All photos by Reem Saad
Raw tacos with cashew cream, bowls of kelp and kale and vegan cheesecake are among the offerings at a new healthy restaurant in Doha.
So far, its waterside location has attracted hundreds of customers who are keen to check out its more unusual food items.
The aim behind the new Qatar cafe is to get people in the country thinking – and eating – in a more healthy way, its co-founder Ghanim Al Sulaiti said.
Al Sulaiti has been a vegan for more than three years and while he admits lacking experience in the hospitality industry (he is a tunnel engineer for Qatar Rail), he is passionate about healthy eating.
“Introducing vegan options is really important in this generation, because we’ve been seeing a lot of people facing a lot issues, like digestive problems,” he told Doha News, adding:
“We want to take people back to nature and reconnect them with earth-to-table concepts, where everything comes from earth directly to your plates, rather than going through the processes of the food you see in the market now which is scary.”
The cafe’s food is prepared using only organic ingredients by two leading international vegetarian and vegan chefs.
Unlike most restaurants in Qatar, this cafe has no meat or dairy options, and doesn’t serve anything with refined sugar.
Instead, menu items include things like ginger edamame, veggie burgers and sandwiches.
For those with a sweet tooth, desserts include things like “the best raw chocolate torte.”
A key focus of the cafe is its extensive smoothie and cold-pressed juice menu. However, because they include organic fruit, veggies and herbs, the juices don’t come cheap at around QR50 a bottle.
There is also a “grab-and-go” fridge with juices and snacks for takeaway.
Recycled materials have been used as decoration, and plants feature highly inside, with a green wall at the end of a long, communal table.
There is also outdoor seating available for when the weather cools down.
In charge of the kitchen is executive chef Matt Downes, who headed up The Gothic in the US state of Maine – named one of the 10 best vegetarian restaurants in the US by Time Out New York last year.
Joining him is sous chef Maros Weiser, who was head chef at NAMA Artisan foods – a raw food restaurant in London’s upmarket Notting Hill.
Al Sulaiti said he initially thought of setting up a small outlet that just sold juices and healthy chips.
He and co-found Jawaher Al Fardan tested the waters earlier this year with a stall at the Qatar International Food Festival in MIA park.
But over the last 18 months, the idea grew grander.
“We’re trying to change the way people do business,” he said.
Since become vegan, Al Sulaiti said his health and sense of well-being improved, and he felt compelled to share this experience with others.
“It made me feel responsible to offer this to the people of Qatar – to create a platform, a space, where you can engage and share knowledge and really bring like-minded people in one place.”
When he initially became vegan, Al Sulaiti said he was did get criticism from some people who believed that refraining from eating meat was against the local culture.
But he challenged this notion, saying:
“I read a lot of books about our culture and how we survived 120 years ago. Meat definitely wasn’t the focal points in our diet. In the Sira Nabawiya (Prophetic biography) and the Quran, vegetables and fruits are mentioned significantly more than meat and dairy.”
“Meat wasn’t that accessible 40 or 60 years ago in Doha – people had to really invest energy and money to get it. Today, meat is cheaper than an apple and I think that’s really the epidemic that we’re living in this generation, and that’s what I want people to be conscious about and be aware of,” he added.
Evergreen Organics is open Monday to Saturday, 5pm to 10pm. More information can be found online here.
The co-founders are also planning to open a yoga studio next to the cafe, but its opening date hasn’t been determined yet.