As autumn approaches FACT’s Asad Khan headed to Walima, at Mondrian Doha, to sample some hearty Middle Eastern food while enjoying the breeze on the terrace

First heavily impacted by the lockdown and then the summer heat, with the easing restrictions and the autumn breeze in the air, restaurants are finally announcing the reopening of their terraces where Dohaites can go and enjoy the sunset with a breath of fresh air. And so, I also headed to one of the most Instagrammable places, Mondrian Doha, for an early dinner.

I went there on a weekday early in the evening for two reasons: one I wanted to avoid the brimming crowd that the restaurant entertains during the weekend and second, I wanted to dine out with sunset as the backdrop for my perfect Insta moments.

There’s something about dining on terraces, it gives you an opportunity to see and feel the nature more closely whilst enjoying the ambience and the food the restaurant offers; Walima offers nothing but divine flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine. I was led up onto the gigantic, wraparound terrace passing through the opulent dining room with its colourful bright lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The terrace offered promising views of Doha, most impressively next-door neighbour, The Pearl-Qatar, stretching out as far as the eye can see.

I started my evening with a healthy choice of salads: Sleek Salad and Betroot Moghrabia Salad. Sleek Salad was a less chunky take on a traditional chicken salad, but creamier, more delicious and without the meat. This vegan salad is a very Middle Eastern dish; simple but well-loved in the region. The barley and fava beans provided texture whilst engulfing it was the tahini, garnished with walnuts and mint leaves. The best thing about this salad was it wasn’t dry. It was sour, yet sweet and pale. And as I took the first bite I could feel the undertoned flavours of pomegranate and mint leaves kicking in. Every flavour was distinctive and contributed to the overall vibe. This is the rich seasoning and strong flavours you go for in Middle Eastern cuisine: hearty, vibrant and fresh. For the Beetroot Moghrabia Salad it was one bite, two bites, three bites — and before I realised, I had finished the entire salad on my own. When it comes to antioxidant-rich vegetables — the shocking purple colour of the beet says it all. Teamed with walnuts, fava beans and moghrabieh cous cous and you’ve got a healthy, tasty salad like this one. In short this was salty, sweet and a crunchy combination. Where the moghrabieh and fava beans were really soft — the walnuts complemented with their crunchiness. soft — the walnuts complemented with their crunchiness.

What followed was a cheese pide, a flatbread loaded with cheese toppings. Pide is a Turkish staple and the one at Walima was really similar to a western pizza crust. The cheese melted in the mouth and the thin well-done crust provided my taste buds just enough contrast of flavours. To describe a pide here, expect a pillowy dough with hearty mozzarella.

The real standout at Walima though was the Lamb Shank with Pistachio, followed by mixed grill. Lamb shank is many, many people’s idea of meaty comfort food. It was braised in rich mint and pistachio sauce and was so tender and incredibly soft that it literally fell apart on my plate as soon as it had landed. Apart from how perfectly it was cooked, the shank had more than one taste, it had many bursting flavours from the subtle condiments used in the marination.

I’ll get to the more impressive slabs of the grilled fare, but first an honourable mention must go to the Shish Taouk, an edition that is sure to garner many a ‘best grilled and marinated chicken I’ve ever had’! It steals the show.

The mixed grill had different kinds of skewers: lamb kebab, lamb chops and chicken shish taouk, served with red-onion salad, a squeeze of lemon and chargrilled onion. All the kebabs were tender and juicy and I could taste the bursting paprika and ginger. They were packed with flavours — a smoky messy heaven. This is the healthy food you do not want to miss.

I ended my dinner with Tahini Entremet. An interesting dessert in terms of colour and taste featuring sesame ganache and jivara cremeux. This was creamy but viscous creamy and crispy on the base with a nice combination of ice cream.

Pro tip for dining at Walima: Order more than you think you can eat because here, you won’t stop. The food is absolutely divine. ✤