Our visit to Namibia gave us the opportunity to take a good look at the food the country offers its thousands of visitors who tour there every year. Granted, it is a far and distant region and the restaurants probably do not have the access to fresh supplies one finds in the major centres.
However, people who travel there do take a keen interest in what is offered to them. During our stay at the Minen Hotel in Tsumeb and the two Etosha camps, Namutoni and Okaukuejo, we had varying experiences, both in terms of the quality of the food on offer and the ambience in which it is served. We also had different experiences of how the staff who served those meals dealt with visitors.
[divider] Being both fans of the great television chefs of this world, we often wondered what they would have said about the dishes that were served up. “If only Gordon Ramsey was here,” said Fredo. “We would probably have heard a few of his most famous utterances!”
One often forgets that Namibia is famous for its meat – yes, lamb and beef, but definitely also for its venison. It is therefore most disappointing that few meat dishes are cooked correctly. “They charcoal the meat a bit,” said South African braai specialist and TV personality Jan Braai.
We saw Jan’s safari truck on the day we spent with the lions at Namutoni and later heard that he had one of his braai’s in the caravan section of the camp. We met the next day at Okaukuejo where we tasted a bit of his very special beef fillet. Jan and his crew are fellow Capetonians and where shooting the episodes for his new Friday night prime time series which starts running on Kyknet in July.
Jan is correct – the meat dishes we encountered were mostly over-cooked. The exceptions were a magnificent wiener schnitzel we enjoyed during lunch at the Minen Hotel in Tsumeb, as well as pork which were served to us on our first night at Akaukuejo. The Kudu and Orix which were frequently served to us were tough! Mind you the chef at Okaukuejo served a mean Oxtail on the night before we left. “You will come back for more,” he said, and we did.
[divider] Perhaps Gordon Ramsey could visit these regions for a ‘regruk aksie’ or as he would call it, one of his kitchen nightmare makeovers. Even better, perhaps Jan Braai and Gordon Ramsey should do this together. Gordon can then learn from Jan how to braai or ‘bar-b-que’ properly in true Southern African manner, and at the same time Gordon can address the ‘burning’ issues at some of these restaurants.
Without being presumptuous, Fredo believes Gordon will tell the Minen Hotel to reduce its huge menu’s to a handful of dishes that are really good and will encourage people to eat there. This hotel has a huge ‘day menu’, a huge ‘lunch menu’ and a huge ‘dinner menu’. Fredo is pretty sure that the chefs do not really know how to cook all of them. You only have to watch the reaction of the waiter when you order something specific and ask if it is good. If they roll their eyes, you better stay clear of it.
[divider] Okaukuejo’s restaurant caters for hundreds of people who spent only one night and gives one the idea of a large food hall only focussing on feeding people and not really delighting them with what is put in front of them. Both Namutoni and Okaukuejo offers a great breakfast and their salad tables in the evenings are excellent. If only the meat dishes can meet this excellence.
Looking back we loved the intimacy of dining under the stars in Fort Namutoni. The staff there are wonderful people and we knew them all by name by the time we left. They were really friendly and kind to us and we will never forget them. Following that with the hustle and buzzle of the restaurant at Okaukuejo was a different experience, but then this is a much bigger camp and large numbers of people pass through on a daily basis – not really the place to make friends and enjoy quiet times.
At the Waterberg Plateau Park we found the history of the place much more intriguing than the food. The story of their version of a ‘bush braai’ is a subject for another blog.