Back in Doha – Crowne Plaza & Nobu Review

IMG_3342Having spent 10 years of my life in the Middle East, coming back to the region always gives me mixed feelings. This time I had one of those crazy 1 full day (over two nights) trip from Madrid to Doha for a customer workshop.

It was great to see old colleagues from the customer side again, but that is not the purpose of this blog, so let’s get into it…

Crowne Plaza Business Park

As you would know by now, I try as much as I can to stick to one hotel chain, so that loyalty can be recognized, and make the “home away from home” experience a bit less painful. And the chain I current follow is the IHG, so I picked the Crowne Plaza Business Park hotel.

The hotel experience was extremely good, especially for the business purpose of the trip and the location of my meeting. I decided to implement a more structured way to review, so i gathered a few points that I consider important for me in a hotel. This way, I believe my review would be more contextual and easy to understand. Hope you like it.

Location: It ain’t West Bay, with a nice sea view, lots of restaurants, etc… But for me in particular it is very well located in between the Airport and my customer head-office, so in my case this is excellent.

Loyalty: As expected, my loyalty was recognized upon check-in and a room upgrade was given, apart from a few extra perks (bonus points, free internet (?? this one honestly should be standard no matter what!!), etc… excellent.

Check-in  / Out Processes: Overall a smooth experience, but I must admit I did both check in and check out at unusual timings, so did not experience any line. But for now, it was excellent.

Food: For my taste, the food is something that could be improved. I had lunch at Aramede and food was average. For the standard of the hotel, i would expect more variety in the menu, but because it is Ramadan, I would not be too picky here. A bit let down for me was to find out that the RODIZIO restaurant was closed due to Ramadan. Being a Brazilian, I was really looking forward to some nice meat, but where I went instead did raise the finish of the night (more details down below)!

Facilities: This time I did not use any facilities (normally I only use the GYM), but I have visited already and considering this a Business Hotel, I would rate it good.

Power Supply: Again, if you have read any of my previous posts, you would understand that having a smart power supply distribution in the room is one of the most important aspects of the room, apart of course from a king size bed and cleanliness 🙂 . And they delivered on this part! Plenty of power supplies, conveniently located next to the bed, to the office desk, etc… allowing a smooth set up. Excellent!

Cleanliness: Nothing to say here, apart from  excellent. Clean Room, bathroom, great house-keeping, etc… what I expected, but important to recognized when delivered!

Overall, I am a big fan of this hotel. The only point that could be an issue is the location, depending on the purpose of your trip and the places you have to go the most. Doha can be a bit of a pain in terms of traffic, so that could be an issue.

NOBU – What a nice dinner experience!

Remember I mentioned above my disappointment that RODIZIO was closed during Ramadan?? Yup, there are bad things that happen for a reason ….

Talking to a colleague of mine, we decided to look out for a japanese restaurant instead (I am a foodie, so I can go from meat to raw fish in a heart-beat!). We found out there is a NOBU in Doha!

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We decided to try that out! And it is worth it!!

NOBU is located at the Four Seasons Hotel, right in the end of a “pier”. The whole scene is amazing, with nice view of Doha landscape, fancy yachts and great restaurant in all aspects.

We tried a “Summer Omakase” which is a chef’s selection of dishes, from starter, sushis, main course and dessert. A big clap for the TORO, which was just melting in my mouth … (right now it is 6am, I am at the airport, and it was so good I am wishing I could eat more now for breakfast, for you to have an idea!). Another great finishing was the MATCHA TIRAMISU. FANTASTIC!

Of course, being Nobu, it is a bit pricey, but honestly speaking this Summer Omakase was a reasonable deal considering the quality of the food you get and the overall experience!

Time to fly back now! 

I like the new experiences I have when I am traveling, but nothing makes me happier than coming back home to my family! So time to board again! But in a few days I will check-in again, in another location, and this time it promises to be an epic weekend … Toscana here we go (Yes … me and wife, on a honeymoon-like trip! yeay!!!!)

See you at the next check-in …. 

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Madrid – Beirut – London – Madrid …. In 55 hours !

