RESTAURANT REVIEW-CREPA CREPA @ PEARL QATAR

After a longer than intended hiatus from this space of mine, I was more than eager to return. It only seemed coincidental that as I was scouting for some material that an opportunity presented itself in the form of a invite to a newly opened "Creperie" located in the Pearl Qatar.

Hubby being a major crepe lover and a chance to sneak away for a date night was infact icing on the crepe ( Oops cake) !

Crepa Crepa is tucked away in the charming Qanat Quartier district in the Pearl which now houses several new eateries namely The Breakfast Club, Esmer Chef, Waffles and Coffee.



The restaurant painted a pretty picture with both outdoor and indoor seating facing the cobbled streets and quaint street lamps. Infact it is not too difficult to imagine that we were not in Doha but vacationing at a road-side cafe somewhere in Europe.

                                            

I also thought the interiors were done very thoughtfully which gave the whole place a very cozy feel that could be best described as that you were actually sitting in a friend's dining room than at a restaurant.



Service was perfect although it is fair to mention that they were expecting us. What I specially thought was noteworthy was that the owner, a Qatari national not just introduced himelf but also took out the time by very passionately taking us through the concept and the highlights of the menu. He also explained that Crepa Crepa is an international franchise hailing from Greece and their Qatari venture is their 16th outlet worldwide.

Once we glanced through the extensive menus offering more than 20 varieties each of the savoury and sweet crepes with additional options to also create customized crepes,left us only further undecided. Finally with the help of our server, we managed to narrow down our choices to two appetizers and two mains.

                                  

The Appetizer Bites were basically crepes that were rolled and sliced up served with a dipping sauce. We had chosen the traditional Greek Tasty Spinach and Smoked Salmon. The Tasty Spinach had a filling of spinach,onions and dill that was complimented with a nice tanginess from the feta and served with a mustard sauce. Smoked Salmon also contained a filling of spinach, onions, dill however with a base of creamy Philadelphia cheese and ofcourse smoked salmon which was served with sour cream. Had to rely on the hubby to do the scoring for this round given that I am not a fish-eater. His favourite was the Smoked Salmon which he described to be fresh and clean. We both thought that the Tasty Spinach could be served with a different sauce (probably a sweet chili or a spicier sauce) considering that both Feta and Mustard were tangy in nature.

                             

                                  

For the mains, we had chosen the Mexican and BBQ Texas crepes. Again initially had to rely on the hubby since the Mexican contained beef which I am not a fan of. ( And you think why Am I a food blogger ?) After some gentle coaxing by the hubby, I took a bite and I was completely blown away. That one bite contained flavours of the spicy minced beef, creamy guacamole , crunchy peppers describing which makes me salivate now. I ended up polishing half of this crepe and why only half if you may ask is because I had to give up the other half as part of my "wifely love" which as an afterthought now I think was foolish !

                                 

The second crepe- BBQ Texas was nothing to write home about but delivered in terms of its flavours with smoked turkey, mushrooms, peppers, gouda cheese and BBQ sauce.

What also I must highlight about both these crepes were its perfect crispy thin texture that put some of others that we have had in the past to shame. It goes without saying that all crepes are made to order and at a live cooking station.

                                    

For desserts we had the Cheesecake Selections with strawberry jam and the Extreme Chocolate with an addition of bananas.

The Strawberry Cheesecake was a disappointment and tasted nothing like a cheesecake rather than just a strawberry jam interspersed with some cream cheese.

                                      

Extreme chocolate hit the right spots for a dessert with its rich tastes of white, milk, dark chocolate, banana and nutella. Served with whipped  cream, I thought we should have ordered a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.


For a place that technically serves just one dish, this restaurant does a splendid job in bringing countless varieties to your plate that makes you even forget the intrinsic similarity. If you are looking to spend a relaxed time on a date or with friends and family in a serene ambience with fresh and delicious food, look no further and head to Crepa Crepa.
Crepa Crepa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BANGKOK SERIES #2-THINGS I DID IN BANGKOK

If you had come across my earlier post, you would have known by now that I had travelled to Bangkok-Thailand for my first solo holiday. 

