Dinner at Al Mourjan Restaurant
An Arabian Night Out
Picture yourself sat on the side of a wide circling bay, enjoying the breeze of the Arabian night and the dulcet tones of soft music while brightly-lit dhows glide past and the multi-coloured lights of a city glisten off the rippling sea waters of the Arabian Gulf. Then add a feast of delectable lebanese appetizers, some great service and some (delicious) seafood to top it all off.
That's what you can experience at the Al Mourjan restaurant, located by Orry the Oryx on the Corniche. The last standalone restaurant on the Corniche after the Dhow restaurants and the Ras Al Nasaa were torn down, the establishment offers probably the best views in Qatar, and is perfect for a romantic meal for two.
The restaurant, which is owned by the Emir, is also well known. The New York Times beat us to the establishment for an enthusiastic review (we have, mind you, beaten them to virtually every other restaurant in Qatar!) and the manager told us that they had known honeymooning customers on their way to Thailand stop off in Qatar for the sole purpose of a meal there. Others to eat at the restaurant included visiting heads of state - especially at conference time.
We were greeted at the restaurant with a refreshing drink, which the restaurant entitled the Al Mourjan splash - lemon and mint with brown sugar mixed in and topped of with crushed ice and a large leaf of mint. However, before starting the meal, we had a tour of the restaurant. Inside the restaurant is elegantly decorated in a rustic white, with brown beams supporting the roof in the traditional fashion and scenes of the old Arabia decorating the rooms - and thousand dollar chairs in white italian leather waiting for weary patrons. At night time, though, guests are usually fighting for the opportunity to eat outside!
We started off our meal with a feast of 14 Lebanese delicacies - from a choice of over 100 - all beautifully presented. Of particular mention was the Fatoush, which is probably the best I have had in Doha (perhaps because of a dash of kecap manis, we speculated), the Lebanese rocket salad and the spicy lebanese sausages. Although the appetizers were served in deceptively small bowls, I could have easily filled myself up with these, but we held ourselves in reserve for the main course.
This saw us served with an array of seafood served on a bed of shredded lettuce: calamari, hamour and prawns so large that at first I thought they were what the Qataris call rock lobster. Not so, we were assured. The prawns were specially flown in from Kuwait for the restaurant. The vegetables, the manager added, were grown on a farm in Lebanon, which allowed for the outsized rocket and mint leaves, while the lamb was reared on a farm in Syria before being brought in to the restaurants' own farm in Qatar. At all times, the manager assured us, the restaurant kept total control over food production.
However, it was the hamour that caught the attention of my wife, a connoisseur of fish in general and a huge fan of hamour in specific. She called the manager over and demanded to know the special ingredient that had been added - he coyly replied that only his chef knew!
It is difficult to find criticisms of this restaurant, but I did think the bread was not the best I had had in the city. I am also never excited about chips, which was served with the fish, although this may well be served to keep in with the taste of the locals. These two minor criticisms do not detract from the superb meal we had, and with a view to rave about and a great ambience, it was also one of the most relaxing meals I have had in Qatar.
Surprisingly for a restaurant frequented by royalty and presidents, the prices are not ridiculous. Ranging from QAR150 for a basic meal to QAR300 for a full course with seafood, the restaurant with the best view in town would fare well when compared to those in many other capital cities.
Location: Balhambar building, Corniche