Elements of fire are at Astor Grill’s core. The contemporary steakhouse, with an extensive selection of grills, is what Kay Woodward enjoys this month.
If there were an award for most magnificent hotel entrance in the world, in my opinion, The St. Regis Doha would surely be a contender. I never fail to be wowed by its pure spectacle – and as we glide past the towering oryx and ascend the grand, sweeping drive – this evening proves to be no different. Tonight, we’re en route to Astor Grill, where we’ll be sampling their new dishes. Taste buds at the ready, we step into the majestic lobby, pivot left and get ready to find out more. Astor Grill is a truly classy wilderness. Imagine Inca-patterned walls, terracotta pots overflowing with backlit greenery, dancing flames and a bold, zigzag-striped floor. And that’s only the entrance. We’re led deeper inside, past the chilled cabinet of aged meat and the open kitchen that sparkles with copper cookware, until we reach probably the most perfectly designed restaurant ever. Dark hues of mahogany and roasted coffee are interspersed with lusciously leafy plants; they sprout all around and trail lazily from above. Low-level woven screens ensure that no one feels overlooked, yet every cosy corner is still a part of this buzzy and convivial restaurant.
Executive Chef Motaz Zayed’s reimagined menu is as unique as the décor while adhering to the elements of Astor Grill: dry-aged, smoked and steak. We’re served by the wonderful Rashid, who begins with an amuse bouche that encapsulates these elements in one delicious mouthful. It’s a vol-au-vent – a dainty cube of pastry filled with smoked burrata and dry-aged beef. Next, it’s a quartet of mini brioches with the smokiest, silkiest pickled aubergine mash. Both dishes are delicious.
There’s a swathe of intriguing and imaginative starters, so diverse that there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone. The Astor Salad harks back to a classic Caesar but with smoked duck breast and asparagus, featuring a mini iceberg lettuce redolent of coal. (Trust me. It works.) The Fried Wagu Wontons are so crispy, filled with minced beef and served with a barbecued soy and sesame sauce dotted with dried nori and edamame. They’re crunchy and soft and incredibly flavoursome. Meanwhile, I would seriously travel the length of Qatar for the Seabass Ceviche, which is served with wasabi leaves and horseradish aioli. But there’s also the Warm Octopus Carpaccio made with octopus rings, a constellation of chives, pickled peppers, micro leaves, blackened croutons and smoked aubergine tartare finish the dish.
Senior mixologist Kev brings an Astor Mule mocktail in a glistening copper mug, where cinnamon and mint burst out of a heap of crushed ice. The drink arrives in a French press, which he plunges before pouring over the ice. The beverage is created using lime juice, ginger, spices, bay leaves and brown sugar and is highly recommended. And there are many more showstoppers to choose from.
I can’t think of a better way of showcasing Astor Grill’s beloved Josper charcoal oven than the mains on skewers. From the Charcoaled Corn-Fed Chicken and the Atlantic White Fish to the Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak and the melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu Ribeye, each is a masterpiece. A selection of sauces is the perfect accompaniment. The Astor sauce is piquant and delicious, while I simply adore the Roquefort with its depth of flavour and unbelievable unctuousness. Special mention must go to the bubbling Corn, Spinach Parmigiano Gratin, Broccoli and Mushroom Pot. And what is a steak without perfectly cooked and seasoned hand-cut French fries? There’s no need to wonder because they’re on the menu too. Executive Chef Motaz Zayed explains that “elements of fire, wood and charcoal” feature throughout his menu. He’s obviously very proud of the theme and so he should be. While these elements provide a rich seam of flavour, they never overwhelm.
Desserts arrive in a bubbling mist of dry ice. Profiterole Noir juxtaposes smoky choux pastry with citrussy orange yoghurt ice cream in a new and entirely Astor-tastic way. Charcoaled Cheese Cake continues the theme. The Coffee Explosion is pure theatre – when coffee cremeux is poured through a chocolate lid, a seething swirl of grilled hazelnut biscuit and espresso ganache is created below. And if that’s not your thing, then there are The St. Regis bespoke ice creams and sorbets that you won’t find anywhere else. If I may, I’d like to recommend the Coffee First.
On Thursday and Friday evenings, there’s live music that – like the dryaged steak – is a cut above the rest. Never intrusive, always funky and from South American electronica to Bob Marley and jazz vibes, the music from the incredibly accomplished band creates the perfect backdrop.
As the sparkling lights of the Pearl glisten in the distance, we sip coffee and decide that, with genuinely engaging and expert staff, a lively atmosphere, superb music and, above all, culinary excellence, Astor Grill has it all. John Jacob Astor – who founded the very first St. Regis in New York City in 1904 and after whom Astor Grill was named – would be proud.