By Ashlee Starratt
Photography by Abshar Kader
When the working day is done, folks just want to have fun. Or so the saying goes. We all have our favourite Doha haunts that keep us coming back time and again for reasons as varied yet constant as: ambiance, quality of service, calibre of food, and music you can grab the beat to. We’re all looking for a place where we can kick back and indulge – and, ultimately, a sense of comfort ranks chief among criteria for a return visit.
Luckily the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha has a new hidden gem that ticks all the boxes. Having expanded their poolside Aqua Lounge to include an upstairs, licensed Shisha Terrace, the new addition to the space is a welcome tag-on to a splash day in the sun – and as a stand-alone after-work hotspot to shake off the trappings of the day.
With plush, comfortable seating arranged in intimate enclaves across the wood-paneled terrace, hedges and shrubbery separate one table from the next, creating a sense of privacy that engulfs the space. This is a spot to come watch the sunset over a few cold glasses and fragrant hookahs, or grab a light lunch away from the pool-deck itself if you need a break from working on your tan.
The backdrop is second to none – we especially loved watching the twinkling lights of West Bay light up all around us as the sun sank and the shisha coals were stoked. The terrace will remain open for the duration of the summer, (thanks to the help of some industrial cooling fans!), and will operate from Iftar onwards during the month of Ramadan.
It’s early evening at the start of the week when we arrive at the terrace to take in the sundowner ambiance. As its name suggest, shisha paraphernalia abounds, with some incredible glass hookah pipe centrepieces that have been repurposed as exotic aquariums, lit from within with an eldritch glow.
Located on the hotel’s 7th floor, access to the Shisha Terrace can be found via the pool-deck, with entry accessible from the Fitness Center reception or that of the hotel’s Saray Spa. Though the day is waning, there’s still more than a few sun-loungers occupied when we arrive – hotel guests, or day-pass patrons soaking up the last of the golden rays. The cool blue Aqua Lounge bar and canteen area is busy with waiters bustling back and forth, trays expertly balanced.
At the far end of the cool blue pool, a wide flight of stairs leads upwards towards the shisha terrace – an umbilicus to the pool-deck, yet a distinctly separate space all its own. As we get settled and nestled in to our comfy couches, we’re brought iPad menus to peruse the latest temptations from the kitchen. Offering inspired light bites with Arab and pan-Latin leanings, (think hot/cold mezze, and oven-baked briouats and fatayers), the options are comfort food at its most refreshing. To balance the naughty bits is a quenching juice-blend menu that’s as lush-tasting as it is hydrating (the pink watermelon lemonade is a must-try).
We order up some double apple shisha and prepare to sample a selection of starters off the menu. All arrive crisp, piping hot, and with cheese oozing from every pastry escape route. We love (as in devoured in minutes!) the chorizo and shrimp fatayer with a side of avocado hummus.
In fact, let us pause for a moment to give proper acknowledgment to the range of savoury, velvety hummus they have on tap here. There’s the fuchsia-hued beetroot variety, the perfect accompaniment to a tidily-folded spinach fatayer; there’s a punchy carrot variety that’s acts as the ideal vehicle for a cheesy morsel of rakakat; and, there’s the crème de la creamy crème – the silken pumpkin hummus. As vibrant as a crisp fall day, and whipped to weightless, sweet perfection. We slather it on to the spicy shrimp rolls and crunchy chicken pastilla crescents – and, dare we admit it, sample straight from the spoon with wanton abandon.
In a region that defines itself on the calibre of its hummus, it’s a refreshing change to be offered some that are, truly, out of the ordinary.
Bellies full and smiles all around, there’s nothing left to it but to order another round and bask in the view of a million West Bay lights against a glittering backdrop of starry night sky. The pool-deck may be quiet now, but up here on the terrace, the evening’s just begun.
Shisha Terrace at Aqua Lounge
Location: 7th Floor, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha
Timings: 12 noon till 1:00 a.m., daily
6:00 p.m. till 1:00 a.m., daily during Ramadan
Prices: QR 28-QR 40, mezze, briouat, and fatayers
QR 110-QR 125, selection of shisha
Contact: (+974) 4419-5000
Where are some of your favourite places to unwind and indulge in Doha? Let us know by dropping us a line in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!
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