Brunch takes on a different meaning in the Gulf. The portmanteau was originally coined as a meal replacement on Sunday, so one could have a lie-in at the weekend and eat a late breakfast that progressed into lunch. But here, brunch is a Friday institution, when the city’s finest kitchens go into overdrive to produce sumptuous offerings for diners to kick back with good company and indulge in all things delicious. Highly social, it’s when co-workers get together for birthdays and farewells and when out-of-towners are given a true taste of Doha living. With each brunch curated for a unique experience, the options are vast and varied. Here are 20 of the very best Doha has to offer.
THE GRAND DAMES
New in town or looking to impress? These primo spots shouldn’t be missed:
The Lagoon – The Ritz-Carlton Doha
QR250 (soft drinks) / QR335 (bubbly) / QR375 (full drink option) – QR120 for kids 4-12, under 4 free
From the moment you approach The Lagoon, the extensive brunch display stands ready to be admired. The restaurant bathes in light, with 40-foot windows looking out onto a sprawling lawn. In good weather, the outdoor area is perfect for families to enjoy an afternoon of fun, especially on Saturdays when a bouncy castle and games are set up for kids. Staying to the prestige of the Ritz-Carlton brand, service is impeccable — glasses are never left empty and the table place setting efficiently reset each time you get up for another plate of carefully prepared, impeccable tasting food.
Nusantao – Four Seasons Hotel Doha
QR330 (soft drinks) / QR415 (bubbly) – QR165 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
The open kitchens of Nusantao are turned into something of a theatrical force. Diners can peer into the squadron of chefs cooking up a storm — noodles and stir fries whipped up on demand, foie gras seared to one’s desired temperature. The unending caviar and oysters speak of lavishness, while the dedicated dessert chamber whispers indulgence. Epicures can’t miss the “Chef War” table – where the hotel’s culinary masters try to outwit each other with creations based on one ingredient. A brunch slightly pricier than the rest but worth every penny for the sheer excellence.
Market by Jean-Georges – W Doha Hotel & Residences
QR290 (soft drinks) / QR395 (specialty drinks) – QR145 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
The perfect balance of weekend chic and smart casual. Numerous reasons explain why Market by Jean-Georges holds the trophy for Best Brunch from this year’s Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards; chief among them is consistency. The standard of delicious food never wavers, from the pre-apportioned miniature servings of salads and hors d’oeuvres to the highly acclaimed sushi spread. Live vocal jazz sets the tone for this contemporary and adult setting. In the absence of natural light, don’t be surprised when you lose track of time and stay right until servers come around to announce, “Last call.”
The Marriott Brunch – Doha Marriott Hotel
QR245 (soft drinks) / QR350 (bubbly) – QR120 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
Prepare yourselves — you’ve probably never seen anything quite like this. The Marriott puts out what feels like a mile of food. The buffet stretches along the so-called Restaurant Gallery and spills right into the lobby. Best part, each of the hotel’s dining outlet is a mainstay of the event, so expect a beef counter from JW’s Steakhouse, a Tex-Mex feast from Salsa, Indian specialties from Taj Rasoi and multiple cooking displays from Asia Live!, featuring sushi, teppanyaki as well as custom-made noodles. Opt to sit in any of the restaurants for a completely different vibe each time.
The Grill – Grand Hyatt Doha
QR295 (soft drinks) / QR420 (house beverages) – QR150 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
The Grill Friday brunch is one that Doha residents bring up time and again, perhaps because of the many forms it takes. Loyal patrons return for the ever-changing themes that have included rock ‘n’ roll, horror, the Hawaiian tropics, 1920s flapper, and everything in between. It’s a weekly party that gets even more packed when the weather permits al fresco dining and the adjoining garden is fully utilised for seating. The brunch’s popularity also means that booking is almost always required, and that some of the high-ticket items such as oysters and lobster tails can run out early.
Dining with kids? Keep them entertained here:
Vine – The St. Regis Doha
QR320 (soft drinks) / QR420 (bubbly) – QR160 for kids 4-11, under 4 free
For those who take cake for breakfast and classify chocolate as a separate food group, this one’s for you. An enclave of sweets awaits, incidentally by the entrance, so you can strategise early on and leave ample room at the end. The main dining area is separated from the food displays can be slightly dim, so the best seats are outdoors on the terrace, where a live band plays and children are free to roam the grounds. That is, of course, assuming they decide to peel away from their dedicated corner with a kid’s buffet and plenty of activities.
