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Yesterday evening was the first training session for the newly appointed Honorary Cultural Ambassadors, which I was lucky enough to have been selected for. Training took place in the cinema of the Fire Station Art Gallery and lasted for 3 hours.

There were four presentations covering the Museum of Islamic Art, the soon to open Qatar National Museum, the Fire Station and lastly the Olympic and Sports Museum due to open in 2019.

There was a lot to take in, and I started taking notes too late. But here are a couple of things I didn’t know and found interesting.

  • The architect of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) insisted that the building should be where it is, because he didn’t want it in a location where there was any risk of any new development ever overshadowing this amazing building. And because water has a calming effect for museums, galleries and such like.
  • The Qatar National Museum will open in 2018.
  • The Fire Station Artist in Residence Program had over 170 applicants this year. But the judges panel of 5 experts had to select only 20 artists. Each successful artist was given one of the 20 studios located in the Fire Station, financial assistance for materials and also mentoring. Old unused school buildings around Qatar are to be converted into studios to allow more artists to expand and develop their skills.
  • The Olympic and Sports Museum is under development at The new Khalifa International Stadium located in Aspire, and will open in 2019.

Honestly there was a lot of information, and I hope to be able to tell you more about each of the 4 museums in the coming weeks as I get more hands on with them. Starting with the Fire Station, which we are visiting tomorrow to have a tour of the current exhibition showing there.

The first training session for Honorary Cultural Ambassadors held at the Fire Station Art Galary

 

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Rapiscan Systems Logo

Having recently had very bad experiences with both Pizza Hut and Domino’s, I was quite keen to try out a new kid on the block.

Located next to the Centro Hotel in Al Jazeera Street, Castello is a small restaurant with takeaway on the ground floor and a seating area upstairs.

It’s prices are good with a small salami pizza costing QR 30 and a large costing QR 40. Margarita pizza QR 24 (S) / QR 34 (L) and a further 16 other toppings available.

Quality is Good. However Trip Adviser only allow the selection of Average or Very Good (nothing in the middle). And it is neither of those, so to be fair to them I gave them very good as their Trip Adviser rating rather than average.

The bases are made from scratch and I believe are all thin and crispy. I ordered a large Seafood for QR 49. The base was perfect, the topping was good (not average and not very good) just good. Not enough basil or oregano for me, and although they asked me how spicy I would like it (I said Spicy but not too spicy) there was no hint of spicy heat to be found. But I still enjoyed it. Was it worth QR 49…. yes it was. Would I go back again…. yes I would.

I’m looking forward to trying their other more interesting toppings that are not on the big high street chain menus.

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I have been hearing good things about the Indian Coffee House for quite some time. And yesterday I decided to pop along and give it a try.

Now here is the thing, I didn’t go and try one of their unlimited buffets that I have heard so much about. It could be that when I try one of those (which I am going to do sometime soon) I will consider them better value. But based upon yesterday’s visit I consider them overpriced.

For QR 24 I would expect my Mutton Biriyani to be exceptional, but I only found it OK. I have had as good as that at half the price.

Fish Mango Curry; The gravy/sauce was delicious. Loads of flavour with just the right amount of heat. I loved it. Except that there was hardly any fish in it. It was all sauce. And because of that I consider QR 22 to be too expensive.

Kashmiri Pulae Rice; Very nice, but once again a little on the expensive side.

Meal total for 2 people QR 80 including 3 x cans of soda water. QR 40 per head! Not worth it. I could have got much better value elsewhere.

Service was warm and friendly. Ambiance was very nice, and they do have plentiful private parking which is also very nice.

I will let you know what I think of their Breakfast Buffet once I have tried it. But I really do have high expectations of that, and I do believe I am going to be singing its praises once I have.

For expats living in Qatar, one of the things that can keep them in touch with back home is the ability to watch TV content from their native country. In the past I have written about various ways of achieving this via VPN or Magic DNS. Both of which require annual subscriptions. However, there is a completely free way of streaming TV content from all over the world using a wonderful piece of software called KODI.

KODI is extremely controversial because it allows the viewing of content that would normally have to be paid for. Yet KODI itself is not illegal to download, own or use. This is because it has many completely legal and useful features. It’s a powerful media player bringing all of the content on your networked or single devices together.

Whilst KODI is legal and easy to download for free, as well as easy to use. There are numerous free Add-Ons that give you access to TV stations and the ability to stream movies (even movies still showing at theatres right now) as well. And these add-ons would most certainly be classed as pirated content. KODI can be installed on Windows computers and also on small dedicated devices running other operating systems such as Linux and Android which can easily plug into your TV using a HDMI cable. In the UK there have been arrests of vendors selling TV Box’s pre-installed with KODI which has been preconfigured to gain access to pirated content.

You can download and install KODI on your Windows computer right now if you want. Simply click on this link: https://kodi.tv/download

Follow the instructions and voilà you have a legal, powerful media player.

Now you can start installing add-on’s. Legal ones of course. If you install and use illegal ones, well that is up to you if your conscience will allow.

