Gerald Tan has a blitz of the Ramadan tents to try, and serves up these options
June 25, 2015 9:34 AM
The Ramadan tent is a unique feature across the Arab world during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Originally used as a venue for people to break their fast with family and friends, it has morphed into a social phenomenon where Arabian hospitality takes centre stage. Lavish spreads of food and live entertainment are now integrated into the tent experience in the Gulf, with hotels and restaurants staging nothing less than spectacular productions. I’ve gone tent-hopping during iftar and suhoor over the last week to bring you some of the very best Ramadan dining experiences in Doha.
W Doha Hotel & Residences – Sultan’s Tent Iftar QR230/suhoor QR285
The basics Sticking to its tried and true Turkish theme, the W puts on a show-stealing tent, capturing the opulence of a Sultan’s palace. A select number of live stations are integrated into the dining area, including the ever-popular sushi counter. Seeking a bargain? Don’t forget the 20% discount during iftar for SPG members.
You can’t miss The Turkish corner – award-winning celebrity chef OmurAkkor has been flown in from Istanbul to prepare authentic, thoroughly scrumptious dishes that change daily. Watch out for the dondurma ice cream stand. West Bay (4453 5000).
The St. Regis Doha – Ramadan Souq Iftar QR230/suhoor QR290
The basics An entiresouq built inside a ballroom. Visit the fish monger, the butcher, and the farm stands for piping hot food from across the globe. Crab cakes, Peking duck rolls, and a roast dinner are mere highlights. With seating for almost 500 people in this interactive setting, the St. Regis tent brilliantly captures the bustle and buzz of a souq.
You can’t miss Dessert paradise – from a cupcake tower to a myriad of Turkish delights and homemade ice creams, desserts take the spotlight with counters set around life-size Arabian bird houses. West Bay Lagoon (4446 0105).
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Ramadan Tent IftarQR230/suhoor QR290
The basics Invoking the traditions of Bedouin life, the Ritz-Carlton presents a tent steeped in local culture, from fabrics to furnishing and a section dedicated to Qatari cuisine. Even the private tables are sectioned off to look like an outdoor tent majlis. The brand’s trademark hospitality is most evident, with chefs and servers guiding diners through the buffet.
You can’t miss Tanoura dancing – the performer twirls in perpetual revolutions, costume flickering with light and concentration sharp as an arrow. A dizzying performance that gets the cameras clicking. West Bay Lagoon (4484 8000).
Grand Hyatt Doha – Ramadanak Tent Iftar QR250/suhoor QR250
The basics A sense of splendour overtakes the Grand Hyatt each Ramadan. The majestic atrium is transformed into the Ramadanak Tent, a lounge area with live entertainment and à la carte food service. Attached to this is The Grill restaurant for diners seeking a full buffet experience. Reserve a table for five people and pay for just four!
You can’t miss Thai specialities – incorporating items from the hotel’s wildly popular restaurant Isaan, the buffets feature authentic Thai dishes including salads, curries, and cooked-to-order-noodles. West Bay (4448 1253).
The basics While the evening away on a terrace that’s been tented up for comfort while soaking in live music and a sweeping sea view. The wide selection of food laid out in the ballroom has a strong emphasis on Arabic flavours. With service starting from 8.30pm, this tent offers one of the longest suhoor sessions in town.
You can’t miss The Sheraton Umm Ali – legendary and lip-smacking. No restaurant in town can beat the Egyptian-style bread pudding made here. Being able to enjoy it all night long is reason enough to visit. West Bay (4485 3000).
Marsa Malaz Kempinski– Ramadan Tent Iftar QR240/suhoor QR290
The basics Talk about a grand entrance. As one of Doha’s newest hotels, the glitzy Marsa Malaz makes a splash with its tent built on luxury. The foyer to the ballroom is decked out end-to-end with gastronomic delights, while the ballroom, bathed in golds and purples, offers a regal setting to unwind and enjoy the food and live entertainment.
You can’t miss The breathtaking variety – more really is more. One is spoilt for choice here not only in terms of global cuisines but also innovative flavours. Did somebody say red velvet cake ice cream? The Pearl (4035 5011).
Four Seasons Hotel Doha – Ramadan Tent Iftar QR235/suhoor QR275
The basics Intimacy is the theme of this tent set up in the gardens of the hotel. Its entrance is seamlessly connected through the lower lobby into a cosy area with majlis-style seating along the periphery, dining tables in the middle, and live cooking stations serving up everything from Tex-Mex to Mediterranean and Qatari favourites.
You can’t miss The view, the view, the view – with the tent built right to the edge of the water, the entire room looks out onto the majestic Noburestaurant and the bay beyond. Book early for one of the window-side tables; they’re premium. West Bay (4494 8600).
Doha Marriott Hotel – Ramadan Tent Iftar QR215
The basics The Marriott’s famed restaurant gallery becomes a feasting alleyway with Arabic, Indian, and even Indonesian specialities on offer. Leading to the iftar buffet is the Majlis Lobby tent featuring henna art and falconry – a perfect opportunity to soak in the region’s traditions. The little ones can also enjoy a large indoor play area.
You can’t miss Sahara and Bashoosh. Especially brought in for Ramadan, the two camels welcome guests on the hotel’s front lawn. Get up close and personal to snap a photo, because they say even camels like selfies. Ras Abu Abboud (4429 8499).
The basics Orderly rows of pristine white settees, and café-style tables make for a contemporary, relaxed setting. A veritable army of chefs tend to the live stations, serving up freshly prepared sushi, stir-fries, and hand-held snacks, among others. With plenty of the cooking taking place within the tent, be prepared to be tantalised by the aroma of food.
You can’t miss The thinnest, crispiest saj this corner of the desert. Sprinkled with zaatar and smothered with cheese, each hand-rolled piece disappears straight from the griddle onto waiting plates. West Bay (4419 6100).
Set menus If you’re after something away from the buffet experience, try these Ramadan menus from two of Doha’s ever-popular restaurants.
Orient Pearl – Special menu Iftar QR200/suhoor QR200
The basics With a capacity to host 600 people, Doha’s largest standalone restaurant proves it is a picture of efficiency. The iftar and suhoor set menus are served in a banquet manner, with squadrons of servers bringing plates of food within minutes of diners sitting down. For a special treat, get a window table overlooking the musical fountains.
You can’t miss Mr. Tamer Hindi – the wandering “vendor” circulates the dining room, performing a little show as he beats his drums, flings cups in the air, and pours you a glass of tamarind juice. Corniche (4410 6666).
La Varenne – Iftar Menu Iftar QR225
The basics Styled after its bistro brunch, La Varenne’s family-style iftar service features a procession of dishes brought to the table for sharing. Hors d’eouvre, salads, stews, and grills arrive at a leisurely pace, so plates are never empty and conversations never run dry. It’s still French food, with special Arab flavours infused to celebrate Ramadan.
You can’t miss The dessert trolley – remarkable how much temptation the restaurant piles onto this cart of confection. On top of the usual French standards, expect Arabian sweets such as baklava and maamoul. West Bay (4499 0680).