Ailsa Whyatt spends a glamourous evening at the newly-renovated Four Seasons Hotel Library Lounge
In the days of Prohibition in the United States, a special password or knock on the door gave you access to somewhere in which to smoke cigars, quench your thirst and listen to jazz. Tucked at the back of the elegant Four Seasons Hotel, Doha, is the newly refurbished Library Lounge, where New Orleans Prohibition nostalgia meets Middle Eastern essence. Gone however, are the days of needing a password to get in.
1920s’ jazz, cleverly under-lit book shelves, plush leather furnishings, solid woods and stylish décor create a cosy space to settle down nestled amongst the library books and humidors. Looking after us this evening is JT, the Library Lounge’s mixologist, who is bursting with ideas about flavours and presentation, and who is passionate about ensuring guests are fed and watered with the unobtrusive attentiveness that Four Seasons is so tremendously good at.
Whilst we await our food, JT brings us our drinks. It is not often I am impressed by ice, but all the beverages we tried were served with transparently clear, hand-cut ice, for which JT and his team have a specific ice preparation room. Uniform blocks of the cold stuff, some branded with the Library Lounge logo, are an impressive touch to some rather extraordinary flavours, all of which contain nods to the Middle East.
My guest has a Mexican Bookmaker – infused with lime, honey, basil and watermelon, dusted with spicy Himalayan salt, thyme and basil in the shape of a bookmark, and served with parmesan chunks sitting on a sliver of red capsicum and basil as an accompaniment to soak up the spice. I am treated to the Le Souq Passoa – a shimmering, pink glass of beauty containing a Brazilian and herbaceous Italian beverage, passionfruit and lavender glitter, adorned by an edible lavender flower and served with passionfruit ‘caviar’. It contains agar-agar (a plant-based gelatin) and passionfruit purée dripped very slowly through vegetable oil to create passionfruit pearls. Both are refreshing, light and crucially, JT’s own creations.
Our starters arrive. Watermelon Salad, Edamame and Crunchy Avocado. The sweet watermelon, which spends three days in a vacuum bag condensing its flavours, contrasts with lemon and vinaigrette dressing and nutty sunflower seeds. The edamame are plentiful and lightly salted, followed by a glorious blend of creamy avocados encased in a crunchy tempura served with the most delicious zingy yuzu aioli, as well as a spicy mayonnaise that has an extremely firm kick! I could gorge on avocadoes all night.
Next up are the Pulled-Beef Sliders; brioche buns packed full with their delicious contents and then the BBQ Beef Short Ribs. Oh my! These ribs have been slowly cooked for four hours, steeped and simmered in smoked water and drizzled in a perfectly balanced homemade BBQ sauce. With secret ingredients like chipotle paste and alpi sauce, they are the best of their kind I have ever tasted. The broccolini and baby carrots are charred yet crunchy and round off the dish deliciously. Thank goodness for my avocado self-restraint!
We sample a delicious rhubarb and ginger non-alcoholic gin, as JT talks us through similar hand-crafted beverage offerings that Library Lounge boasts – each with its own personality, flavour and accompanying garnish. From Pearson’s Hibiscus & Rose non-alcoholic gin, to Uska’s chocolate non-alcoholic vodka, there is something to tempt you away from the classic (and in my opinion often too heavy and sweet) mocktails that are the mainstay of drinks menus. All come served with their own beautiful garnishes and accompaniments, such as edible gold and silver pearls, rendering them a unique and delicious offering.
We sample the Oiled Vieux Cave, a trio of Cuban, American rye and herbaceous Italian beverage, delicately blended with a wash of coconut oil which lifts the drink to coconutty nirvana, and the Deadpool, which is full of citrus and apple aromas, juniper beverage and lightened with peppermint cordial.
JT brings our desserts: Crunchy Profiteroles and Madagascar Vanilla Crème Brûlée. Two profiteroles, one with hazelnut ice cream and the other containing strawberry and basil ice cream are beautifully presented, with edible flowers, strawberries and passionfruit jewels scattered around the edges, and are dripping with hot chocolate sauce, poured à la table for extra wow! Our crème brûlée is equally beautiful, with meringue-adorned blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and beads of both mango and raspberry purées and the kind of crunch that a crème brûlée should always showcase. A bonus dessert – a liquid Tiramisu comes with chocolate swirls encrusted on the outside of the glass, and contains a moreish blend of Jamaican, coffee and a creamy Irish beverage, with mascarpone cheese, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon, topped off with an elegant white chocolate garnish.
Celebrated for its original, handcrafted beverages and range of cigars, Library Lounge should also be celebrated for its concise yet varied menu, which is set to expand in the coming weeks. Excellent news for me, as it gives me even more reasons to return and try everything else. Not sure I will manage to stay away from ordering the short ribs for a second, third or fourth time, though. They were perfection!
It’s also worth noting that the Library Lounge is set to reopen the terrace soon too, which is not only one of the nicest in town, but also a wonderful way to enjoy the classy spot without smoke. ✤
GO: CALL 4494 8888 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR TO MAKE A RESERVATION