While every conceivable sinew is being strained to revitalise parts of Doha, many neighbourhoods remain stubborn to change.
Having been a resident of Doha since last century, one Brother Rue does not tend to embrace the mayhem that can accompany modernity and there is no doubt his keen sense of nostalgia is shared by many long-term expats and locals alike.
With this in mind, we headed to Al Jazeera St, a busy thoroughfare that links Suhaim Bin Hamad Street with the rapidly unrecognisable Mushaireb, an area that was once downtown Doha by default and is now being transformed into a flash and fanciful financial district.
For decades, Al Jazeera St has been home to scores of diverse shops and businesses with storefronts serving as structures to support a multitude of utilitarian dwellings above. This is a bustling block where many nationalities mingle, café-restaurant aromas occasionally arouse and a vacant parking spot is as cherished as a small child.
So, while ambling along on a Friday evening in the trusty Rue Brothers jalopy, it was difficult to miss the new Centro Capital, a business-minded brand of the international Rotana Hotels group. It is a contemporary mini-tower, almost futuristic considering its location. And worry not, there is adequate underground parking available.
On arrival, we were greeted by Vincent, an extremely personable and meticulous maitre d’ who had been sashayed away from Centro Capital’s big sister, the Oryx Rotana, where he plied his trade at the popular jazz club.
He is now part of the team at c.taste, the hotel’s comfortable restaurant with a multifarious menu (liquor licence pending, by the way). These days it seems obligatory for a business hotel to offer all-day international dining, perhaps as a salute to globalisation and in recognition of the diversity of its customers. So, being worldly citizens of no real fixed abode, we embraced the theme wholeheartedly.
To begin, one Brother Rue, who shall remain nameless, extolled the virtues of dim sum, having made many a detour in London and New York just to sample the famous Cantonese stuffed dumplings in those cities’ respective Chinatowns.
Origins of dim sum date back to ancient times when weary Silk Road travellers needed tea and sustenance during arduous excursions. Soon, all of China embraced the delights of dim sum and the dish is now often devoured by families from breakfast to dinner. At c.taste the delicate parcels of prawn and chicken with sweet chilli and soy sauce did not disappoint.
To continue the Asian sharing theme, stir-fried noodles with ginger-soy sauce and crisp vegetables proved a fine complement, although we would advise against adding any more soy because there was ample already.
With excellent Brazilian beef now widely available in Qatar, red meat enthusiasts have reason to salivate but supermarket prices for all cuts from most countries remain irritatingly high. Here, Australian tenderloin (Wagyu) graces the menu and is far from exorbitant (QAR135), served with an imaginative medley of chopped giant mushrooms and roasted garlic mayonnaise. One Brother Rue did venture to say that a good steak should be accompanied by chunky chips rather than flimsy French fries, an observation duly noted by the ever-attentive Vincent.
The winner by some margin, though, was the oven-roasted Australian lamb with parmesan mashed potatoes at QAR84. Not one, but two racks with a hint of rosemary jus that pointed elegantly mouth-wards were duly dispatched with pleasure. Both main courses came with steamed buttered broccoli, beans and potato along with a couple of ramekins of extra thick gravy
Betwixt servings, one Brother Rue embarked on his customary walkabout to re-enforce the fact that he was nosy by nature. Having stretched his legs and eyelids he returned to the table with a stride more purposeful than is the norm.
He had, in fact, discovered a curry collection as if it was a hidden treasure in an Egyptian tomb. It wasn’t, because it was advertised on chalk boards in front of the kitchen for all to see. He promptly used all his negotiating powers to arrange delivery within the next hour. It was an audacious sight to behold, the other brother declared.
One by one the curries arrived and amazing value they proved to be as we began to loosen a few shirt buttons. What follows is, until next week perhaps, the best value in Doha. All dishes were served with steamed rice and paratha.
- Bangkok Fried Rice (QAR35): good sliced beef, chilli, onion, red pepper and Thai basil. Awesome and suitably spicy.
- Chicken Hara Masala Curry (QAR25): spiced green herb (curry leaves, coriander, chilli et al) marinated with spinach gravy. As green as freshly mown grass.
- Mutton Rogan Josh (QAR29): boneless lamb in thick spicy curry. Proper Kashmiri.
- Beef Red Curry (QAR35): sliced beef with onion and potato in Massaman curry. Coconut and tamarind flavours combine, as they should.
- Malay Prawns Curry in Coconut Gravy (QAR29): sounds mild but is not for the faint-hearted.
- Vegetable Curry with Curry Masala (QAR20): great green beans and crunchy peas with carrots.
- Malabar Fish Curry (QAR27): marinated local fish in tamarind and mustard. OK, by this stage there was no choice but to throw in the towel, but it looked fantastic.
Vincent, doubtless aghast, enquired politely about our appetite for dessert. They appear splendid, we said, as we asked our trusted friend and long-suffering photographer Mar to print pictures on rice paper so we could eat them in the morning.
© Marhaba Information Guide 2016. The Rue Brothers review restaurants exclusively for Marhaba. They have spent a combined 40+ years in Qatar and think they know their onions, and kofta kebabs, by now
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