Day 1
Post the visa processing and baggage collection, I strode across the expansive Suvarnabhumi airport to the meet-up point for my hotel transfer.


Was pleasantly surprised on being met by a uniform attired chauffeur and his BMW. (Woo hoo…Jumping on the inside !) My journey of approx 45-50 minutes was every bit smooth, luxurious and wi-fi enabled, a perfect welcome to the city of angels and the tropical heat.



Once I reached my hotel- Chatrium Riverside Bangkok located in the Sathon district, I was escorted immediately to my room on the 17th floor facing the Chao Phraya river.  The room was large with a splendid view and even a private balcony. But more about my hotel experience later.


Exhausted after my long flight and lack of much sleep, I decided to stay in on my first night in the city enjoying endless room service and the river view.


Day 1
Following morning, I felt relaxed and charged up for my city tour spanning the entire day. I was promptly met by my tour guide- Tui from the company- Tour With Tong. Since I opted for the private tour due to the humid climate and for comfort, she was also accompanied by a driver and an air conditioned car. Tui immediately made me feel at ease and within minutes, I almost felt as if I was reconnecting with an old friend.

My first stop for the day was the most popular place of attraction and must do in the city -The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew –Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Grand Palace complex consists of several buildings and sprawled an area of more than 50 acres and was only partially open to public. The architecture was magnificent and its work could be noticed to be extremely intricate with the multi-coloured tiles. I particularly loved the colourful architecture with the sun sparkling off the red, blue, green tiles. 











Unfortunately due to the Buddhist occasion of Vichaka Bucha the following day, the entrance to the actual Temple of Emerald Buddha was closed to public for preparations. This day is celebrated to be the day Lord Buddha was born, died and got his enlightenment. Due to this I ended up witnessing jam-packed crowds as the entire complex would also be closed the next day.



But the royal family currently does not live in the Grand Palace. However another local fact I read and quickly understood was that the Thais love their royalty and treat them with immense respect and devotion. It’s a big faux pas and even illegal to talk negative about the royalty.

Infact it is evident from the fact that the National Father’s Day is celebrated on the King’s birthday. Almost all of the major sights are decorated with Blue and Yellow flags symbolizing the King and the Queen respectively depicting the days they were born on. I was told that in Thailand, each day of the week had a colour associated with it.

Post the tour once I stepped outside the complex, spotted several street side stalls from where I tasted some of the most delicious ripe mangoes sprinkled with some chilli salt which was extremely refreshing.


We then travelled to the next sight, which was Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

After Grand Palace, I just did not want to get out of my air-conditioned vehicle but this sight was such a welcome relief because it was hardly crowded and found it to be airy and breezy. I found out later it was majorly so because the Chinese tourists didn’t have this sight on their itinerary!

BANGKOK SERIES #1-STEP WISE APPROACH TO THE THAILAND VISA ON ARRIVAL ONLINE APPLICATION PROCESS



I was all set and ready to hit the city of Angels- Bangkok for my first solo holiday

However, I heard several not-so-great experiences about the delay faced at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport for the visa on arrival process from family and friends. Nevertheless was completely prepared to wait a good 2-3 hours in the immigration queue.

But that’s when during my research, that I read about the recently launched process for the Online Application for Visa on Arrival through the official Thai government website. Read about other blogger experiences, and guess what it worked ! I would have hardly spend 30 minutes end to end to get my visa stamped and out of passport control.

I thought my penning down my experience could benefit other fellow travellers and couldn't recommend the online procedure enough considering you only need to spend less than 10 minutes in advance and you end up saving a good 1-2 hours of waiting time at the minimum.

However, I would like to clarify that this is not an actual pre-approved visa being issued online rather just a system to enter your personal details directly into the Thai immigration system thereby saving time at their end and hence giving you a skip-the-line option at the airport.

