Paul is synonymous with all things French from freshly-baked pain (bread to you and me), to sandwiches, soups, quiche and beautifully presented sweet tarts and macarons. My dining companion and I visited Paul with some enthusiasm looking for a decent hearty and filling meal. With such a successful international brand there comes an expectation of good consistent food regardless of whether you are visiting a branch in the Middle East or Europe. We were not disappointed although there were a few blips here and there.
Of the three Paul restaurants in Doha we visited the Landmark Mall branch. The place felt very warm and welcoming mostly due to the lighting and casual décor. Although the menu is not a hefty tome it still has a wide choice and it can take some time to decide which of the interesting dishes you would like to try. My dinner companion decided to take the good old tried-and –tested method of choosing based upon the pictures, and went with the Croque-Camembert open sandwich. I opted for the Onion Soup (Soupe a l’oignon traditionnelle) since it is an inherently French dish and I wanted to see how it would be interpreted by Paul. Try not to order too much as you should leave space for dessert since there are so many delicious baked goods to choose from. However you could be cheeky and take away dessert for enjoying later on.
Whilst we waited for our dishes we were served the Paul bread basket of white, brown and wholemeal bread slices. It came with generous sized pots of butter and an olive tapenade. Their size was appreciated as most restaurants provide one mini pot regardless of the number of diners. Unfortunately the bread had to be sent back to be warmed as it was stone cold – bad attention to detail and not a great way to highlight the bread which is a shame as it is the core component of many of the dishes at Paul. The olive tapenade was a beautiful mix of olive, capers and olive oil, and I could happily have finished the pot on my own. You need to be careful not to over-indulge on the bread basket and save room for your mains.
The Onion Soup was presented in a big crusty peasant-style loaf of brown bread, and had a gratin of cheese on top. I enjoyed scooping out some of the inside of the bread loaf to eat with the soup. The broth was a little thick but it had a lovely meaty taste and the onions had been cooked to perfection releasing their sweet flavour. The cheesy top was a bit of a nuisance as it was difficult to spoon out of the soup and just hung around in a congealed mess but it did add an element of flavour to the dish.
I also enjoyed tasting my dining companion’s Camembert open sandwich which came with a small green salad. The bread was moist and chewy and had layers of soft caramelised onions, gooey camembert cheese, sweet comfit apples and crunchy walnuts. It was a pleasant surprise and is a dish to recommend to any diner who enjoys different textures and flavours in their food. However my dining companion had to order another dish because it is a rather small portion, which is disappointing especially as it is one of the more expensive sandwiches in the menu.
We decided to order the Faluche Poulet (Chicken Sandwich) based upon how much we enjoyed the Camembert Sandwich. The grilled chicken was marinated nicely, and the bread had interesting texture with the sesame seed top, but the combination of the two ingredients was a little flat and it could have used some garlic aioli. The sandwich came with potato wedges and the same green salad as before. This is a perfectly serviceable sandwich but after the amazing food journey we took with the camembert sandwich we were disappointed with this dish.
We chose to stay on for dessert and ordered the Mousse Fleur de Lys as a shared dessert. This was a beautifully light chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa powder with a praline base. It is a generous portion and the mousse was rich and luscious, whilst the crisp praline base provided a contrasting crunch. I would have preferred the mousse on its own so I could fully enjoy its smoothness but it was still a very good dish and bodes well for the other chocolate-based desserts. I also ordered some English Breakfast Tea which came as hot water in a beautiful teapot with the teabag tied to it. This is good as you are able to control the strength of your tea as to your own preference. It was a nice touch to provide a mini financier with the tea and I enjoyed its sweet buttery flavour. Unfortunately I wasn’t asked if I wanted any milk with it which is a very basic mistake for the waiter to make especially as they were not exceptionally busy.
You cannot walk pass the doors of Paul nonchalantly as it is the type of café that invites you in with its beautifully presented pastry displays. I am fortunate that I have never lived in close proximity to a Paul otherwise I would have been in there daily especially to take away a macaron or three! Delicious flavour combinations mixed with the cool insouciance of the French style of hearty bistro cooking – well worth a few visits for the bakery alone – however chose your mains carefully and you may also have to stay on top of your server.