Blue – Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa
QR220 (soft drinks) – QR110 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
Brunch at this Victorian-style hotel near Villagio mall is particularly appealing for its expansive terrace overlooking Aspire Park. To capitalise on one of Doha’s greenest views, the restaurant Blue sets up cooking stations and tables outdoors, which also becomes a playground of sorts for kids. Inside, the show kitchen serves up a la minute grilled meats and fish. The recommended accompaniment for them are maki rolls, the other half of Blue’s trademark steak and sushi combo. In the absence of hard drinks, the brunch atmosphere is less party and more picnic.
Choices – Oryx Rotana Hotel
QR260 (soft drinks) / QR335 (house beverages) / QR475 (bubbly) – QR130 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
With a playroom decked with entertainment and activities for children, Choices is a firm favourite of families. The restaurant sits on the mezzanine level under a massive skylight, meaning you get plenty of rays minus the heat. But for fresh air, the restaurant also connects to the outdoor pool deck. A DJ spins in one corner, adding vibe to the already raucuous atmosphere, while the food is laid out in central islands with live cooking stations. The cold seafood draws the longest lines, though it’s the jacket potato bar with trimmings that excites us the most.
The Square – InterContinental Doha the City
QR230 (soft drinks) / QR330 (house beverages) / QR360 (premium beverages) – QR115 for kids 6-11, under 6 free
Face-painting and balloon animals are among the activities catered for children in this brunch with buzz. Diners may sit in any of the four differently appointed quadrants of The Square, conveniently named for the layout itself. Each section houses a different kitchen preparing hot and cold foods from Western and Asian cuisines respectively; the hot Asian kitchen seems the most bustling with chefs tossing and twirling over woks and grills. You might have to walk a bit for your favourite dishes, but it can be a good thing considering how many delectable items get piled on the plate.
Want a stroll down memory lane? Try the oldies but goodies:
Al Liwan – Sharq Village & Spa
QR250 (soft drinks) / QR390 (house beverages) – QR125 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
On any given day, Al Liwan serves a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that is knock-your-socks-off good. The selection is ample yet manageable. The food is deftly prepared then stylishly presented. The focus is very evidently on quality and puts this all-day-dining spot in a league with few members. Come weekends, the restaurant ups the ante with a more premium selection such as cold seafood and rotisserie meats; they turn brunch into a more special affair. Old world elegance is punctuated with an Arabian flavour, making Al Liwan popular with expats and locals alike.
Coral – InterContinental
QR200 (soft drinks) / QR250 (house beverages) – QR120 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
Talk about an all-rounder. The food is bountiful and the atmosphere jolly. Coral epitomises everything we love about a carefree brunch, heightened by its location along the poolside. You get a bird’s eye view of the restaurant as you descend the stairs to the entrance. Outdoor seating affords the sun and sea breeze while the indoors gives you proximity to the open kitchen and buffet stations. The price for the full beverage option is among the most competitive, helping to explain why no chair is empty even when all of Doha seems to be on vacation.
Seasons – Mövenpick Hotel Doha
QR215 (soft drinks) / QR265 (house beverages) – kids under 12 free
Veterans of the city may recall a time when no month would pass by without a Friday at the Mövenpick. One of the oldest brunches around, it also remains among the quaintest. In spite of the cozy space, the restaurant packs in a healthy selection of food including sushi, salads, roasts — all cooked and served with a certain touch of homemade gracefulness. Wait till you see the dessert counter, a worthy reflection of the hotel’s motto for being passionately Swiss. And the proverbial icing on the cake is the unlimited selection of the world-famous Mövenpick ice cream.
Hyde Park Coffee Shop – RadissonBlu Hotel Doha
QR160 (soft drinks) / QR210 (house beverages) – QR80 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
It doesn’t get more 90s than this. The all-day dining restaurant at the RadissonBlu serves a brunch of Continental cuisine with a few live cooking stations at prices that are pretty hard to beat. The furniture is tired and the decor may be outdated, but most patrons don’t seem to mind. The dining area sits in an atrium overlooking the gardens and connecting several other restaurants, giving it the feel of a lobby that is further reinforced by a pianist. The tunes, the greenery and sunlight all make for a Friday afternoon meal tinged with nostalgia.
Been there, done that? How about these brunches with a twist?