To install the YouTube add-on for example, click ‘Video add-ons’ and scroll down the list to YouTube. Click the install button and the add-on will download and install automatically. You will get a notification telling you that it was installed successfully. You will find your new add-on in the Add-ons section of the main menu.

Instead of adding your own add-ons one by one, you can also install what is called a ‘Build’. This is a pre-made pack of add-ons. A very popular ‘Build’ is one called Apollo.

If you are technically minded, follow the instructions located here KODI Build Install Instructions

Having been disappointed by Marble Slab Creamery in Lagoona Mall, we wandered a short distance to cioccolat italiani. And this place is now on my Highly Recommended List for must try ice cream.

Service was happy and very helpful, the environment was luxurious and the ice cream was absolutely perfect.

cioccolat italiani

You can really taste the quality. I had a cup with milk chocolate, dark chocolate and pistachio in it. And it was AWESOME! Probably the best chocolate ice cream I have ever had.

cioccolat italiani

Bri had a cone with… well to be honest I can’t remember what was in it. But he had the cone filled with molten white chocolate before they added the ice cream. Just look at it.

cioccolat italiani

And Victoria had a cup with… well not only can I not remember what was in hers, but I also forgot to photograph it 😉 But she loved hers as well.

Am I going back here? Damn right I am!

For the first time last night we visited Marble Slab Creamery in Lagoona Mall. It’s a very similar concept to Cold Stone’s but in my opinion with less variety.

Our visit was tainted firstly by unattentive staff who despite us being their only customers continuously miss understood the phrase “what’s in it” as “I would like one of those please”. Every time we asked what was in an ice cream, they would answer “Yes sir” and start preparing it. It’s like they couldn’t wait to get rid of us.

Marble Slab Creamery

I was the last to order, and I decided to go for a creation which I can’t remember the name of, but basically it was a chocolate based flavour. And I was told I couldn’t have it because they had run out of chocolate ice cream. What!? They then proceeded to try and get me to replace the chocolate ice cream with Red Velvet because it tastes like chocolate. I tasted the Red Velvet and no it did not taste enough like chocolate for me to be duped into accepting it. I stared at the menu for a long time trying to select something else I fancied instead, but everything I liked the look of used chocolate ice cream as an ingredient.

In the end I decided to just leave it, and go and help Victoria eat her Strawberry Skydive instead. But as I was leaving I asked the staff “How can an ice cream shop run out of chocolate ice cream? It’s like Mc Donald’s running out of burgers”. The reply I got was unexpected. A member of staff replied with “Yes sir, it’s because we are trying to promote other flavours”. And that prompted my second WHAT!?

Brian and Victoria very much enjoyed their flavours, but complained that Cold Stone’s were bigger and they could have done with a bit more. So I was the only one that had a bad experience. And that was based on staff that seemed disinterested in doing their job, and a management failure to monitor stock levels of chocolate ice cream.

Would I go back? Naaaa! After leaving Marble Slab we went to cioccolat italiani next door. They had lots of chocolate ice cream, and that’s where I will go next time I am in Lagoona Mall and fancy an ice cream.

cioccolat italiani

Parco Mall Doha opened its doors in July 2011 with some great features. It had Food World (supermarket) as its main tenant, several excellent independent retailers and an excellent food court.

Here is a link to the press release published on Qatar Living http://www.qatarliving.com/forum/qatar-living-lounge/posts/parco-mall-opens-today

And here is a link to Mr Q’s Vlog
https://youtu.be/gmk9ho83KlM

I used to love this mall. At the time I was living in Abu Hamour and Parco Mall was a very welcome addition to the area. We were regular visitors to Popeye’s, Yellow Cab and the New White Oceanic Restaurant. We would also pop into Red Tag and Food World while we were there. It was a nice bright fresh mall with plenty to offer. Parking was a bit of a struggle, but we could normally find a space.

One of my main regrets is I didn’t photograph it when it was in its prime. I searched my library and I only have one image taken there. I never captured the hanging garden, and that was a really nice feature that looked fabulous.  And when I searched the net for someone else’s images to use, I discovered there aren’t any. In fact, there are just a handful of images all of which weren’t worth publishing here as they were like my single image, just of people eating in the food court.

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My only image taken at Parco Mall is of the beautiful Victoria playing with her new (state of the art then) Nokia Lumia phone in the food court.

In May 2012 Dar Al Salam Mall in Abu Hamour opened its doors. And I believe that this immediately started detracting from visits to Parco.

Carrefour Dar Al Salam Now Open
Dar Al Salam Mall in Abu Hamour opened it’s doors in May 2012

Over time more and more facilities started opening in and around the area and there started to be changes to the vendors in Parco Mall as some retailers left, and others arrived.

We continued to pop in now and again to enjoy the food court, but one by one the changes there meant less and less outlets that we liked. And today the only reason we go, is for the New White Oceanic Restaurant. An excellent value Sri Lankan eatery that offers an unlimited buffet for just QR 9 per person.

The New White Ocean Restaurant
New White Oceanic Restaurant. One of the best things in what was Parco Mall. Still going strong and still doing good business. Only QR 9 for unlimited lunch buffet. Delicious and such a bargain. I still love going here.

