AUTHENTIC LEVANTINE FLAVOURS

Doha has a vast selection of restaurants, but Kay Woodward visits a desert oasis property brimming with culture, collectables and delicious cuisine.

In all of Qatar, it wouldn’t be easy to find another hotel like Al Samriya, Doha, Autograph Collection. A short drive from Doha, the hotel nestles at the heart of Al Samriya Farm. Built of bright limestone from the farm itself, it glows against the blue, blue desert sky. And its interior is no less awe-inspiring. As we step inside, I can’t help gasping at the vast, towering lobby. It’s hung with grand, glittering chandeliers while stone arches run around the two upper floors. Jazz music adds an air of relaxed calm. Food and Beverage Manager Fadel Chehadeh tells us that the furniture – including armchairs that make me wish I’d brought a very long book to read in one of them – comes from Sheikh Faisal’s private collection. He gives us a quick, tantalising tour. The hotel has 60 rooms, 27 villas, a meeting room, a spa, private cabanas, a gym overlooking one of the hotel’s swimming pools and a restaurant, which is where we’re bound today. It’s all so beautiful. It’s not difficult to work out why Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese team chose Al Samriya as their home during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Zoufa Restaurant is airy and charming, the limestone walls dotted with miniature camels and many more of Sheikh Faisal’s treasured objets d’arts. Windproof lamps hang all around. Sprays of peacock features burst from a giant decorative urn. There’s so much to admire, it’s a struggle to look at a menu overflowing with authentic Lebanese cuisine. We simply can’t choose, so we ask Chef Kasem Jouni to surprise us. He really does.

The wonderful staff bring us an array of mezze – familiar dishes that have been given the star treatment by the chef. The Warak Enab Bil Zaite – traditional, stuffed vine leaves – are wonderfully lemony and bursting with flavour. The hummus is splendid, the moutabel beyond fresh and the baba ghanoush incredibly moreish. The muhammara – an unctuous blend of breadcrumbs, walnuts, olive oil, molasses and sesame seeds – is a stunning shade of burnt ochre and a glistening swirl of perfection, scattered with jewel-like pomegranate seeds that deliver tiny bursts of flavour. The taste is out of this world.

Next, we feast upon a selection of dishes from the charcoal grill. There are succulent lamb chops, shish taouk – chicken marinated in garlic and lemon – and probably the best kebab kafta I’ve ever eaten, especially when paired with the exceptional harissa sauce. The slices of Lebanese pizza also deserve special mention. These delicate flatbreads are piled with fresh, mouth-watering vegetables that need to be tasted to be believed.

We can’t really fit in a dessert, but thank goodness we do. The muhalabieh is a multi-layered concoction of some considerable genius. A layer of zingy passion fruit is topped with smooth, creamy rice pudding that’s topped with crunchy pistachios. Mmm, just, mmm.

Finally – really, this time – we sip the restaurant’s digestif. An aromatic blend of warm water and rose water, it’s a delightful final curtain to a dazzling culinary display. For guests staying at the hotel, it doesn’t have to end here. The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum – home to an eclectic collection of classic cars, boats, aeroplanes, jewellery and so much more – is just walking distance away. So is Al Samriya Equestrian Centre and its beautiful Arabian horses; guests can ride around the farm or even take a riding lesson or two. We peek inside one of the suites – it’s gorgeous – and agree that Al Samriya, Doha, Autograph Collection is the perfect getaway for those looking for a break that’s a little out of the ordinary. And it’s not even a plane ride away.

For more information or to make a reservation,
please call Zoufa at Al Samriya, Doha, Autograph Collection on 4430 9777.
@zoufarestaurant
@alsamriyahotel

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