I have enlisted my experiences step wise below:

2.   Click on Tourist -->Apply For Visa on Arrival
3.   You get 30 minutes to fill up the online application with your passport/flight/hotel   
      booking details.
4.   Once done, you are taken to review page before proceeding to accept.
5.   Once accepted, you get a bar code and a reference number with an option to Print 
      VOA Application form.
6.   You would receive a PDF of the form which you can save/print. Ensure to sign off 
      the physical form.
7.   Additionally ensure you carry:
    • Passport (Belonging to the list of eligible countries for Visa on Arrival) with a                validity of more than a month and with atleast 1 complete blank page.
    • 1 passport size photo
    • Return Ticket within 15 days
    • Hotel reservation copy
    • Filled up Arrival/Departure card (I got this from the flight) and Boarding Pass
    • Requirement also indicates for proof of living as 10,000 Baht/person or 20,000 Baht/family. (I was not asked for anything regarding this. If I was, planned to show my debit/credit cards.
    • Visa fee of 1000 Thai Baht in local currency as cash 

Why did I travel Solo and why probably you should ?

Are you really sure?
Aren’t you afraid?
Is it safe?
Won’t you be bored? And even..
Are you crazy?

There were a couple of the reactions that I got when I told people that I would be travelling alone for a holiday. All of this coming from people who have never travelled solo.

Less than 5 % of them actually responded positively and said –Go, Enjoy, Treat yourself. Thank you 5 % !

Why is that when women want to travel (read holiday) solo, it is looked upon negatively or treated with sympathy or as desperate and worse, selfish ?

This is my story.

The husband and me were all set for a ten-day dreamy European holiday to Paris, the French Alps, Burgundy Wine region and charming Bruges.

Visas þ
Air Tickets þ
Hotel bookings þ
Food Tours þ

Alas ! Owing to certain unforeseen entrepreneurial business circumstances for the husband, we had to cancel it all. ALL.

Was I upset ? Most definitely, considering I am a bit of an obsessive planner and had been researching for months for the trip. But even more that I wouId not be enjoying a long deserved break after stressful work situations and toddler tantrums.  

Next emotion: Denial. I refused to not take a break and refused to accept the fact that I was not going anywhere. I neither wanted to end up working nor spend the break cooped up at home and a staycation did not seem good enough.

Checked with some family and friends for their availability which did not materialize considering our original travel dates were just about a week away.

Due to my desperation, I somehow ended up browsing on websites and blogs on female solo travel. If they can do it, why can’t I? But if I where to go, where could I and that too in such short notice.

The husband suggested I stick to the original Europe plan but that somehow felt like a major challenge to me considering it was an itinerary with 4 destinations spread over 10 days and with a considerable bit of travel.

With the time constraints, it also meant countries where pre-approved visas posed as one of the requirements were out of question.

One thing led to another and finally rounded upon Thailand and particularly, Bangkok as my destinations being one of the few countries where Indian passport holders could obtain visa on arrival.

Here I was once again excited and researching for my spontaneous holiday.

However now came the bigger challenger convincing parents –two sets !

RESTAURANT REVIEW #6 - AGORA, GRAND HERITAGE DOHA HOTEL AND SPA

It’s not everyday that the parents from both sides come together in Doha and it was only obvious to celebrate the occasion. However inspite of being quite abreast of the foodie scene in the city, I was in a fix when it came to picking a restaurant that would give us a perfect, quiet ambience, be toddler-friendly, had great food and was situated not too far from our home in Al-Sadd.

That’s when I coincidentally came across Agora located in the Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa, Al Waab which came recommended with a few excellent reviews in Zomato.

As soon we arrived at the hotel, I instantly knew that this place would be a winner. The Victorian like exteriors, plush interiors, smiling faces and the serene environment put us all in a great mood right away.

                             

                                  

Being a Sunday night, the place was hardly crowded and we were seated immediately in what almost seemed like a private area of the restaurant.

