The majority of people (and foodies) in and outside Doha know Souq Waqif as a bustling cultural hub with lots of shopping and affordable eats. We, of course, like to put a different spin on things, and thus bring to you our quick and easy instruction manual on being all fancy-schmancy (without breaking the bank) at this popular after-dark spot. This is also the solution to all your confusion about where to take your colleague from Japan, who is in Doha for just one day.
You seriously don’t have to strut the space in your heels (unless you want to, but be warned about the cobbled streets) and carry wallets filled with plastic. Just grab your camera (or your colleague) and explore the depths of this lively, buzzing area via its best fine-dining restaurants.
1 Al Mourjan
We've already said much about their award-winning food. Look no further if you want some excellent Lebanese classics served in an elite environment. Also, the prospect of people-watching while you munch your fattoush is an exciting one. In case your nosy colleagues walk by, at least they will see you eating right.
Open Sat-Wed noon-12.30am, Thu-Fri noon-1.30am (4436 5539).
2 Al Terrace
This is fairly easy to find, compared to the other boutique hotels in the Souq, that are brilliantly blended in with the local-style architecture. Walk right by Damasca One and you will find this lively yet cosy spot, usually with Arabic musicians when the weather permits, shisha and some great Levantine food. They do a breakfast buffet as well, for only QR50. Who doesn't love a good breakkie buffet? A top spot to catch all the action, we think.
Open daily noon-midnight (4433 6666).
We can never get enough of how Arabesque and striking the interiors of this Moroccan restaurant are. It is one thing to have excellent Moroccan tea with exactly the right amount of sugar (they know just how much), but dining in a low-lit and beautiful setting like Argan’s is a whole other thing. They are spot on with their Maghrebi dishes and have the perfect area to lounge in while watching the host pour Moroccan tea from towering heights and listening to Cheb Khaled’s Raikoum (although this is Algerian).
Open daily noon-4pm, 6pm-11pm (4433 6666).
4 Damasca One
Heavy on your pockets, but well worth it, Damasca One is renowned for serving excellent Levantine fare. There are overly expensive Arabian restaurants and then there are expensive Arabic restaurants that also do shisha, live music and are located in one of Doha’s top night spots. The walk to this restaurant is an exciting one too; you get to cross one of the main streets in Souq Waqif and experience some local culture.
Open Sat-Wed 9am-1am, Thu-Fri 8am-1am (4475 9088).
5 Doha Gymkhana
Gymkhana might be an odd name for most, but it does subtly illustrate the regular lifestyles of the reasonably-rich and somewhat-famous in India, in the olden days. The paternal uncle would certainly have a lifetime membership to the club, and take his extended family out to fancy “gymkhana” dinners every now and then. Which is why Doha Gymkhana is such an exciting place to be. The ambience is spot on and they’ve done the details well. If you love good food with exciting twists (they serve drinks in coconuts with smoke coming out of them), this fine-dining place is where you should be. Did we already mention how great the desserts here are? No? Okay.
Open daily noon-midnight (44774015).
6 Jasmine Thai
This place has its off days, but on most, they serve some really good Thai specialities and give us absolutely nothing to complain about. Agreed, the prices are slightly steep, but a plate of chicken satay and a bowl of Thai curry later, you won’t even worry what your bill will look like (partly because their curry is mind-blowingly spicy). Jasmine Thai is one of the nicest Thai spots in Doha, décor-wise. They are also located away from the buzz, so if you are looking for a nice, quiet and moderately expensive dinner, this is your spot.
Open daily 3pm-11pm (5586 0011).
Prepare to be dazzled. No exaggeration, this place is the epitome of sparkly dinners. Right from the broken-mirror mosaics through the corridor to the gorgeous paintings that lead up to the central foyer adorned with a mini water fountain, the restaurant goes big on little details. They serve some popular and tasty Iranian classics. Finish off your meal with their saffron ice cream to realise why you shouldn't ever think of not buying that copy of Time Out again.
Open daily noon-11pm (4441 1494).
8 Royal Tandoor
Here is what you might call an almost-royal, Indian dining experience. They have booths inside with classic, red furnishings that really exemplify a typical palatial setting, in our very midst. The food is good, not wow, and more suited to the scores of international tourists that usually flock the souk. There is also an Indian man, stereotypically dressed in a turban, who loudly chants the word “Tandoori” in a high-pitched musical tone (we still haven’t figured out why he is here) and sells some sparkly and really, really overpriced Indian jewellery. Whether he is, or isn’t, part of the ambience, Royal Tandoor shouldn’t be missed if you are looking for quality Indian food.
Open Sat-Wed 11.30-12.30am, Thu 11.30am-1am, Fri 1pm-midnight.
9 The Rice and The Noodle
This isn’t exactly fine dining when you see the prices. But the place is very well designed and almost exudes a four-star hotel restaurant feel. It is cosy, it is secluded (kind of) and has a menu that will really surprise you with its costs. You can find sushi rolls that taste really good, for as low as QR22. They have a selection of Chinese and Japanese dishes, and after trying a massive chunk of items off the menu, we can safely say this should be your go-to Asian place at Souq.
Open Sat-Wed noon-midnight, Thu-Fri noon-1am (4415 5185).
10 The Village
You cannot miss this grand building right in the middle of Souq Waqif, all lit up and standing tall. They serve a variety of cuisines and whether you have a spicy, Indian biryani or a Persian chelo kabab, you will savour every single bite amid their fine atmosphere and efficient, friendly service. This is easily the kind of place you take your visitors to the city to, for a proper Doha experience. Don't miss the food kiosks outside selling Turkish favourites.
Open Sat-Wed 7am-11.30pm, Thu-Fri 7am-12.30am (4411 1234).