Umm Ali…that’s all I can think of as I begin to write up this review. You all know by now that I am a sucker for desserts and I have been known to skip mains and go straight to dessert on many an occasion.
But I think this is a first.
I’m starting a review extolling a dessert – I haven’t even told you where I went yet…maybe it’s time I re-wound a little.
Al Jazeera Cafe
Al Jazeera has opened a café – yes Al Jazeera…a news broadcaster is venturing into the food and beverages industry. Located in Building 4 at Katara Cultural Village the new Al Jazeera café has been envisioned as a community café.
The hope is that visitors will come to experience Al Jazeera history through the interactive use of media and broadcasting equipment. Particularly exciting are the news studios which are still a few months away from being opened up for public use. Once operational visitors will be able to make, and edit, a recording of them reading the news – thus allowing them to play both the role of anchor and producer.
The building has been divided into different media zones; whilst the dining area is centrally located (there is also an outside terrace). The décor is simple, but contemporary, acting as a great canvas for the technology to shine. A flatscreen wall acts as a homage to the history of Al Jazeera, whilst museum displays highlight the dangerous job carried out by journalists.
The a la carte menu is presented on a tablet as a rather nifty app, providing diners with images of the dishes and calorie information. The menu also offers some organic options.
The special tasting menu highlighted just a few of the many dishes on offer at Al Jazeera Café. We were also treated to a few of the drinks on offer including a lovely ginger ice tea. The canapes were dainty versions of dishes on the menu such as the sandwiches and hot pasties. I particularly enjoyed the canapé version of an Avocado Rye Bread Sandwich.
Organic olive oil and Himalayan pink salt blocks represented the efforts the Chef and his team had made to carry out their Continental/Arab fusion.
The starters composed of a trio of light bites of an organic quinoa salad, an Arabic bread roll with feta cheese and oak smoked salmon. The sauce components of this selection stood as vibrant and zingy with a controlled amount of lemon. It was a delicate tasting plate which highlighted the freshness of the ingredients used in the café.
For the mains we had an option between an Organic Ricotta and Saffron Ravioli; ‘Melosa’ Beef Cheeks; or Hammour Cheeks. I choose the fish but also had a few cheeky tastes of the amazing beef cheeks. The meat had been prepared with attention and care resulting in a flavourful dish, with deep meaty notes.
The hammour cheeks were delicately tender – it was accompanied by a crisp green apple and celery salad which was so good I could have happily enjoyed it on its own. The mains were very generous in portion size, and had been served with a selection of sides including a ridiculously tasty mac and cheese and more-ishly crispy plantain and sweet potato ‘chips’.
And I think I can now move onto the desserts (and that Umm Ali dish!). The Chef at Al Jazeera Café prepared smaller portions of the desserts as a tasting platter.
The Date Brulee is another good example of the fusion of Arabic and European flavours. The caramelised sugar wasn’t quite hard enough to produce that lovely hard crack, however flavour-wise it delivered. It was a smooth and creamy version of the dessert, accompanied by a slightly sweet halwa ice cream.
The Coffee and Chocolate Tart had a lovely intense flavour of coffee but it was overlooked by the addictively perfect Umm Ali!
An Egytian-inspired dessert it was composed of puffed pastry, pistachios and raisins in one creamy little ramekin of perfection…I just can’t stop admiring this dish – how have I managed to overlook it for so long? An Eastern version of the British bread pudding it ticked all my dessert criteria: crunchy, smooth, creamy and warm. The cardamom flavour was delicate and the dish reminded me of the Indian dessert kheer, but without the overdose of sugar one usually dreads.
The special tasting menu ended with a plate of homemade chocolates – I enjoyed a creamy milk chocolate with a caramel filling, and an intriguing white chocolate and rosemary truffle. Oh but that Umm Ali…The menu also offers a large Angus Beef Burger which definitely calls for a second look – next time I am in Katara I know where I am heading!
Al Jazeera Café is located in Building 4, Shakespeare Street, Katara. The broadcasting and interactive studios will not be open until after summer, but the café is open from 8am to 10.30pm (last orders). For more information call +974 4034 2220.