Satisfying Your Chocolate Cravings in Doha
Chocolate is a treat versatile enough to be enjoyed at every occasion and no occasion, by old and young, a delight for princes and paupers alike.
But not all chocolate is created equal.
Maya's Fondue by Omar Chatriwala
The great stuff is almost always novel, comes specially made and of course tastes drop-dead delicious. It is not always easy to find or afford, but we're lucky enough to live in a land that has done a remarkable job of attracting and hosting some of the world's best confectioners.
My top 10 list of places to get a chocolate fix in Qatar is a testament to that. Though it contains some inexpensive options, I must warn you that good chocolate usually comes from far far away, and it's not cheap.
Still, there's no need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to satisfy your sweet tooth. I haven't forgotten about you, thrifty readers - nearly all of the places on this list are happy to let you try before you buy, so bon appétit!
Ice cream, La Cigale Hotel
And they don't just do chocolate...
This Lebanese hotel boasts an impressive array of beautiful desserts, but after extensive taste-testing, I must with confidence inform you that the ice cream counter is where to go to satisfy your chocolate fix.
At La Cigale, the ice cream is made in-house (in Doha people!) and the employees serving you are always more than happy to offer up free tastes. However, it is all too easy to get carried away sampling these flavorful delights blink, and you may find yourself covered in sugar while holding five or six different empty spoons in your sticky fists.
Don't be embarrassed, and definitely try mixing flavors! For QR12 a scoop, I love pairing Cigale's bitter, woodsy dark chocolate ice cream with their flaky, creamy coconut gelato. Heaven!
Maya La Chocolaterie (Landmark Mall)
My friend Aisha recently touched down in Doha for a short layover. With only a couple hours to prove Qatar's awesomeness to her, we decided to stop at Maya. It worked! Aisha left in a heady chocolate daze that will forever color her views of this desert land.
Maya is the ultimate chocolate-lover's paradise - but only if you know what to get. Walk directly past the candy counter (though never decline free samples if an employee offers you some), slide yourself into a booth and order up some chocolate fondue one QR32 pot if there are two of you, or two pots for QR44 if three or more of you are very hungry. You may also need a bottle of water or cup of coffee to wash down all that melted Belgian chocolate.
Bonus - The employees at Maya are super-friendly, happy to make substitutions on your order and will distract your children while you chow down. Also, this eatery has a ton of sugar-free options!
Drinking chocolate, Cioconat Lounge (the Mall)
This warm concoction of melted Italian chocolate (constantly churning in a machine just to keep the thick dessert from returning to its natural solid state) is one of the most unbelievably rich foods I've ever ingested.
Imagine drinking a melted chocolate bar (or three). Imagine flavoring it with whatever your heart desires mint, vanilla, banana, cinnamon. Imagine thinking there's such a thing as too much chocolate and then bring yourself back to reality.
My advice with this drink is to take it slow either enlist a friend to help you consume it, or pack it for takeaway and eat it in installments. We dipped brownie chunks into ours, turning the drink' into an impromptu fondue. Yum.
High-end supermarket chocolate (Carrefour, Lulu, Megamart)
Hershey bars are the chocolate standard at grocery stores in the United States. They are good, but pale in comparison to the mouth-watering goodies offered in Doha's supermarkets. Here are three of my favorite sweets to reach for before heading to the checkout counter.
These boxes of Belgian seashells are my gift of preference when visiting the states every summer. Classy yet decently priced (starting at QR12 for the tiny boxes), one piece is rich enough to conquer the strongest chocolate cravings. On its website, Guylian says its signature shells are filled with a unique roasted hazelnut praline. (Is that what makes them taste so good? I thought it was magic.)
After Eight Mints
These dark chocolate, mint fondant-filled squares are the perfect dessert for anyone too stuffed to keep eating. Depending on the size of the box, this petite chocolate treat can set you back about QR20, but with tons left over for sharing. The smell alone is refreshing enough to revive me from the deepest of food comas.
