The concept coffee shop, Dose Cafe, that’s now brewing at Al Mouj leaves us with a bitter aftertaste.
Coffee culture in the Arab world is pretty much sacrosanct. It’s little wonder that coffee shops pop up left, right and centre offering a constant slew of innovative concepts marketed towards keeping us caffeinated – at least, in theory.
Finding ourselves at The Walk in Al Mouj, we resolve to get our morning fix at the newly-opened Dose Café, a Kuwaiti import.
Decked out in industrial minimalist décor, steel cutouts and fixtures are offset by a muted colour palette that’s freshened up by rich wood-beam chairs and planter-boxes that provide a ‘living’ accent wall of artificial foliage.
Chemistry ephemera adorns the space in the form of wall stencils of chemical equations and formulae, vibrant tube-lighting in the shape of all manner of beakers and Bunsen burners, and elaborate chemistry-set drip-distillers. It’s all a bit lab-coat geek with hipster undertones, and we see why Muscat coffee-lovers are keen to check it out.
There’s a line-up when we arrive, as the Al Mouj Saturday market is still in full swing. It’s a full-house on the outdoor terrace and ditto for the inside seating space. Orders are taken and prepared at a central, circular counter hub, and there’s a cold case with grab-and-go items next to the entrance.
Joining the queue, we look for a chalkboard menu or item signage so we can see what to order, as some eye-catching concoctions float by us. Eventually we wonder what the hold-up is. After ten minutes, it’s our turn at the till and it’s only then we discover that there are two iPad menus for customers to scan through and decide what to order.
This is incredibly time-consuming – and makes little sense in an in-and-out coffee shop, as it holds up the line with each customer taking their time to peruse. As it’s midday (and hot) we opt for two iced lattés – as Dose is known for their signature pour-over bevvies. Then, spying something more enticing, we cancel the lattés and opt for one of the signature Caramel Explosion cold coffee creations. Adding to that, we ask for two bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese.
The barista who takes our order seems harried as they’re clearly understaffed for the amount of foot traffic on this day. There are just two staff members behind the counter preparing orders and cashing-out customers, plus one other person frantically clearing tables. Brusquely, the barista tells us that the sandwich option isn’t available and can we please go and select one from the cold case. Leaving the line-up – and keeping those customers waiting behind us, we hurriedly grab one of the three sandwich varieties so as not to keep others waiting, and settle on the only bagel option available – cream cheese and onion.
The barista takes them from us to heat up in the panini press, and we round out our order with one of their Nutella brownies and a Kinder cookie. We almost send one back after the barista rattles off our bill – RO16.7. Sticker-shock doesn’t even describe our incredulousness.
Grabbing a recently-vacated table we wait for our order. After it comes, we’re taken aback once more; this time at the over-packaging. All the items could have easily fitted on one plate. Yet they put the brownie and the cookie in a cardboard pizza-style takeaway box and each bagel on a small wooden chopping board. When we complain, the barista brings an even larger wooden tray and places both smaller wooden trays on top of it.
Wondering if we’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone, we grab both bagels and put them onto a single small board along with the pastries. We then elbow our way through the crowd and grab our drinks. Finally seated, we tuck in.
The Caramel Explosion is a sickeningly-sweet syrupy mess with no discernible taste of coffee whatsoever. Soggy cake chunks float amidst its milky depths like sad pieces of leftover breakfast cereal. We feel nauseous after a few sips.
The oversized bagel buns give an illusion of substance but what lies beneath is a thin layer of cream cheese with a few measly strands of red onion topped with wilted lettuce…well, we could have achieved that at home after a little foraging in the fridge.
Even the flavour of the Nutella brownie is lost amid an overload of crystallised sugar. Only the Kinder cookie – a richly-spiced item reminiscent of a Snickerdoodle topped with pieces of chocolate saves the day.
Unable to get over the figure on our bill, we scan it once again, only to discover that we have been charged for the two iced lattés we cancelled. When I flag this, we’re told they’re waiting for us at the service pass. Still craving our as-yet elusive caffeine fix, we take them in lieu of a refund. The milk-to-coffee ratio is way out of balance, and we end up turfing them on our walk home, still half-full.
Illogical service, poor quality, and overblown prices have made for a sub-par experience. But, sometimes, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
• 5/10 Service
• 5/10 Food
• 7/10 Ambience
Coffeehouse fare with a focus on creative blends and indulgent pastries
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