drizzled in red pepper sauce), and Grilled Halloumi (pesto-marinated grilled halloumi, served with gently roasted, succulent cherry tomatoes and a touch of basil to round it off ). Did I mention I am a fan of cheese?!

Zaatar and Pomegranate Labneh Dip, Infused Hummus with Lemon Peels, Shawarma Chicken Roll with Tzaziki (plus the beef variant) are swiftly brought to our table, and just as swiftly devoured. One of my favourite things about Levantine food is the colourful array of flavours and textures you get with a salad. Chef Hossein knows his salads. His Yuzu Tabbouleh contains all the trappings of tradition, but with a fresh yuzu tang that is both unexpected and rather delightful.

Next, there’s Grilled Halloumi with Soujouk chips. Please order it just for the stunning addition of the Granny Smith apples, which lift the salad, cutting through the heartier contrasting elements. Abundant curls of toasted pitta bread, lightly drizzled with pomegranate molasses, rest atop the spectacular Crunchy Fattoush with Roasted Truffle Beetroot. The salad is fresh, lightly dressed, and the beetroot is a superb addition. I could eat it in swathes.

From the Raw Bar we try a delectable Salmon Ceviche – melt-in-themouth salmon on beautifully presented wasabi and avocado mousse. The gentle kick of the wasabi is tempered by the cool avocado. It’s perfect.

“Shall I bring out the main courses?” asks the ever-attentive Housni. Gosh, there’s more? First up is Braised Lamb Shank, artfully positioned on a bed of freekeh – a stalwart of Middle Eastern cooking, paired with a garlic and herb drizzle for full flavour and colour.

If you go into Antika without ordering the Sayadieh Risotto, your senses may never forgive you. Notes of cumin warm this luscious and silky risotto, with tender chunks of hammour crowned with delicate onion crisps. It is divine.

Pistachios are the river that runs through our desserts. We try the Antika Chocolate Cake (a sumptuous and unmistakeably nutty fondant) and the Kanafeh (do not overlook the sugar syrup – it is the glue that binds the entire dessert into a heavenly miscellany of pistachio, cheese and crumblelike topping). The Pain Perdu (a decadent dough soaked in cream for a mere 12 hours, strained then baked, leaving it both rich and somehow also fluffy). My personal dessert highlight, however, is the Ashta Ice Cream.

For the uninitiated, ashta is essentially a Levantine version of clotted cream. It’s gently perfumed with rose and encrusted with pistachio crumbs on feather-light candy floss. Why do I not have more space in my stomach?!

Dining at Antika is not just a meal; it’s an experience. Whether you are looking for chill-out vibes on the terrace, a feast with friends or a full-on party that will have you dancing in your shoes until 2am, Antika has it all. With a different theme every night, you could come daily to experience something different. There is also enough food on the menu to ensure you would then have time to try everything!

For more information or to make a reservation, please call Antika on 7794 1838.

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