Marrakech with a Riviera Touch

A refined Moroccan menu with a French coast influence and sophisticated beach vibes is what Kay Woodward experiences at Salama.

Al Maha Island was already the ultimate destination. Awardwinning luxury restaurants line the water’s edge; a stylish beach club radiates old-world glamour; supercars purr, growl and roar; and a thrilling theme park glitters. But, fabulously, there is now yet another reason to head for the island of dreams – Salama Doha.

One of the best things about Al Maha is that you don’t need to catch a boat to get there. Instead, a palm-tree-lined boulevard curves from Lusail out to sea, and we glide along it, revelling in the sheer glitz. Could Salama Doha be anywhere more perfect? In short, no. The restaurant shares an entrance with the Bagatelle Beach Club – with its palm trees, striped sunbeds and white sunshades, it’s so chic it hurts – and overlooks the gently lapping sea.

The exterior is splendid, with grand arches and delicate fretwork. A huge, sturdy wooden door swings wide and we are welcomed inside to gaze in awe at the restaurant itself. Burnt sienna paintwork creates a warm backdrop for a cornucopia of filigree lampshades, with a magnificent chandelier centre stage. Parlour palms and Moroccan cushions are dotted here and there, while the seating is laid back and insanely comfortable. The staff are incredibly helpful and friendly. Rio, our server, finds us the perfect table and, when we’re dazzled by the menu, he suggests dishes he thinks we might enjoy.

We begin with a dish that perfectly showcases Salama’s ethos – Moroccan food with a Riviera twist. Here, the traditional Baba Ganoush has been totally reimagined in a deconstructed dish that combines texture and taste. A layer of a smoky aubergine purée is topped with creamy Burrata, then decorated with avocado swirls, chickpeas and pomegranate seeds. It tastes exactly as wonderful as it looks.

We try a duo of salads. The first doesn’t just use all of the vowels in the alphabet; it’s delicious, too. Salad Mechouia is a glorious tumble of roasted peppers and tomatoes, shining with silky olive oil. It’s perfect scooped up with Arabic bread. But if you’re a fan of stretchy, creamy Italian cheese, don’t miss the Stracciatella Cherry Tomatoes. Silky Stracciatella, studded with firm tomatoes and laced with emerald-hued basil oil, is satisfying, comforting and best shared.

The beef skewers are juicy, chargrilled and so tasty. Then there’s Tuna Tartare. I dive in. The tuna is delicate, and the flavours are divine. Glistening pink tuna, fresh dill, pine nuts, avocado oil and teriyaki sauce? Yes, please. Rio tells us that they’re often asked why this beautiful starter is on the menu. “It’s because we’re not a traditional Moroccan restaurant,” he says with a smile. I’m beginning to think this is my favourite type of restaurant ever.

And this is before we experience the Chicken Briouate. A filo-pastry-wrapped parcel of shredded chicken dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon, it’s piquant, sweet and savoury. If you’re vegetarian, the Goat Cheese and Honey Briouate is no less impressive. Stuffed with goat’s cheese, drizzled with honey and decorated with sprigs of mint, these are quite simply marvellous.

We are lucky enough to meet Chef Ramdane Djebarri, who brings with him a wealth of world-class experience. His impressive CV includes Momo at the Souk Restaurant in Beirut and Mamounia in Knightsbridge, London, where he was head chef. A consummate professional who’s truly passionate about what he creates, Ramdane is clearly thrilled to be at the helm of Salama’s first international restaurant.

Next, we have a Tale of Two Tagines; both opened with a touch of theatre to reveal entirely different flavour sensations. The Chicken Tagine is cooked with potatoes, olives and preserved lemons and is truly savoury. On the flipside, the Lamb Tagine is all about the prunes, pears, apricots and almonds and is – you’ve guessed it – sweet. Unsurprisingly, they are both delicious.

Even though we decide that we don’t have room for one more bite, the desserts loom large and it would be rude to say no. The Mango Panna Cotta is a symphony of textures. I urge you to try it. The Warm Salama Cookie topped with vanilla and salted caramel ice cream is probably as big as my head. Bring friends to help you finish it. But our winning dessert is the Orange Salad. After a meal as flavour-filled as this one, the orange granita and basil oil concoction is eye-opening and palate-cleansing and leaves us feeling refreshed and ready to start again. Almost.

Finally, it’s time for a time-honoured Salama tradition. Our hands are sprinkled with a few drops of orange blossom oil. We rub to release the aroma. Then we sip hot Moroccan tea. Mmm…perfect.

Famous for its Moroccan and Mediterranean specialities, the original Salama in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera has been wowing diners since the eve of the 21st century. A few years later, a second restaurant along the coast in Cannes boosted Salama’s success. Now, it’s Doha’s turn to experience Moroccan cuisine with a Riviera touch. Wend your way to Al Maha Island and you can enjoy it too.

For more information or to make a reservation,
please call Salama on 5111 0020.
@salamadoha_official

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