                      

Agora serves exclusively Turkish cuisine and we were pleasantly surprised when we were handed over I-pad menus instead of the standard books. Infact, my two-year old daughter was the happiest on seeing this, it being a restricted device at home. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us since that enabled the rest of us to “almost” enjoy the rest of the evening peacefully.

                                

Moving on to discuss about the protagonist of the evening–the food. We were served with a lemon-mint welcome drink, which was like any other of its kind. Then came the bread basket with the assorted dips. It was not just the variety from the crispy pita breads to the spongy sesame breads that were amazing but their taste and quality paired with the 3 dips –a black olive tapenade, another one that we deduced were made with sun-dried and fresh tomatoes and the third, butter in all its glory and in the perfect consistency.

                                       


We were also given a complimentary amuse bouche which was a chicken kofta with a base of soaked bread that seemed in texture almost like a crumbly cheese served in a tangy tomato and yoghurt sauce. The dish was spectacular but disappeared in one bite and I was almost tempted to ask the server to bring me a second round but restrained myself when I remembered the array of dishes that were on its way.

                          

The first starter that we had placed the order for was the Eggplant-Pepper dish. This dish was a little too sour for our liking and overpowered our palate with the presence of rolled-up vine leaves and tomato sauce.

              

Next was the Chicken pide, a Turkish pastry.  It can be described to be a crispy pastry casing filled with delicious spiced minced chicken that seemed almost meat like. We thoroughly enjoyed the combination of the crunch of the pastry with the filling inside.

                                          

The portion sizes of the main courses were significant and easily catered to the six adults present.

We had the grilled lamb chops that the husband described to be succulent and perfectly cooked served with mashed potatoes and vegetables.



Sheesh Tawook was good like any other of its counterparts available in the city. The highlight were the accompaniments such as spicy bulgur tasted almost like pulao, carrot salad and grilled vegetables.


Chicken Bayti Kebab was a delightful dish where grilled chicken were dressed up and rolled in a saj bread that kept the chicken extremely juicy and moist and held in the flavours. This was also served in a yoghurt-tomato sauce and French fries.


Home made kofte were basically mutton meatballs served on a moist bread base similar to the amuse bouche, in a tomato sauce. This was served with delicious, plump rice, a carrot salad and French Fries.

     

We also had ordered hummus which was pretty normal and just like any from any other restaurant. The yoghurt accompaniment was also not bad and we particularly liked the addition of black sesame.

                          
    
                                         

After downing all of the above, a dessert in usual scenarios was unthinkable. But once me and the husband saw “Kunafa” on the menu, there definitely was no way that we were leaving without tasting that.

And oh my, weren’t we glad, the dessert was truly the star of the evening ! The crispy Kunafa with its oozing cheese combined with the icecream was just mind-blowing. Utterly sinful in every bite but so worth that a trip to this restaurant just to sample this one dish would be easily justified.

                                     

Me and my family had a great time at the Agora. The only down side that I could nit-pick was that though our server was polite and attentive, she barely knew anything about the food nor could answer our questions when we were placing our order. Also, hardcore foodies like us would have appreciated if the server(s) could have given us a brief of each dish when being served. But on the other hand, the maitre'd did compensate to some extent in this regard.

But having said the above, this surely wouldn’t stop us from visiting the restaurant a second time. We enjoyed the delicious food and the calm ambience. We also were happy to use our Entertainer vouchers and this definitely proved worthwhile considering that the restaurant falls in the expensive bracket. 

            

Restaurant Info:
Agora
Ground Floor
Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa
Al Waab
Doha


Ph:+974-44455555

Verdict:

Criteria
Weightage
Points given
Overall
Food
50%
4.0
2.0
Service
20%
3.5
0.7
Ambience
15%
4.5
0.7
Value for Money
15%
4.0
0.6
4.0


Rating: Excellent JJ

Agora - Grand Heritage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato