The bar is raised for precision, ultra-luxury hospitality in Qatar as Amica Sicilia experiences the new Fairmont Doha in the iconic Katara Towers.
In the flurry of recent ambitious development in Qatar no destination has been more hotly anticipated than the twin hotel complex of Katara Towers. Its soaring double curve is inspired by the crossed scimitars of the national seal, framing the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf and demanding attention from all directions.
Rolling up the sweeping front drive, waistcoated valets step forward to relieve me of my bags and in moments, I find myself in the golden glow of the lobby of the Fairmont Doha. It’s a glorious space: walls micro-tiled in 24-carat gold, the floor curving swathes of ochre, amber and sandcoloured marble, mimicking dunes. Music rises from a limited-edition Kawai crystal grand piano, every trembling string visible, while above my head, one of the world’s tallest chandeliers at 56 metres is a cascade of the pearls which were Qatar’s original treasure.
My first stop is at Vaya!, an explosion of Latin American joie de vivre. Here, the open kitchen concept is taken to another level with no division between diners and the polished tables where the South American chefs, specially recruited by Fairmont’s culinary mastermind Dirk Haltenhof, are busy working. Most of them hail from Argentina, including Belén, who, when I arrive, is fine-tuning the heat of the wood-fired roaster and smoker.
In Vaya!’s ceviche iteration, succulent lobster is cold-cured with lime, salt and chilli, its bath of leche de tigre enriched with coconut and jewelled with roast corn, avocado and coriander oil. Beside it sits a dark sultry beauty of a plate of seared Spanish octopus and Peruvian purple potatoes.
One of Fairmont’s most daring ventures is its dedicated mixology lab, headed by Tiziano Tasso. To complete each distinct menu, Tiziano’s team have been creating their own range of artisan distillations, providing an impressive list of virgin mixology. I sample Iguazu, a lively yerba mate-infused blend. As I savour it, Belén arrives bearing the most magnificent grass-fed Tomahawk steak, fragrant with rosemary, ready to be blessed with chimichurri sauce and devoured alongside caramelised sweet potatoes.
Instead of returning to reception, I have the luxury of checking in from the comfort of my room. The door opens to reveal walls of polished chestnut-coloured wood and creamy marble, soft curves, thick carpets and a walk-in wardrobe. The quartz walls of the bathroom glow softly from within, illuminating double sinks stocked with Clarins skincare, the gold-lined shower and an interactive smart bath. In the bedroom, furnished in pale blue and cream, the stately king-sized bed is nestled in the protective curve of a shell-like cushioned headboard. The shelves are stacked with specially curated art books and the sofa curves around a table bearing homemade madeleines and fresh peach juice. But the crowning glory is that the floor-to-ceiling windows slide back to extend the space across a full-width balcony looking out across both city and sea.
At Fairmont, there’s no better way to start a new day than by sampling the caffeinated stylings of Cafés Richard, the hotel’s coffee hub. French press or aeropress, Arabic or Turkish, from Ethiopia, Sumatra or Honduras, there’s a brew for you to go with the infinite array of home-baked pastries, bread and cakes, cold cuts and fruit salads. After agonising, I opt for a Colombian Grand Cru Arabica cappuccino to complement my eggs Benedict on artisan purple cornbread.
Fortified, I go exploring. The main pool is a stylish infinity, opening generously out seawards. The gym and spa complex occupies the heart of the hotel, offering a comprehensive approach to mind and body health. The indoor pool, a dynamic community space, is backed by an integrated climbing wall; the 82-piece gym is supported by the Pillar Fitness coaching institute, which will also lead studio classes. The spa and Hammam feature separate male and female wellness complexes. And, for those guests who want an even higher level of exclusivity, Fairmont Gold is a privileged ‘hotel within a hotel’, with executive lounges, dedicated butlers and a quiet, adults-only terrace pool for exclusive use.
My wanderings lead me to the elegant surroundings of Dôme. Its glittering centrepiece is a 12-foot, walk-in glass cloche, housing the unique patisserie creations of the hotel’s expert pastry chefs. I find a sheltered nook in the landscaped tea garden beyond, looking out to sea. I’m here for the afternoon tea, an iconic meal with tea and scones – but at Dôme, rendered with playful creativity and technical innovation. It arrives with a coup-de-theatre, dry ice cascading to reveal a multitude of exquisite treats. Miniature forest-inspired eclairs filled with savoury ragu are topped with minuscule mushroom caps pickled with ponzu and lemon. A retro egg mimosa is delicately reconstructed between light brioche and cream cheese layers. But the limelight is stolen by the sweets. My personal favourites are a miniature chocolate Sachertorte with apricot replaced by tart raspberry and, best of all, a tiny bronze tower revealing a symphony in pistachio with fine layers of creamy custard, crunchy nut butter, light mousse and sweet gelee. I wash these down with smoky amber Lapsang Souchong tea from Dôme’s extensive library of Newby teas.
Is there anything more indulgent than having a spa come to your own space? My expert therapists Boom and Tika lower the lights as I slip between the warmth of fluffy towels and close my eyes as the scents of orange blossom and jasmine fill the air. Tika starts at my feet, with warm hands working up my legs to focus on the tightness in my hips and lower back. Then with deeper pressure, she works the warm oil into the major muscles of my back and shoulders, coaxing out the knots and extending my limbs. We finish with a micro-massage of my neck and scalp, releasing those infinitesimally small muscles that hold so much stress around the head, and lulling me into total relaxation in the sanctuary of my room.
I resurface just in time for dinner. The simple décor at Masala Library, clean cream warmed by inlaid brass panelling, puts the focus firmly on the food. As manager Lawrence Raj explains, this is the first outpost outside India of Jiggs Kalra, the father of modern molecular Indian cuisine. In the hands of Michelin-trained head chef Saneesh Varghese, the food here becomes sadhana, an almost spiritual meditative discipline in pursuit of true perfection. The amuse-bouche sets the tone immediately. Creamy buttermilk lassi aerated to the finest foam, barely sweet, subtly sour, just enough to tease my taste buds into action. A truly rare treat follows it: Gucchi mushroom (one of the most expensive in the world). A single perfect specimen marinated, its stem stuffed with ricotta and then roasted in the tandoor, served in wild fungi Yakhni broth with truffle malai cream. It’s one impassioned mouthful, which melts then blooms into waves of evocative umami.
The revelations keep coming. Salmon Bhel takes the fun puffed rice street-food dish and splices it with the rich butteriness of roast salmon beneath the satisfyingly bitter filigree of a charcoal crisp. Three bite-sized Kulchas (a type of leavened bread from northern India) burst open to reveal a melting middle of Wagyu beef cheek, cooked for 60 hours to a dark velvet.
The butter chicken is hand-pulled, liberating flavour from the shredded breast, which rests in a coppery Makhani foam, bringing an irresistible lightness to this creamy classic. As the knife pierces the tightly sealed bread lid of the Mughlai Lamb Dum Parda Biryani, the scents of rose and saffron rise with the steam, a tribute to Arabia. But what takes my breath away is the dessert. The dazzling sweetness of fried Jalebi reinvented as microscopic, tongue-tingling ‘caviar’, topped with a golden saffron froth floating on pistachio rabdi (a dish made with full-fat milk, sugar, cardamom and nuts) elixir. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about Indian sweets.
My senses are overwhelmed. Before I go back to the room, I descend to the garden terraces. Looking back along the promenade, the sweeping curves of Katara Towers crown the Lusail skyline like a pair of welcoming arms reaching upwards, eager and unafraid to exceed even the highest expectations.
For more information or to make a reservation,
please call Fairmont Doha on 4030 7200.