Ritter Sports by Cacao Bug
Before moving to Qatar, I thought that Germany only made Audis and Volkswagens. Then I came across these QR6 bad boys - chocolate bars studded with whole almonds, coconut, marzipan or even cornflakes! Ritter Sport boasts more than two dozen types of chocolate, though I've only seen five or six types offered in Qatar. If you're looking for novelty, try the crispy yet smooth and chocolaty cornflakes bar.
Jeff de Bruges, The Boulevard (mall with BHS and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on C Ring, near Ramada)
Jeff De Bruges by Shabina Khatri
Jeff de Bruges is one of the snootier but amazingly yummy chocolate places in town. This tiny store boasts quite an array of sweets, all wrapped up in snazzy blue and brown packaging. Though the chocolate is Belgian (synonymous with best chocolate in life), the company was started by a French guy, who claims to have "combined the 'indulgence' asset of Belgium chocolate with the cocoa 'chic' of French chocolate."
You won't be offered samples unless you walk in looking like you're going to buy a lot, but the staff says ask, and you shall receive. I highly recommend the "cornets" - cones of gianduja that come in three varieties - crispy, dark chocolate and hazelnut. Damn they're good. If you're feeling decadent, get a box of chocolate. They cram about two dozen pieces into the smallest one, which retails for about QR75.
Hot chocolate, Rumaila Park (across from the Corniche)
Trying to hold onto your cash? Then Rumaila Park has a food stand that mixes up some lovely heart-warming hot chocolate. Enjoy your QR4 sugar rush while strolling around a beautiful family park, with a playground on one end and (oddly) a Roman amphitheater on the other. We like to supplement with a QR2 bag of popcorn. Talk about a cheap date!
Choco Frio, Colombiano Café (the Pearl, on C-Ring near Ramada signal, and in Ezdan Towers in West Bay)
Choco Frio by Omar Chatriwala
As the weather starts heating up, maybe it's a cold drink you crave. For QR18 (or QR20 if you want the big one), Colombiano will serve you an iced chocolate drink mixed with milk, vanilla syrup and chocolate sauce, topped with whipped cream and more sauce. Down it too fast, and you could succumb to brain freeze. But oh, what a way to go.
Teuscher (W Hotel)
Tucked into a corner of this trendy hotel is one of Qatar's best-kept secrets. Teuscher (pronounced TOY-sher) chocolates are handmade and shipped in from Switzerland each month. These beautiful bites retail for about QR6/apiece, are certified organic and have no preservatives.
To better serve their customers, Teuscher employees said they have tasted every type of chocolate in the store (imagine that job), and they'll offer up samples (more than one!) without any prodding. Their truffles ("truffe") tend to fly off the shelves, so if you get there early enough in the month then give those a try. Also worth a nibble are the date gianduja and mocha gianduja. Wowsers.
Patchi (several standalone locations throughout Doha, also in almost all of the malls)
Craving something closer to home? Patchi's delights hail from Lebanon and this company stays true to Arab hospitality, keeping those free samples flowing.
I love stopping in just to ask about their latest concoctions, and these guys never disappoint. In Patchi's world, chocolate can be filled with all kinds of weird stuff orange peels, pistachios, hazelnut and still taste amazingly divine.
Chocolate Fondant, La Mer, Ritz Carlton
Like nearly every fancy restaurant, this French place tends to serve tiny amounts of food on very large plates. But the chef seems to have wisely made an exception for dessert.
To experience this chocolate fondant for the first time again! To take my dessert fork and pierce the thin, crispy exterior of the molten chocolate cake so that it erupts like a volcano, oozing ribbons of warm chocolate all over the place. To mix it with the accompanying scoop of cool vanilla ice cream, so that temperature and flavor mingle in the mouth, delighting every taste bud, before exiting gracefully down the gullet. Just its memory gives me shivers.
At QR55, I would reserve this rich dessert for a really special occasion (and since this restaurant is situated 23 floors high and boasts a great view, I'd recommend bringing along a really special person!)