IMG_7250

Shock & Awe: Banana Island

This is a tough one to write up. Because I don’t want to hate. It dwells on negativity and is generally bad karma.

But it’s also bad karma to lie. Or to cheat people of their hard-earned money with false advertising.

Island paradise. World-class facilities. Luxury and exclusivity.

Banana Island Resort by Anantara could be all of this. And it should for the prices it charges. But the ideals are lofty, which is my way of saying, what a load of hogwash.

IMG_6525

I am waiting on the terrace of Al Nahham. It’s now 10 minutes since my partner and I got seated to our table; it still hasn’t been set. Ordinarily I’d be getting antsy about the leftover cigarette bud still smouldering in the ashtray. But I try to be diverted by the glorious views of Doha’s skyline far in the horizon. I keep telling myself, “It’s the weekend. Calm your nerves and enjoy the sea.”

Yet my nerves are being tested by the second. Inches from my right foot is a trail of French fries and crumpled tissues with lipstick stains. Not too far from my left foot is a shrimp tail… it’s been in someone’s mouth and is now lingering by my suede moccasins. Should I be disgusted at the person who occupied this very chair minutes ago to guzzle lunch Neanderthal-style or the hostess who’s decided this table is in a state ready for turnover?

After we catch the attention of someone to bring menus and set the table, I have a new target for my disgust: the laundry department. Are they washing the napkins or clawing them? I’ve inherited some of my grandmother’s linen from the 1920s – used and laundered for nearly 100 years – that are in better shape. A general rule of thumb for any five-star restaurant is that if your cloth napkin is fraying, change it. If that’s too difficult, use paper ones instead. The shawarma shops do it, and you don’t hear me complaining.

Oh, and here’s something else the shawarma vendors in Doha get right. They don’t serve wilted, brown lettuce. What is this — amateur hour? Maybe the lettuce washer didn’t notice. Maybe the chef on the kitchen pass had dim lighting. Maybe the waiter was too busy dodging litter strewn across the dining room. But the plate lands on my table, and this droopy, off-colour leaf stares up mockingly, hoping that maybe I, too, wouldn’t mind a vegetable past its prime.

ews

This is no laughing matter. Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning takes food inspections seriously. Last year it made more than 26,000 surprise visits to eateries across the country, a very juicy fact Doha News recently reported on. And just a friendly word of advice, no one is spared, no matter how fancy. At least someone’s looking out for us.

My gripes may seem trivial. And perhaps they are. Yet after spending QR200 (per person!) for the 25-minute ferry ride, I am kinda expecting excellence. Oh wait, I forget. For every ferry ticket you present when paying the bill, they knock off QR100. It’s so endearing, like a visit to a carnival. With your entrance fee you get a shawarma half off. Really screams luxury and exclusivity, doesn’t it?

IMG_6561

Here are some other minor pointers from a particular nobody who’s not so much about luxury but basic hospitality in restaurant service. Yes, it’s nice that you finally get someone to clean up the refuse around me… but not 45 minutes into my meal, and definitely not with a broom while I’m eating. See that table over there with the man flailing his arms for attention? You’ve just served meals to half his family without a placemat, and they’re still waiting for cutlery and napkins as their food gets cold. And if somebody asks for the dessert menu, an acceptable answer is (a) Right away (b) I’ll be with you in a moment. Not (c) Please wait, I’ll get your server. I’m asking for a menu, not a skim soy milk macchiato with extra foam.

A quick word about the food itself, because fair is fair. The kitchen has grilled my seabass beautifully, and the shish taouk, though slightly dried out, has a very pleasing seasoning. The portions are gargantuan, so the price tag doesn’t offend as much. And perhaps most crucial to diners here, the dishes are quite photogenic, especially if you get the sea in the background.

IMG_6579

I leave Banana Island huffing and puffing. Perhaps my frustrations stem from expectation. This is supposed to be a resort by Anantara — a brand renowned for class and seamless beauty, an escape to a corner of paradise. Frankly, it’s bewildering Anantara would put their name behind this property.

I’m embarrassed on their behalf.

8 Responses to “Shock & Awe: Banana Island”

  1. Jason

    Gerald. Good fair piece here. I will avoid the place. If you include an address of the director of F&B and the Director of communications I will send them a note to ask for clarification. Do not forget trip advisor . Once they find out you have your own foodie show they will go bananas.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thanks Jason — appreciate the kind words. And here’s the problem. It’s not even about my experience but everyone else’s, too. The experience at this level should be flawless if not enjoyable. As someone else pointed on social media, the best part of lunch on Banana Island was the cashew stuffed date they offered on the ferry ride over.

      Reply
  2. Siobhan

    An accurate review if you ask me, captures my experience too, I even uttered the statement about the nutty date on the boat!

    Reply
  3. Rochelle

    I’ve yet to hear a good review about the place. How on earth have they not done anything yet to salvage themselves from a ton of bad reviews floating around the city? I just hope this one does GT. Seems like a sheer waste of time and money this place. Such a shame.

    Reply
    • admin

      I just don’t think there’s the impetus, Rochelle. Perhaps they’re relying on just new business by those not in the know. It’s not a sustainable model, and as you say, a real shame because it could be so much more.

      Reply
  4. Conrad

    Just read your review and accompanying comments. What a shame.. I’ve never been but frequently consider a trip .. Perhaps it’s a bad idea. After reading however I checked Trip Advisor and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, which I didn’t expect – maybe they refer to the hotel accommodation rather than dining experience ?

    Reply
    • admin

      It could well be, Conrad. I asked for a tour of the rooms and they looked quite lovely. Maybe my dining experience that day was isolated. Or perhaps others hold restaurants to a different standard. If you do decide to go, you at least know the good, the bad and the ugly beforehand. Thanks very much for your feedback.

      Reply

Leave a Reply