Triggered by current geopolitical events the broader hotel landscape in Doha is currently experiencing a dose of volatility and there’s not much the industry can do to change that narrative. They can, however, ratchet up their activity levels in the local marketplace and the increasingly popular ‘Staycation’ is one of those offerings from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha.
Checking in for a one-night staycation at the original hotel building, known as the East Wing, I was suddenly struck by the gold reflective glass cladding. You just don’t see buildings like that anymore. And that was the point. Here we have something different, something individual, something to get reacquainted with and that was long overdue.
After a smooth check-in, we were taken up to a suite with a great view across Ramada Junction (is it still called that?). I never knew that the Salwa Road traffic could be so mesmerising, as rarely does one get a helicopter view of the ribbons of red taillights and white headlamps stretching into the distance. While the hotel itself might be described as ‘retro’ the suite’s décor was modern and anything but, with a lounge cum dining room, a huge bed and two pristine bathrooms. A quick freshen up and we were off on a culinary adventure.
Padding down the corridor towards the lifts, I noticed the artwork adorning the walls – contemporary? No. An acquired taste? Maybe! This staycation was going to be unusual! Instead of simply eating dinner in one of the Radisson Blu’s 13 restaurants, the hotel management had arranged for us to sample each course in a different restaurant. I liked the idea of visiting somewhere new on my home turf!
And so it was that we set off to sample the delights of some of the hotel’s restaurants and bars, kicking off with the Manhattan bar – a cosy little watering hole, tucked away behind reception and a great place to meet for pre-dinner, happy-hour drinks (from 5 pm). As a pleasant change from the usual classics, I chose a drink from their new range of whisky and rum-based cocktails, a delicate balance of just enough port wine and whisky, refreshing and different, with a twist of orange.
I find the décor of a restaurant is definitely an important factor that contributes to the overall dining experience and Bentley’s Grill, with its low hanging brass chandeliers, club chairs, pristine white tablecloths and candlelit tables, manned by impeccably presented staff, signalled a quality experience ahead. A light salad, delicate slithers of Earl Grey tea-cured Scottish salmon with crispy skin and a selection of very tasty Alaskan crab cakes did not disappoint. I wanted more, but this was a tasting and Ruby Wu’s Chinese restaurant was calling.
Evoking echoes of Hong Kong or Shanghai, the red Chinese lanterns and black lacquered furniture form the perfect setting to sample Ruby Wu’s chef’s dim sum selection. Steamed siu mai, always my favourite, and the chicken and prawn steamed dumplings may possibly be the best in Doha. The rather attractive chopsticks, complete with stands, little things that make for a more authentic experience, showed the attention to detail – you won’t be disappointed.
Still on the Asian trail, ducking through the traditional ‘noren’, printed fabric curtains designed to protect a restaurant entrance from the elements, we entered Sakura, Radisson Blu’s authentic Japanese restaurant. Fire and knife is the best way to describe how Sakura’s chef showcased his culinary skills, at one stage disappearing completely behind a ball of flame! Flamboyant preparation and cooking, teppanyaki style, took place right in front of us, while the exotic aromas of Far Eastern spices and sauces wafted all around us, the close interaction between customer and chef added something indefinable to a very satisfying experience with some superbly cooked and oh-so-tender beef, chicken and vegetables.
I’ll wager many readers don’t know about Radisson Blu’s own take on The Italian Job. Hidden away, by the pool, this funky little restaurant served up a fine tiramisu and some lovely creamy gelato – and be prepared for your server to spontaneously burst into song!
The grand finale was another piece of theatre, the famous Snake Coffee served at Inginuity. Liqueur coffee is dramatically flambéed at your table, then trickled down an orange peel spiral resembling a snake before being served! A winner. Time to retire to that luxury of hotel linen!
After a great night’s sleep, it was time to descend on the breakfast buffet. With sunlight streaming into the breakfast room it was a great way to start the day – juice, cereal, fruit, a full fried breakfast, a pot of hot tea…what more could you ask for and, best of all, no washing-up!
I have to admit that, until that morning, in 10 years I had never even seen the pool at the Radisson Blu, and now there it was, surprisingly larger than I had expected, sparkling in the sunlight, looking so inviting, surrounded by tall trees swaying in the breeze, the fragrance of the freshly mown lawn filling the air. With the pool being deeper than most, we could even have a proper swim without having one foot constantly on the bottom and, after a couple of cold mocktails from the pool bar, we finally felt fully recharged. Just like a power-nap, a staycation can really lift the spirit.
Take a large measure of sheer professionalism, a dash of team spirit, combine with a liberal sprinkling of positive attitude and you have the Radisson Blu cocktail – not flashy, but comforting and reliable, excellent value and still packs a punch. Popular with local families, the landmark Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha (formerly the Ramada) is one of Doha’s gems, sitting right here in our own backyard. If you haven’t sampled it in a while, then don’t take my word for it – it’s time to re-connect.
Book your stay now at Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha. Call 4428 1428 or visit their website.
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