Middle Eastern cuisine infused with a touch of whimsy – enter: Walima

One aspect of Qatar that speaks volumes of its diversity? Doha’s dining scene. Rich in cuisines from around the world, the city is a food enthusiast’s dream. Yes, it lacks restaurants that pay tribute to the country’s own hospitality and flavours, but proving critics wrong is Walima. Located at Mondrian Doha, it’s a truly original and ingenious take on Qatari fine-dining.

Right out of a storybook setting, this quirky and colourful restaurant brings together magical elements from Alice in Wonderland and Arabian Nights. We suggest you bring an active imagination and an empty stomach as you step into the pages of your favourite childhood books. We are greeted by black-and-white walls, columns, and floors, all laid under a charmingly chaotic array of colourful Arabian lamps. We dare you not to frequently look up. The rest of the restaurant also feels wonderfully whimsical, with a sunken majlis that is perfect for family meals, embossed VIP glass boxes, and decorative porcelain shishas that are practically lifesize. In all honestly, we’re just waiting for the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland to make an appearance.

What results is a sensory overload in the best sense of the word – and our food hasn’t even arrived yet. The beautiful terrace at Walima boasts panoramic views of the Lusail skyline, West Bay Lagoon, and The Pearl-Qatar. It is adorned with green leafy cabanas, bar stools, sofas, and regular dining tables, giving you a variety of seating options. We opt for a high table in the corner in order to take in stunning views of the city while we peruse the menu. Here, East meets West for a casual, laidback dining experience. Our dinner begins with the Selection of Cold Mezzeh. This little platter is good for two to three people, and comes with the creamiest hummus we’ve had in a while.

Amongst it comes a selection of Eggplant Moutable, Muhammarah, Tabouleh, and Yalannji, and we must confess that we wipe the plates clean. Starters are always a good way to judge the food in a restaurant and, based on our first impressions, the mains are going to be a treat. We go for the Persian-Style Lamb Shank and Mixed Seafood, both dishes boasting meat that is perfectly marinated and cooked to perfection. The lamb slides off the bone and pairs perfectly with the sweet saffron rice, with the thick beef broth on side making this dish even more delectable.

The seafood selection is bursting with freshness, but our favourite is the calamari. Now, anyone who has suffered through tough, overcooked calamari in the past knows how often restaurants get it wrong. But at Walima, it’s tender and gently spiced, making it a must-try. We end our dinner with the Fried Oreo Ice Cream that is as decadent and as playful as the setting. Sure, it’s the imaginative décor that will bring diners in search of a memorable experience to Walima, but it’s the food that will have them coming back for more. Us included. ✤