Work pushes you hard … but you can always experience something new … Time for some reviews!
Alitalia Flight – Madrid to Beirut
It is very hard to get used to in-flight services after leaving in the Middle East for 10 years… But removing the nice-to-have perks, i had a pleasant flight with Alitalia, both from Madrid to Rome, as well as then to Beirut. Good service, both on the ground as well as on the plane.
And at Rome i had the chance to grab a quick Ramen at AJISEN RAMEN. Very decent Ramen, especially considering we are in Europe and not in Asia!
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Beirut Airport – Unnecessary waste of time
We all know that security is of major concern these days, especially around flights! However, it really pisses someone off when you have to waste more than 1 hour in an immigration line that is not even that full! One thing i learned after a lot of trips to Saudi Arabia, is that things can be improved!! 😃 Bad signs to determine which queue one should take plus very slow process, with more people to take care of one line compared to the other, etc… After a very early bird start, all you want is to get to the hotel. But then you need a taxi …
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IHG … Are you really one hotel chain?
Passed through immigration (finally!) and needed a transportation to the hotel. As i was staying at Crowne Plaza, i saw a booth of Intercontinental and thought “great, they may be able to arrange a car to the hotel”. The lady did not even know what Crowne Plaza was (she actually thought it was Ground Plaza 😃 ) and after talking to many people, the response was the easiest one: “This is just for Intercontinental, you can take a taxi”. So there was I, taking some money and getting a taxi!
Taxi? Are you sure?
I lived in Lima for a small period of time, so I have seen really interesting taxis in my life. But that was a very interesting ride. The driver was polite and drove properly, but the conditions of the taxi, especially considering I took it at the airport, were very very below any expectations and did not really set a well a good perception of the city!
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Crowne Plaza … Good Room and Service Option … but very bad Club Lounge.
I must say that in most of the IHG hotels I stay, the fact that they recognize my loyalty to the group, pleases me a lot. No questions or excuses, they always try to offer me something extra, just because I am a frequent guest. This time it was not different. Good welcoming, good room experience. I mentioned below that I like when the rooms are well planned. Even though it is not a super new hotel, the rooms were well planned, well placed power outlets (yeay!), welcome fruits. The only let down was the Club Lounge. At the check-in they told me i had access to the club, so i went to check it out. It was very disappointing. Very small, poor food options. Not worth it at all. Sometimes, in my view, it is better not offer something if it will not play positively!
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ABC Mall in Beirut — Good option for dinner: Abdel Wahab
I was missing some good arabic food, so maybe i was a bit biased, but the food at Abd El Wahab was very nice. The place is great, the service was good and everything in terms of food was amazing. From the Fatoush, to the raw kebbeh, to the Sish Tawouk, to the Hommous with meat … I had a very nice dinner and recommend anyone visiting Beirut!
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Mayline … a boutique cafe worth visiting if you are around
Had a meeting at the Parallel Tower and had the chance to stop by Mayline for a coffee in the morning and later for a quick bite. Very nicely designed coffee shop / restaurant. Modern, chic and with a good food. I recommend the Quinoa Salad (without cucumber, please!)!
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Time to take the plane again
The name of the blog is not a coincidence. I fly a lot! So it was time to take the plane again. Left the meeting and headed straight to the airport. I had an overnight flight from Beirut to London, leaving 7pm and arriving 7am via Dubai. Luckily I was flying Business Class, so i could sleep before my next meeting, at 10am in London.
Emirates / Qantas Experience
I flew a lot with Emirates and in general I am a big fan. They set for me a new standard of how flying should be. I must admit that lately they have let me down in terms of services, but the quality of the plane and especially in the Business Class it is very good and as expected the flight from Beirut to Dubai was very smooth. Had chance to work on my meeting, have a good dinner and even watch some series before landing.
With Qantas i did not have much experience, and it was my first time flying on their A380.

I must say, if I compared to Emirates A380, i prefer the layout of Emirates. The layout on Qantas is very traditional 2 x 2 x 2 seats, but not very much space around the seats, so when you want to work, or read, etc… it is just not as comfortable. Service-wise they were very good. Very attentive crew, and respecting your wish to sleep (which on Emirates sometimes i did not get this!). Did not eat as I was sleeping the whole flight, so this will be subject to my next experience with them!

London: Heathrow Express, how a good service should be
Normally leaving the airport going to the city can be a very painful process (as you could see in my Beirut experience).
heathrowexpress1012aWhen landing in Heathrow and going to the city of London, they managed to remove that pain. Easy process, with sales people offering the ticket right when you pass immigration, minimizing queue times and a simple trip that take you all the way to London Paddington. I was lucky, I agree, that i was actually staying at Paddington for my meeting. But overall I loved the service!
Heading back now, on Iberia.
Iberia is currently my airline of choice. As I live in Madrid, it is one of the few that could offer direct flights. First time trying their A340 plane. Must say, it is better than the usual flights I take, with entertainment service on board at least. Nothing too special, but delivers on the expectation.
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Can wait to land in Madrid, take a taxi and go home. My heart is missing my three love ones big time!
See you at the next check-in! 

Lufthansa, Despite normally enjoying your service, this time you let me down!

