Thanks to its diverse and food-obsessed population, you can dine around the world in one day in Doha, Qatar.
From high-end celebrity chef-helmed restaurants to tiny holes in the wall serving delicious street food – there is something for every taste and budget. Here are 10 of the best restaurants in Doha and surrounds that will introduce you to Doha’s thriving culinary scene.
This is the restaurant that changed the dining scene in Doha when it opened in 2015 – on its own purpose-built island – and it continues to set the agenda. A branch of super chef Nobu Matsushisa’s sprawling empire, this is the perfect big night out restaurant or even just a place for some quiet sundowners. The menu evolves regularly, but you can still find crowd-pleasers like the silky black miso cod and the spicy rock shrimp. Where this restaurant stands out is its ability to read the market – recent additions include a vegan menu and Omakase (chef’s choice) menus to give new diners a taste of Nobu for a reasonable price. The daily happy house from 6pm is legendary, offering bites off the menu along with cocktails like the Japanese gimlet.
Housed in a custom-built two-storey building on the grounds of the Intercontinental Doha, the design is all about the beach location, the view and a laid back vibe. La Mar is situated downstairs while upstairs is occupied by Manko, its bar counterpart. Peruvian cuisine is a unique blend of Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and South American flavours. Standout dishes include the ceviche classic, a combination of thinly sliced white fish in leche de tigre (which translates as tiger’s milk), a citrus marinade. The conchitas – scallops grilled in the shell with a cheesy/creamy sauce will also surprise you as will the traditional dish of lomo saltado, which is Peruvian steak and potatoes but laced with cumin and chilli.
A local institution located on perhaps the most crowded commercial strip in the city, Al Mirqab Street, Turkey Central proves that a great meal doesn’t have to be in a fancy or expensive establishment. Whatever time you visit, Turkey Central is pumping and its tables are heaving with diners and huge platters of mixed grills. The freshly baked khubus (like pita) bread is free with appetisers like hummus, muttabal (smoky eggplant salad) and more. The stars of the show are the grills, especially the mixed grill plate (starting at 250 gresams up to the kilo), which is piled high with boneless chicken and lamb pieces and spiced meatballs, plus salad and pickled vegetables. There are two locations, confusingly on the same street. Both are great.
It took a long time for a real Mexican restaurant to land in Doha, but celebrity chef Richard Sandoval’s Maya has gained a loyal following in a short time. The menu is very much authentic Mexican rather than Americanised TexMex. The guacamole comes on a small cake stand and is studded with coriander and just enough lime. The queso fundido is a sizzling small pan of gooey cheese and comes with a smoky morita chilli sauce. There are five different types of tacos (including one with soft shell crab) and mains include a tender carne asada (beef tenderloin) and a salmon with black mole sauce. The house-made churros, which arrive with a caramel sauce and dusted with sugar and cinnamon, are worth saving room for. The separate bar area is relaxed and serves up some lethal margaritas and great happy hour deals.
While Arnag is technically in Al Wakra, just to the south of Doha, it’s still worthy of a visit if only for its now-famous burger. The Jboor Burger – prime Angus beef with pickles, cheddar and a special sauce served in a potato bun – is named after the restaurant’s founder and is considered by many to be the best in the country. Jboor started cooking for his family and friends and Arnag is an extension of that. His Pafki chicken sliders are a cheeky nod to the childhoods of anyone who has grown up in Qatar. The chicken is coated in the cult Pafki Qatar potato chips. After your meal (and a slice of Arnaq’s version of the Japanese cheesecake) you can take an amble along the charming Al Wakra waterfront.
The country’s first vegan restaurant is something of a phenomenon – packed with happy families on weekends and health-conscious activewear types during the week. The dining room is all dark wood and greenery, and the diverse menu will go a long way to convince even the vege skeptics. The Gangsta Burger is a moreish mushroom and sunflower patty topped with quinoa crusted onion rings – pickled jalapeños and mushrooms round out the umami kick. The beetroot ravioli will have you thinking twice thanks to the tangy cashew ‘cheese’ filling. Coffee is single source and naturally organic, and their range of cold pressed juices includes a cleansing charcoal concoction. Serving sizes can be on the small side so order up.
In a city packed with Indian restaurants, Zaffran Dining Experience stands apart from the rest. While located in what is essentially a strip of offices, it bills itself as Indian fine dining. The menu, the creation of Doha-based entrepreneur Nitin Shroff, takes traditional Indian flavours and injects them with new and innovative techniques, many borrowed from molecular gastronomy. The Scientific Showpatty Chaat is a mound of textures, unveiled atop a cake stand with a billow of smoke. The restaurant recently won Best Biryani in Qatar for its decadent Butter Chicken Biryani and, in fact, there is an entire menu of this popular rice dish offered.
Located inside the Museum of Islamic Art, IDAM is a world-class dining experience. Part of the empire of Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse, the regularly changing seasonal menu blends French haute cuisine with Qatari/Arabic flavours. You can expect dishes created using ingredients such as camel meat, locally produced honey, farmhouse cheeses, spices from the nearby spice souk and seafood from the Arabian Gulf. This is one of the most expensive restaurants in Doha, but this is more than redeemed by the extra touches, like a petit four trolley for desserts and the excellent service. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a full meal, you can indulge in coffee and snacks on the terrace, which has stunning views across to the Doha skyline.
Korean food has a huge following in Qatar, thanks in part to the authentic dishes Yee Hwa has been serving up from its no-frills restaurant. Located inside an unassuming block of serviced apartments on the edge of Al Sadd, the restaurant offers kimbap (known as Korean sushi) made to order, steaming bowls of spicy seafood soup and, of course, tabletop Korean barbecue. There are also a handful of Japanese delicacies on the menu, including chawanmushi, a savoury egg custard, plus every kind of maki roll imaginable. Meals come with one of the best parts of Korean dining culture – the banchan (side dishes) change daily, but always include kimchi.
With views across Souq Waqif and across the Corniche from the restaurant’s terrace, al Shurfra has become a favourite for Qataris and travellers in the know. The menu is short and sharp, focusing on meze staples like hummus, tabbouli and hot starters like fatayer sabanegh (small pastries stuffed with spinach and sumac) and kibbeh crack wheat quenelles encasing minced meat and pine nuts. The mains include a host of grilled meats, but the tender shish tawook (marinated boneless chicken) is a favourite. The restaurant offers shisha and a range of mocktails. This place, located on the rooftop of a boutique hotel, is popular so bookings are recommended or go early for the sunset.