“These samosas are as good as my Mum’s,” I said to Pumpkin.
They call us chalk and cheese but for us, it works. We agree on the important issues – like how to identify a distinguished samosa.
He gave a characteristic nod, knowingly, silently. He was aware, as I was, that the brief accolade I had imparted reflected the embracing, homely environment that was about to unfold around us in Doha; ironic really, considering how far away we were from home, unravelling breakfast plates somewhere high up in a skyscraper hotel in Qatar.
On paper, I never could have anticipated feeling so at home in a city business hotel, let alone one in a completely unfamiliar country but the subtle parallels would soon make themselves known.
Not everyone has a joyous home life but I’m grateful that I was one of the lucky ones. For us, home was a place where we never went hungry and where sweet treats would surprise us when we walked in after an arduous, scorching Middle Eastern summer day. It was a place where we felt safe, where those around us always took an interest in what we had to say and where love was manifested in dinner plates. And always, always, there
were are samosas.
Okay, so our hotel suite at InterContinental Doha the City may have been larger than many London apartments and I can’t say I ever grew up with a skyscraper studded view whilst brushing my teeth but if you bear with me & read on, I’ll try and explain what I mean about home.
First though, the logistics: Doha has no shortage of luxury hotels but with only 2 days at our disposal and having just flow back from the paradise beach break that was the Philippines, my goal in Doha was to lap up the city life and acclimatise my way back to London. My priority was a city hotel with all the convenience of a central location without compromising on any of the pampering of a resort hotel and this was how I found myself Googling “best city hotels in Doha.”
Suites at InterContinental Doha The City
When we first walked into the lobby at IC Doha The City, we were bleary eyed and dishevelled. At any other time of day, this may have perturbed me but at 2am after a flight delay, I didn’t much care about my smudged eyeliner. Thankfully, neither did the staff, whose key priority was to get us checked in, logged in, watered and of course – rather like my Mama – to get us fed so that we could rest without any further ado.
The unexpected upgrade to the suite was a welcome surprise to two jet-lagged adults, who were so exhausted that they would have contentedly had a kip in an empty bath tub had it been proposed. Within 10 minutes of exiting our cab, we were up in our room, our muscles willing us to crawl beneath the covers, bidding a dramatic farewell to the alarm clock.
Our leaping hearts, however, thrilled like children at Christmas Eve, had us glued to the windows, as we gazed on at the panoramic views of Doha’s sparkling skyline. Awoken by its appeal, we could have headed straight for the Nespresso machine to revive us further but that didn’t get a second look once we saw those tasty welcome treats lurking beneath a glass dome and asking to be devoured.
Just as my parents would always have a little sweet bite stored somewhere in the house for us, here we found ourselves face to face with an edible chocolate garden, where white chocolate pots encased Blackforest mousse, where candy canes trumped raspberries and where the soil had no creepy crawlies, only the earthy, powdery goodness of crushed up chocolate biscuits. Plants are known for reaching an early grave in my home but I must confess that these edible chocolate plants reached an even earlier one.
Pumpkin knew to take his place in the bathroom whilst the blogger hotel room photography commenced. This time, however, he had three rooms within it to choose from, the actual toilet/bidet cubicle, a separate shower room and the main spacious sink and tub area, where the toiletries were replenished daily and the bathtub was more a nighttime viewpoint than it was a bathing area.
We could have quite easily spent the entirety of our Doha stay in this suite, traipsing around in toasty robes, watching TV in our living room in between peaceful naps in the enormous king size bed and revelling in the oodles of space (we are Londoners – space is a luxury commodity in itself) but we made ourselves do some sightseeing on the Saturday daytime.
With that under our belt, however, we pretty much spent the rest of our time back at IC Doha the City, lapping up the hotel life while we could, well aware that only a packet of mince pies and a reheated lasagne awaited us back in London.
Dining at IC Doha the City
Despite an array of dining options at InterContinental Doha the City, ranging from Pan-Asian to steak restaurants, I was in the Arab world and after Arab cuisine so my dinner vote went to the newly refurbished Al Jalsa Garden Lounge. A far more enticing alternative to our standard Saturday nights, we rocked up around 9pm to this bustling urban garden, where we were shown to our al fresco table for two.
Entranced by the beats of the hypnotic Middle Eastern harmonies in the background and caught in a shisha cloud of fruity aromas, the garden came to life over the next couple of hours, as locals shared Mezze and life updates in equal measure, whilst tourists like us escaped their daily grinds in a mellow cocoon of purple and gold hues.
The feast that followed was fit to feed an army with trays of kibbeh, freshly made hummus, Tabouleh and stuffed vine leaves but a little word of warning for those of you who are greedy little piggies like we were – pace yourselves and don’t fill up too early on Mezze, no matter how delicious they are!
By the time, our lamb and chicken grills arrived, we were absolutely stuffed. The staff offered to pack them up for us but as we were flying back to the UK the next day, this would have feasibly made it the world’s longest haul takeaway kebabs.
The buffet breakfast is no less elaborate an affair. After breakfast the day before at Nobu Hotel in Manila, I didn’t think it could get much better but then we walked into the breakfast room here and witnessed honey, dripping fresh off honeycomb, lines of sushi, doughnuts, muesli pots, even a cheese board – and that was only room one.
Christmas lunch ain’t got nothing on this breakfast.
Recognising our Indian heritage, our delightful waitress, Dipa, who was totally unaware that I was a blogger, pointed us in the direction of the Indian food in the corner – and therein lay the samosas. Dipa insisted, however, that we must not leave Doha without trying the local specialty Arab breads, bringing over a small serving of each on a plate for us to sample.
Two weeks in the Philippines and I hadn’t gained a single kilo but two days in Doha and all that changed!
The Club Lounge & Recreation
Those wishing to burn off their guilt could do so at the hotel gym but the rest of us can be found at the rooftop terrace pool, where we will be gazing devotedly once again at that skyline view. (Sick of hearing about it? You won’t get sick of seeing it.)
Now, I fully appreciate that at a business hotel, many guests are actually there for business so if you’re a business camper (or a blogger with a backlog,) then the Club Lounge is the place for you. We had club lounge access for a day and if you work best in spacious, airy environments with IT facilities on standby, ceiling to floor windows that brighten up the room and food and drink at the ready, then it is definitely worth considering this option.
We had our first breakfast in Doha at the club lounge and whilst you don’t get as diverse a range of dishes as you do in the main buffet, what you do get in return is a la carte dining & personal table service.
This was only my second time experiencing a luxury hotel club lounge, the first being a couple of years ago during my club lounge stay in Abu Dhabi and if work related productivity (or endless holiday snacking) are your goals, club lounges are worth paying that little bit extra.
The ultimate millenial tiered cake passed my vision in the Lobby Lounge cafe, as we left. I had packed away my phone but I oh-so-predictably caved when I saw it.
Over time, the memories of bathroom layouts and toiletries will fade. What remains, however, are the stories of those who work tirelessly day in, day out in the hospitality sector, the staff who spare a few moments to share their tips and suggestions and if you’re lucky, even their own journeys. There were no shortage of views, suites and welcome treats (seems I rhyme in 2018) but truth be told, it was that unexpected homely feel & those huge feeding smiles that stayed with me the most.
Many thanks to IC Doha the City for hosting our stay and dinner. All musings, memories and samosa addictions are, as ever, my own.