Sunday, December 6, 2009
A restaurant review
I had to write a review for my course and I thought of sharing it here:
Review: Al Koot Café
Location: Souq Waqif, near Qatar Central Bank, Doha
Sindhu visits AL Koot Café situated in Souq Waqif and finds herself in an Arabian fairy tale, horses, hookahs, exotic herbs et all.
I am a born multi-tasker. I read in the loo, I read while feeding my kids. I check mails while attending meetings; I open two different online editions of newspapers while I work on articles. And now when the idea of writing a review popped up while I was trying to fix a meeting for a story, my brains worked overtime and I plotted and schemed to finish two things at a time. Have the interview with the Architect for a story I was doing at a café that I intend to review. And so here I am, notepad in hand, questions jotted down and the tape recorder running with Simon Gathercole, Associate Director of Allies and Morrison, Architects, beside me and our photographer, Sampath, in a world of his own, clicking away. While Sampath tries to get the best picture, I judge every nook and corner of Al Koot Café in Souq Waqif.
But I cannot talk of the café without speaking more of the Souq, where the café is situated. Enter Souq Waqif and you feel that you have gone back in time. Stone pavements meander through forts clustered in an odd progression that form a beautiful picture. Merchants roam around the place, mixing with a steady flow of tourist, carting merchandise in ancient small steel carts. Soldiers on Arabian steeds trot around the place adding to the Arabic ambience. But aren't this a common sight in a Middle Eastern country, one would quip. No, not in Doha, would answer any resident of this place. Qatar is a country that has progressed leaps and bounds banking on its hydrocarbon resources, seen as a modern country with glass buildings lining the horizon, like any other country with little or no cultural imprint. But with Souq Waqif, it seems as if the country is slowly waking up to revive old customs and traditions.
Coming back to Al Koot Café, situated in one of the side lanes of the Souq, it fits snuggly into the cultural role that it has to play. Maroon tinged glass lanterns hang down the entrance lined with hookas. Simon opts for the cane chairs outside and from this vantage point I take in the surrounding. We start with the interview and then comes the efficient waitress, Dalia, who takes our orders. Come to think of it, the order did take a while to materialise but then, this is not a place to drink a cappuccino in a jiffy. Come here only if you have the whole evening free, to relax, smoke a hookah and just breathe in. The smell of exotic herbs fills the air with the hookah fumes adding to the 'souq' aura.
Our cappuccino arrives tasting like it should, strong, and hot. Sampath sips a mint lime and declares it as excellent. While he takes more pictures of Simon, I pop inside and look around, the same Arabic flavour continues though the seating is huge comfy red cushioned ones with glass lanterns lighting every nook of the small café. I talk to Jherald, who is in charge at the cashier's desk that is lined with cookies and sweets. I ask for a menu card and Jherald says they don't have any.
"But we can make any juice you want, any mix," he declares.
Al Koot is new, just three months old, in this surrounding and gets packed during weekends according to Jherald.
The interview is done, the bills arrive, a tad expensive I reflect, but my photographer gently reminds me, "Half of what you paid was for the ambience."