A Voyage Of Spanish Gastronomy

Emille Loyola-Artigas visited The Cellar, the authentic Spanish haven at the Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha, where the essence of Spain’s culinary traditions is captured on a fascinating expedition through its charming regions.

Arriving at The Cellar, we were warmly welcomed by our host, Polina, who showed us options in various seating areas. Once inside, it was easy to appreciate how the restaurant vivaciously keeps its solid place on the Doha dining scene. Adorned with intriguing ornaments, the cosy interiors boast dark wooden tables, accent walls and the main bar looks through the open kitchen. The seating areas are thoughtfully placed and warm lighting gives an ambiance that is truly entrancing and serene.

We took our seats by the window and within moments Sakhila, our waiter, served up some warm grilled bread with freshly roasted garlic and tomato salsa, which was light and simple yet flavourful, different from the salsa I have tasted before.

Polina expertly described the menu with enthusiasm, and we chose some dishes from the Tapas selection to start. A tantalising fusion of inventive combinations and traditional flavours arrived at our table. We opted for Patatas Bravas to start, as our experience could not be complete without Spain’s most popular tapa made of crispy fried potatoes tossed with bravas sauce. Originating from Madrid, it’s the sauce that gives this dish the delicious slightly spicy, smoky flavour.

Our expedition then took us to the region of Galicia, for our next tapa dish, Pulpo a la Gallega, or Galician-style octopus, an enticing dish made of boiled octopus and potatoes, garnished with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, salt and paprika. The Cellar’s version is mixed with creamy and rich octopus mayonnaise. These unique yet uncomplicated toppings brought abundant flavour to the dish and this immediately hit my favourites’ list.

Of course, I had to try my all-time favorite tapa, Gambas Al Ajlio or garlic shrimp, a popular dish often found in the Andalusia region and the capital, Madrid. Shrimps intricately cloaked in garlic-infused olive oil with smoky hints of paprika and just the right touch of sweetness from fortified grape. They certainly surpassed my expectations.

Chef Ivan, the driving force behind the menu and the restaurant brand, spoke to us about the concept of each dish and his passion for Spanish cooking and traditions. He urged us to sample beef cheek, a dish that was part of a Guest Spanish Chef menu and which he plans to include in an upcoming food festival, and we thoroughly enjoyed its rich, smoked and beefy flavour with savoury sauce.

We had reached the main courses and, with steak in mind, we went for the ribeye, Filete Chuletón a la Parrilla, cooked mediumrare. Cut thinly, the striking presentation was so captivating that I wanted to indulge straight away. Every bite delivered a rich, robust, buttery flavour and wonderfully juicy tender texture.

The Paella de Marisco was a personal favourite! Undeniably the best I have tasted so far (and I have tasted a lot!). Said to have originated in the region of Valencia, paella is the most popular Spanish speciality but not easy to master, especially the juiciness of the rice and the seafood. The visual appearance was stunning with a combination of perfectly sized squid, prawns, mussels, rice and vegetables. The taste was heavenly as it was so lusciously moist and the blend of flavours from the saffron rice, peppers and tomatoes infused with a delicate smoky aroma was simply magical.

We were more than full by this point but could not resist the desserts. We chose the Tarta de Santiago, or Galician almond cake, one of Spain’s most iconic cakes, served with raspberry sorbet. Loaded with almond flavour, balanced with lemon zest, not too sweet, it was exactly the dessert I desired. But the best taste to complete the evening was Tarta de Queso con Aguacate y Mie – unbaked avocado and honey cheesecake. Delightfully served in blocks, the smooth creamy texture of avocado forms a stiff custardy base mixed with cheese and topped with honey. It is definitely a taste that will stay in my memory for a long time.

The Cellar has been an icon of Doha’s restaurant scene for longer than many others, and it’s no wonder it continues to pride itself on being the destination synonymous with crafting authentic and delicious Spanish dishes. Even with its formidable and consistent reputation, The Cellar keeps evolving and there’s always something enticing and exciting to look forward to. I cannot wait to experience more – we have made our reservation for next week. ✤