Rocca

New restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Doha promises Mediterranean flavours Discuss this article

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It’s tricky to get a decent meal at Rocca, the new ‘Mediterranean’-themed restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Doha, but let us explain. The main challenge is actually geographical: how do you find the place?

Fortunately, five-star assistance is on hand to guide your odyssey and keep you from literally starving in the desert. A smartly dressed woman from the front desk can escort you through the lobby, down an elevator, around a few corners through what seem to be service hallways, onto the pool deck to an unmarked building by the water. It’s a partially gorgeous setting overlooking the stunning, modernist swimming pool and a somewhat industrial-looking part of the Pearl. The interior of the restaurant is, appropriately for its poolside locale, designed to look like an upscale cabana. There’s an open kitchen where chefs grill and cook behind white marble countertops, and the dining tables match the counters and are surrounded by cushioned wicker chairs. You’ll probably ache for a drink after your journey to get there. Rocca has an ample wine list. A juice bar provides for teetotalers.

The beverages are, of course, mere accompaniments for the food: what Grand Hyatt’s executive chef Mark Hagan would later describe to me as, ‘good quality, simple food cooked properly with love by chefs.’ Rocca’s cooking spans the breadth of Mediterranean flavours. Nothing is avant-garde. Hagan figures some more adventurous dishes might be added when Doha’s dining scene grows more demanding.

For now, the menu offers touches of Morocco, France, Italy and more in classics like tajine, steak frites and pizza. That shotgun-scatter approach to international cuisine is normally an omen of Very Bad Things. Doha is, after all, a city overstuffed with terrible samosas at sushi joints, appalling pasta at Chinese buffets, and inedible pad thai at supposedly Arabic restaurants. But Rocca is a pleasant departure from such travesties. Some of the dishes may stray outside the tight confines of what orthodoxy might deem ‘authentic’, but the majority of the food is authentically good, and some is downright amazing.

Take the starters, for starters. The heaping portion of sautéed mussels with white wine, garlic and flat leaf parsley is fantastic and memorable. The mussels are as soft as butter on a hot Doha afternoon, and seemingly melt into the velvety, garlicky sauce. The flavours blend seamlessly together – even the hint of hot chillies that punctuate the morsel after you’ve swallowed.

The grilled haloumi salad is another hit. Chewy haloumi, nutty walnuts, tart dressing and salty bresaola complement each other like players in a well-choreographed dance. There are few genuine substitutes for prosciutto (or bacon, sigh…), but bresaola, a type of salted cured beef originating in northern Italy, is just as lovely in its own right.

Two other dishes my dinner companion and I tried are worthy of much praise. The meat of the signature lamb shank tagine falls off its bone, and the accompanying spicy harissa makes the already tasty entrée burst with flavour. For dessert, try the fresh fruit jalousie with lemon gelato. The gelato, made in-house, packs a wallop of fresh, lemony zing that will make your eyes light up.

The sour notes in the meal came not from the gelato, but most notably from the frites of the rib eye steak frites. The Jenga-block-shaped fries had a nice potatoey taste and were ideal for stacking into sculptures, but were slightly soggy instead of crisp. The rib eye steak itself was surprisingly lean and thus a bit lacking in the juiciness I’ve come to expect from what’s normally one of steakdom’s fattier cuts. The carmelised shallots helped with that until I ran out. I also would have liked the pan-fried scallops appetiser to have been cooked a shade more to turn them from squishy to flaky.

But any of these minor sins committed at Rocca are happily forgiven on two accounts: firstly, the restaurant opened just weeks before my meal and I expected far more growing pains than I encountered. Secondly, the service was impeccable.

Any five-star joint should treat you properly, but too often it feels stiff and robotic. How can you relax having a meal in a place where you feel like you’re part of a procedure? The staff at Rocca went beyond mere rules to make us feel warmly welcomed. Somebody forgot to charge us for our wine, but when the error was discovered they refused to take the money we owed them. When we mentioned how much we liked the gelato, another scoop appeared on our plate. Meanwhile, Chef Hagan mingled with diners to talk about the food and see if they were enjoying their evening. Refreshingly, the wait staff could talk knowledgably and passionately about the dishes they liked or didn’t.

All of this adds up to a place that’s easy to want to return to. The food is delicious, but not fussy. Most importantly, Rocca gives the impression it’s staffed by people who genuinely care about the food, the clients and each other. Just take the time to find it.

The bill (for two)
1x Evian water QR35
1x Grilled haloumi QR55
1x Scallops QR65
1x Sautéed mussels QR70
1x Lamb tagine QR105
1x Rib eye steak QR125
1x Jalousie QR40
1x Carmelised pear QR45
1x Watermelon juice QR45
Total QR585

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Grand Hyatt Doha, West Bay Lagoon, Doha
  • Tel: 7021 8096
  • Travel: Al Istiqlal Street
  • Website | Send mail

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