Ipanema – Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel
QR250 (soft drinks) / QR320 (house beverages) / QR385 (sparkling) / QR585 (bubbly) – QR125 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
We like to think of this as a guest daytime appearance of the hottest Latin act in Doha. Fans of the nightly Brazilian barbecue steakhouse will be pleased to know they put on the same show for Friday brunch, featuring a cast of expertly seasoned meats that are cooked to succulent perfection. Typical of a churrascaria, servers come around the tables holding spears of meat and the must-try grilled pineapple with cinnamon. A live samba band coupled with a salad and dessert bar featuring flambéed fruit turns this into a scene right out of Carnival.
Spice Market – W Doha Hotel & Residences
QR290 (soft drinks) / QR395 (specialty drinks) – QR145 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
Imagine the hubbub of a marketplace. Now add sumptuous counters laden with salads, sushi, dumplings and curries. And to finish them off, live musicians playing jazz standards. That essentially sums up the brunch at Spice Market — part gastronomic extravaganza, part block party. There are plenty of flavours to discover at the city’s Best Southeast Asian restaurant. And by the time you’re ready to tackle dessert, you might notice the atmosphere going up a few notches and the band in full swing. The combination of sensational cuisine and merry music equals a day of revelry.
Opal by Gordon Ramsay – The St. Regis Doha
QR295 (soft drinks) / QR395 (house beverages) – QR150 for kids 4-11, under 4 free
In keeping with the original spirit of brunch, Opal takes its cue from traditional English fare. To awaken the palate, eggs first appear in several familiar, comforting styles – poached, scrambled and fried, then topped with meats, smoked fish or truffle. Then come the luncheon plates including sliders, pizzas and salads. Everything is served to the table, and more can be ordered. If we had our druthers, we’d call for the Eton mess and profiteroles to arrive early on as a matter of procedure because they’re the undeniable highlights. Now that you know, request it and they’ll oblige.
La Spiga by Paper Moon – W Doha Hotel & Residences
QR220 (soft drinks) / QR395 (specialty drinks) – QR110 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
Say it with us – broonch. The cheeky spelling deserves a chortle at least, though it doesn’t exactly capture the elegance of this Milanese inspired restaurant. The bar turns into an antipasti bar with authentic Italian cheeses, meats and bite-sized treats. This constitutes the buffet portion of the meal; but the mains of pizzas and pastas and secondis as well as desserts are served in sharing platters for a family-style feast. There is a sense that you could be dining in the home of a friend, and as the kitchen produces more surprises, the afternoon keeps getting better.
AND THREE NEW PLAYERS TO RECKON WITH
La Varenne – Tornado Towers
QR179 (water, coffee, tea included) / QR379 (bubbly) – QR109 for kids 4-12, under 4 free
A paradigm of sophistication. The handsome French brasserie that draws plaudits for its innovative business lunch and romantic dinners proves its savoire faire with a family-style table service brunch unlike no other. Course after course is carefully paced and brought over in petite copper pots, rolled over in trolleys to tempt the eyes or presented in sharing platters. From the charcuterie down to the quiches and stews, the selection of dishes that appears is really quite staggering, and more arrives upon request. And that’s not even counting dessert – a kaleidoscope of pastries, ice creams and macarons, each one more exquisite than the next.
Isaan – The Grand Hyatt
QR280 (soft drinks) / QR395 (house beverages) / QR680 (Moet) – QR140 for kids 6-12, under 6 free
A piece of Bangkok’s famed Chatuchak Market comes to Doha. Isaan’s newly refashioned brunch bustles. The bright colours of the food are matched only by the aroma of wafting from the different open kitchens, decorated to look like stalls hawking street delicacies. Curries, stir-fries, salads and grills are prepared on request by Thai chefs. If it’ll take a while, you hand over a peg with your table number and the food is brought over when ready. Many of the restaurant’s specialties are offered, making this an ideal opportunity to try the wide array of flavours from the Land of Smiles.
The Cellar – Oryx Rotana Doha
QR175 (food only) / QR275 (wine & sangria)
It’s called taprunch. Though the word doesn’t particularly roll off the tongue, this new concept of a tapas brunch at The Cellar is pulled off with great gusto. The selection is modest but well thought out. Baguette slices are topped with seafood, cured meats and bruschettas. Olive-based pickles and skewers sit beside meatballs and deep fried anchovies and calamari. And paella – lots of paella. Still, it’s perhaps the atmosphere that draws the restaurant’s patrons: a subdued calm in this darkly hued cavern — the perfect spot to unwind over a glass or two of one’s favourite vintage.
** A version of this article appeared in the magazine Time Out Doha**