There was a name change not so long ago. The signage for Parco Mall came down, and the name Quality Mall went up. Food World got replaced by a Quality Supermarket and more and more units became available.

Then more recently, all the signage came down. Now the mall has no name and no supermarket as Quality have vacated the location as well.

Now the whole building is looking very sad. With so many units boarded up and empty. It’s such a shame to see it like this. But I guess the building is finding it difficult to be financially viable.

I hope that there is plans to renovate and reinvigorate. We will continue to go for food at the New Whit Oceanic, and perhaps I can write something nice about improvements there in the near future.

Fish and Chips is the one thing I really miss from the UK. It’s more than 6 years since I last visited my home country, and fish and chips is the only thing that I have been envious of others who have made the trip back. They know how much I miss this Great British National Dish, and know it’s the one thing I am going to be green with envy over.

I have tried a couple of restaurants here in Qatar that do their best to recreate British fish and chips, but none of them have hit the mark. I’m not sure, but I think Harry Ramsden’s has been in the Pearl Qatar for nearly 3 years now. And stupidly I haven’t made the effort to go and visit until yesterday. What an idiot!

Victoria and I were in the Pearl yesterday, and it was lunch time and we were both hungry. The idea came up to go and try Harry Ramsden’s for the first time and so we popped in. OMG!! It’s the real deal. They fly in the correct potatoes for making the chips, and the fish is fresh not frozen direct from the UK.

Harry Ramsden's Qatar

We both ordered Cod and Chips and a milkshake each. I ordered large and Vic ordered a small as she was unsure about the size. When our order came out, I quickly applied salt and lashings of vinegar and got stuck in. My taste buds exploded with joy. Why did I leave it so long to come here?

Harry Ramsden's Qatar

My only complaint; Not enough chips! Apart from that it was perfect. For Vic, it was too bland. Her tastes when it comes to fish are very different, and she like hers cooked with herbs and spices and marinated in stuff. So she just didn’t get what all the fuss is about. But for me this was a real taste of home. Good old bland British food 😉

Harry Ramsden's Qatar

Not cheap, but worth every riyal.

Harry Ramsden's Qatar

How good can a burger be? My son and I popped along to the Village Restaurant Midmac last Thursday evening to try out their new Big Bite Burger. On the way to the restaurant we were discussing our favorite burgers and what goes into them. Among the ingredients we both agreed should be in a tower burger were an egg and a hash brown. big-biteAnd we were hoping that we would find these incorporated.

Having tried most gourmet burgers in town we were wondering how The Village Big Bite Burger would compare. After all the Village is not a renowned burger establishment. To be honest we were a little worried that we were going to be disappointed. But we need not have worried.

The burger is served in the Deli part of the restaurant. On arrival we ordered a Big Bite each and a nice bottle of sparkling water. While we were waiting the table next to us was occupied by three young ladies who also ordered a Big Bite each. So it would seem the burger is popular.

When our burgers arrived we were immediately impressed with their presentation. It is said we eat with our eye’s first, and these looked delicious. Along with the burger was a bowl of fries, a serving of coleslaw, a couple of fried onion rings on top and an edible arrangement of vegetables. It also comes along with a glass of mint cooler mocktail.

Big Bite Burger

Bri started to eat his with a knife and fork, but I decided I was going to eat mine the way a burger should be eaten, with my hands. I could just get my hands around it and hold it together in a way that would allow me to get stuck in. My eyes had not deceived me. This was a good burger. Plenty of flavor and the beef patties were delicious.

As I was enjoying my burger I observed that unlike other tower burgers, or even normal fast food burgers, my hands weren’t getting covered in dripping fat/oil as I eat. The patties are homemade and obviously made with good ingredients. It looks good, tastes really good and appeared to be…. How shall I say it… err… clean if you get what I mean. I don’t know if you could call it healthy, but it’s not too unhealthy. I didn’t feel too guilty eating it. And both Bri and I were impressed with the fact it had egg inside it.

Half way through his Bri ditched the knife and fork and switched to the hands on approach. He looked at me as if surprised, and announced “this is a good burger (paused), this is a really, really good burger”. He went on to say that he would definitely be returning with his friends to have this again.

The accompaniments were good. And we discovered the fries were in an edible bowl, so we both eat those as well. But we left the edible arrangements. For QR 55 this meal is an absolute bargain. And don’t forget that includes a mint mocktail which goes very well with the food. If you like your burgers we both recommend you give the Village Big Bite Burger a go.

The only thing we could think of as a possible improvement would be the addition of a hash brown in the burger. It may work, it may not. As it is, it’s already a great burger. But when I go back next time I will request the addition of a hash brown to see if it adds anything.

Home Made Safron Ice Cream

For dessert we had a cake each and a bowl of ice cream each. Well two bowls in Bri’s case. My ice cream was their home made saffron flavor. And that is now my new favorite flavor. Seriously you have got to try it. But dessert is not included in the QR 55 Big Bite Burger price.

The Deli in the Village is a lovely space with comfortable seating, excellent service and a relaxing feel about it. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and had a great evening out. Would we recommend it? Hell yes.