Friday brunch at Olive Oil in Doha

A concise brunch with a quiet atmosphere and a great dessert spread

Friday brunch at Olive Oil in Doha

These days, brunch can be anything. An à la carte “sharing” concept, a buffet of nothing but sushi, it can even, seriously, be food-less. But, the tried-and-tested favourite of brunch methods still is, and will remain to be, the international smorgasbord of the international buffet.

And when it comes to these ever-bigger displays of food, it’s widely accepted that bigger is better. The more metre-long cheese tables and foie gras stations a brunch has, the more people seem to rave about it. And don’t get us wrong, we’re all for a gargantuan feast every now and again, but what we love about a Friday at Olive Oil – the newly opened international restaurant at City Centre Rotana – is its pared-back, simplified version of the pastime.

The most noticeable thing, immediately, is that it’s small. There are only a handful of stations around one central open kitchen so, at first, we are a bit sceptical. We do a customary circuit to see what’s on offer, which is two large salad sections, mezze, a small selection of sushi, roast beef and duck and an array of curries, biryani and fresh seafood.

We begin with plates piled high with salad. Olive Oil has gone for quality over quantity and we could easily return for several more plates. There’s a moreish poached pear and blue cheese, salty zucchini and crabmeat, creamy za’atar labneh balls and light, garlicky baba ghanoush. The sushi is fairly standard, nothing gourmet, but fresher that most brunches. It’s clear that the small plate is refreshed frequently, rather than sitting out on a counter for hours, as we suspect is the case with most brunch buffets that display rows upon rows of maki rolls and nigiri.

The iced seafood is also beautiful and fresh. We can’t get enough of the meaty king crab legs, nor the local catch of the day (of which there are two options), which is cooked to order and served with a delicious buttery and light lemon sauce.

Olive Oil stumbles in a few, very minor, places. Though we are fans of rare meat, the roast beef is perhaps just slightly too rare, and the paneer makhani is a little oily, though still packed with plenty of flavour. The garlic rice and biryani, on the other hand, are nice and fluffy.

While most dessert buffets look beautiful, colourful and enticing, more often than not they turn out to be made up mostly of different coloured mousse cakes. Here they are a highlight. The variety is almost unmatched, and of a much higher quality compared to most spreads we’ve tried. There are Arabic sweets and pastries, elaborate cupcakes (albeit from the kids’ section), Swiss rolls, little pots of Eton mess, mango panna cotta and a fantastic umm ali that’s creamy, custardy and comforting.

With all of this considered, it’s a shame that this brunch falls down on its setting. Olive Oil is of the fairly plain, contemporary kind of design that’s common of most hotel international restaurants.

That would be fine – it’s light and comfortable enough – but it just needs a little something to give it a bit more atmosphere. Livelier music, for example, would go a long way (at the moment, it’s the generic kind you get in lobbies and lifts). This said, since the food is good, very little needs to be done in this aspect. Olive Oil works well as a laidback brunch, with enough variety to satisfy big groups, but it’s small enough to keep things casual. With a few minor tweaks, we think it could easily become a casual Friday favourite.
QR245 (soft drinks), QR299 (house package), QR325 (premium package). Fri noon-3.30pm. City Centre Rotana, West Bay (4445 8888).

The bottom line
In an age of bigger-is-better brunches, Olive Oil keeps things small and simple, but enjoyable.

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