Flying is one of my passions (although lately i have been flying a bit too much 😃 ) and hence i normally analyze the whole experience, from booking to check-in, from boarding until arriving at destination. I just do it, cannot help myself.
Of course that because of the amount of trips, we get more demanding, but i am sure I am not alone on this one. I must say that also my 10 years in the Middle East elevated my level of expected services, as the ME airlines simply elevated the standard service levels.
Normally, I have a good experience with Lufthansa, as the check-in process is normally smooth, the food served on board (compared to others that many times does not serve at all) is very reasonable, and i even had good experiences as well with the call center team, when I was in Warsaw going to Madrid via Munich and requested to change to go via Frankfurt because the Warsaw – Munich flight was late and I would miss my connection to Madrid, and they promptly helped me and changed as per my request.
But today they did something that bothered me. It was just not worse because I managed to get my connection in Frankfurt, despite being just in time.
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I was booked on a 19.25 flight from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt, to then fly at 21.00 to Madrid. As i arrived earlier at the airport (around 4pm) I realized they had an earlier flight to Frankfurt leaving at 18.20. I stopped at the check-in counter and asked I could be moved to this earlier flight, as it would give me a peace of mind of not having to rush to get my connection. The response was very “cheap”, saying that it would depend on the fare my travel agency booked the flight. After checking i was advised i could not change the ticket, unless i would pay a new ticket (!!). I passed through security and decided to try one more time, at the gate, close to the boarding time, in order to be sure that those seats would be free, and perhaps they would let me in. Same story …
Listen, I do understand the seats and fare prices and that there are limitations to cheaper fares. But a few minutes before boarding, if you have free seats in the same class and considering i have a short connection, no check-in luggage, it just does not make sense to not allow me to change and go earlier. There could have been even an opportunity (small, but there was) to find someone to sell my seat on the later flight.
The whole aviation economics have made airlines to apply those different pricing schemas, trying to find ways to grab more money from you, the minute you deviate from the original plan, which in my view affects the basic core principle of serving the customer the best way possible. In days when we have witnessed very poor behavior of United, everyone raises awareness and become more analytical of all different experiences.
Would that stop me from flying Lufthansa? Probably not because of the good experiences I had, which for now, are greater than this negative experience … however, I do hope this was an unfortunate one-off experience …
See you at the next check-in! 

Indigo Hotel – VictoriaPlatz Fashion-style, customer experience driven hotel

When traveling, normally i stay in one or two hotel chains, as i feel that, since we have to be far away from home, get a least a feeling that you are “welcome back” is something that makes the overall experience more pleasant.
This “welcome back” can come in different ways, whether a simple recognition of your loyalty, a welcome drink, additional points, a free upgrade, or even the simple fact that you know the place enough that it is just a bit more comfortable.
I decided to try a new brand within the Intercontinental Hotel Group on a trip i had to Dusseldorf: Indigo Hotel. It was close enough to the airport and the customer i was visiting and it was one of the chains that i normally stay … and it was also in a very good price range … so why not right?
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But i must admit, the two times I have been there it has been extremely nice. Friendly staff at check-in counter, immediate recognition of my loyalty with IHG, with room upgrade without even asking for it on both occasions.
The rooms are very trendy, with a fashion vibe, breaking a bit the normal (and very often boring) hotel scene … It also has some few amenities like a Coffee Machine in the room and complimentary water (living 10 years in the Middle East i got used to have complimentary water always, but somehow in Europe this is not a standard rule).
Being an business person, one of the first we look after a hotel room are the power outlets. Nothing is more irritating when you get into a room that has very limited outlets and/or located in very strange locations, like an empty corner, behind a sofa, etc… Ok, call me picky, but for me this is part of the comfort, to be able to set up my working station, put my phones to charge, etc…
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Indigo is amazing on this point. There are not just a lot of power outlets in the room, but they are well located as well (i.e.: close to the bed, next to a working desk, to the TV, etc…).
Basic Gym facilities (nothing especial here, but at least they have it) and very friendly and tasty restaurant, great for that evening bite when you just arrive and do not feel like going out. The Chicken Caesar Salad is a error-free choice!
If you are in Dusseldorf and your expectations match the ones I describe, i would definitely recommend checking this out!
See you at the next check-in! 

We found Xiao Long Bao in Madrid!

After leaving in Dubai for 10 years and also going to a lot of asian countries for work and family vacations, we are in love with Asian food!

And since I have been in Taiwan, and later took the family to Hong Kong, and finally got very lucky that they opened in Dubai as well, we were completely obsessed with Din Tai Fung (well, we still are!!) and especially their Xiao Long Bao, which is a very unique Taiwanese style dim sum which has a very rich broth inside and really it is to die for!!

After we moved to Madrid last summer, we were always in the hunt for good asian food, and we did found some. But something was missing …. until one day, we were just walking by the streets of Madrid, heading to a Korean restaurant i wanted to try, when we saw this little place in Calle Barbieri number 4 …

My wife had the feeling we should try that instead …. and she was …. absolutely right!!

The place is just perfect … relax environment, cool people, and amazing food! They do not restrict to chinese food only (despite the name), and they offered really rich dishes, such as a Secreto which is really yummy, the Korean Kimchi Fried Rice is amazing, and we found a very, very close to the original Xiao Long Bao. It is delicious and very truth to the original flavors! It is a piece of Taiwan, in Madrid!

We really recommend it!

I will leave the details here and leave your comments here if you liked if you go there!

Restaurante CHAN Street
Chinese Restaurant
AddressCalle de Barbieri, 4, 28004 Madrid
Phone910 52 87 20

See you at the next check-in!