Outspoken celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay told journalists at a press conference in Doha this morning that he was “confident” the country’s laws governing alcohol consumption would be relaxed as the 2022 World Cup approaches.
“With the excitement of the World Cup and how the focus of the world’s media will be on Qatar… Things will change. I’m pretty confident. As a nation, Qatar is developing rapidly – but it’s a difficult scenario. I’m just trying to imagine an English fan celebrating with a Perrier!”
The Michelin-starred British chef has been visiting Qatar to check on his two restaurants at the St. Regis Hotel, a year or so after they opened.
Reflecting on the closure of his restaurant on the Pearl, Maze, in 2012 following the alcohol ban put in place on the man-made island two years ago, Ramsay told Doha News that the decision to open two new restaurants within the St Regis Hotel – where alcohol can be served – had been “a smart move.”
“Maze closing down was a sensible move financially, for the obvious reason – the alcohol ban. Will that island (The Pearl) re-surge and become what it could have been? Only time will tell. Looking at what’s in existence there now – you can see how difficult it is to survive there.
Obviously, customers come for the experience, and having that sensible combination of food and wine is paramount. So, we can drink in the hotel, and if it’s going to be like that for the next decade, then that’s what’s going to have to take place.”
Ramsay added that he’d actually fallen foul of Qatar’s alcohol laws on his arrival at Doha Airport yesterday, when customs discovered a bottle of vintage champagne packed in his suitcase. He had apparently been unaware of the country’s ban on individuals importing alcohol:
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been stopped by customs” he said. “The alarm went off and I got called into a little room. So it’s been confiscated – the first time I’ve ever lost a bottle of Dom Pérignon! It was a birthday present from a dear friend.”
‘Works in progress’
When quizzed about the performance of his two Doha restaurants – the fine dining outlet Gordon Ramsay and the more casual Opal by Gordon Ramsay – since their opening just over a year ago, Ramsay said that they were “in growth,” but declined to offer any details about their success.
He did acknowledge, however, that it had been a challenge to market the restaurants in a hotel with so many other high-end outlets, including acclaimed Chinese restaurant Hakkasan. He explained:
“There are nearly 11 offerings within this beautiful building (the St Regis Hotel). It’s so much more difficult when you’re running against other operations within the vicinity of what you’re doing.”
He added that the two restaurants “still needed a few tweaks,” but that this was a normal part of any new business, monitoring them closely and making adjustments where necessary.
Continuing, he said:
“We’re also still considered a new restaurant here – it takes 18 months to iron out those creases. We’re still giving birth I think -it’s not settled and complete, it’s continuous growth,” he added.
Have you been to one of his restaurants? Thoughts?