Walking through the W Hotel lobby gives you a sense of what to expect when you sit down for a meal at Market by Jean Georges. Stylish and fresh the restaurant has a well-thought out design. There are varied seating options from larger tables for bigger groups to small tables with armchairs for those looking to enjoy the ambience. The restaurant has no natural light and the designed lighting was dim and most of the many candles had been lit. However it was not dark and the soft lighting provided a relaxed and laid-back environment away from the city traffic and noise. I particularly liked the pop of yellow colour here and there in the restaurant’s otherwise white minimalist design scheme. I don’t want to lose my impartiality but I think they ‘had me at yellow!’ [UPDATE: Market was recently refurbished – you can discover more about the New Look for Market.]
I came on a recommendation to try the Express Business Lunch. This set menu is aimed at those taking a lunch break from work and has been designed for a quick turnover with a three course meal (Appetiser, Entrée, and Dessert) intended to be served within 30 minutes. My fellow diners and I were more interested in enjoying the food and conversation rather than having to worry about the timing. However, for those needing a quick lunch I would suggest that you keep your timing as your priority and communicate that to the wait staff so they know to fire up your courses quickly which would help to reduce the wait time for your dishes.
Whilst waiting for my Appetiser I enjoyed the house beverage Blackberry Fizz which came in an enormous glass and tasted like a delicious, healthy version of a soft drink. Although the menu is ultimately designed for an express meal it is very easy to slow down and take your time over the food and enjoy the flavours. If you are in a hurry then try to keep ahead of the courses by asking for your next course when you are still a few minutes away from finishing your present course. If you get your timing wrong then you may have to leave without having the enjoyment of dessert. However Market has it seems prepared for this by providing the option to have a take-away cookie bag if you don’t have time for dessert. Three different cookies instead of a beautifully conceptualised dessert may seem like a terrible trade-off but the flavours of ginger oatmeal, peanut butter, and coconut chocolate chip suggest that some thought has been put into their construction as well.
Our server brought us the house bread before our meal with one small dish of butter, and it was good to have the bread reach our table already warm. It is an annoyance, shared universally by all diners, to have to send back cold bread and ask for it to be warmed. The focaccia was beautifully baked with a crisp exterior and a chewy middle. The sliced black olives scattered on top added to its flavour, however you only get one of these lovely pieces of bread, whilst the rest of your bread basket is composed of diamond artisan-styled white loaves. We need more complimentary focaccia Market!
Two servers arrived in order to serve the first course simultaneously, which was appreciated as my fellow diners had ordered tomato soup. The tomato soup here is famous and was highly rated by Time Out Doha in 2013 when the Market won the Best Business Lunch Award (for 2014 it has been Highly Commended). The soup is brought to the table in thermal carafes and is served at the table ensuring diners receive their soup at the temperature it is intended to be enjoyed – the drama of the pouring helped add something to the meal too. I tasted the soup and it was thick, creamy and flavourful, and the cheesy croutons added an extra element of flavour and texture. My fellow diners emptied their soup plates very quickly and used the house bread to scoop up every last bit.
I had the Crispy Calamari with a Beet Tartar Sauce which looked striking on the plate with the deep red of the fried beetroot crisps and bold green dill. It was a carefully thought out dish with the calamari (including its tentacles) fried perfectly without any hint of toughness. The calamari and accompanying beet sauce paired together beautifully and an extra squeeze of lemon helped to pack a flavourful punch – I would happily re-order and enjoy this dish again.
The portions sizes are very generous and it does feel like you are receiving the same full portion sizes found in the dinner menu. This is especially evident when it came to the entrees (that’s main course to us more humble diners).
I asked for the Parmesan Crusted Chicken but had some hesitance as to how strong the cheese would be. I need not have worried the crust was a revelation, and along with the lemon butter sauce it added a tangy and savoury component to the dish. The white asparagus was beautifully prepared and the chicken breast was tender and moist. My fellow diners enjoyed the Slowly Cooked Salmon which looked elegant on the plate. It was a sizeable portion of fish placed on top of the creamiest potato puree, and it was topped off with sugar snap peas that added some crunch. The sauce was a black truffle emulsion and although there was an adequate amount on the plate the potatoes would have sung with more sauce.
As mentioned before we were there for a lovely relaxed lunch rather than an express lunch meal. Fair warning to those who are in a hurry this food cannot be eaten quickly. Its sophisticated plating and delicious flavour pairings means that it is difficult not to savour every mouthful. This cannot be stressed enough when it comes to the desserts. Missing the third course is a disaster when you consider you are missing out on one of any number of elegantly composed desserts with a mixture of textures and flavours.
Consider the individual components of the Caramelised Banana Cake: on one side of the plate there is a moist and evenly baked rectangular piece of banana cake with a top layer of fresh banana slices and a generous drizzling of caramel sauce; and on the other side is a rich and intense dark chocolate ice-cream upon a layer of chocolate crumbs and three biscuit tulles. In one mouthful you get soft banana, with moist cake and a hit of dark chocolate coldness finished by the crunch of the tulle and chocolate crumbs.
The Warm Chocolate Cake provides an even more cohesive taste sensation with the contrast of the warm, gooey chocolate cake and cold vanilla ice-cream followed by the crunch of the brandy snap biscuit and crispy crumble. I sound like I am writing an ‘Ode to Desserts’, but these desserts were top-tier and it was amazing to be able to try more than one. I would visit the Market just for a special set dessert menu – maybe I should suggest that to them, after all who needs real food when there is dessert to be devoured!
Service was excellent although you should be clear about how much time you have for lunch and it is also best if you follow up on your courses quickly. My order for dessert was incorrectly and disappointingly carried out when I received the Apple Pie ( I really dislike stewed apples) instead of the Chocolate Mousse that I had been eagerly looking forward to. When I queried it with the staff I received an apology and the waiter, upon investigation, told me that my chosen dessert had not yet set and to choose another menu item. Disappointed I chose the Banana Cake because my fellow diners had already received their desserts and it was quick for the kitchen to prepare. The dessert itself was a sweet finish to a lovely meal and the servers dealt with the dessert mix-up excellently. My table was able to taste the Warm Apple Pie with a cinnamon ice-cream, which was offered without an extra charge.
A gastronomic lunchtime adventure is waiting for those who don’t mind travelling a little further for their meal, with seriously good food, excellent portion sizes and pleasant wait staff. Whether you are an office worker taking a lunch break, a businessperson taking a colleague to lunch or a group of friends looking for a lovely meal give the Market a try – you will be pleasantly surprised.
[UPDATE: Market has won recent awards for Best Contemporary European and Highly Commended for Best Business Lunch from Time Out Doha Awards 2015; and an award for Favourite Contemporary European Restaurant in Doha 2015 from Fact Dining Awards Doha]
Market by Jean-Georges has a popular Express Business Lunch Menu priced at QR 98 per person, with a starter, main course and dessert served in half an hour!
Available Daily except Fridays from 12pm – 4pm.
For more information and bookings call +974 4453 5135 or email [email protected].