There was a touch of disappointment when we left South Africa, but the relatively quick flight to the Namibian capital of Windhoek was reminder enough that the next half of our trip was already in motion.
Namibia. A country I’d known very little about prior to hitting this part of the Southern Hemisphere. Big red sand dunes and endless rocky desert was what I imagined – and is it a landlocked country, or is it coastal?
Six months ago I wasn’t even sure.
Windhoek was our first port of call. A late afternoon arrival and a rather long 45 minute drive into the city from an airport built far out of town. Ambitious town planners, methinks.
We had only one night in town at the Utopia Boutique Hotel, a nice and comfortable place that’s part of a small multi-purpose development. A bit odd that they call lumping the shower cubicle and toilet in the middle of the Luxury Suite an ensuite. Using the loo while somebody else is sitting on the bed a couple of metres away can get a little awkward.
The location of the hotel is in the sleepy suburb of Klein, a few kilometres away from the downtown area. I checked Google maps to see what may be in the area – restaurants, bars, you know – and found a couple of places.
I liked the sound of this place – Hotel Heinitzburg, with its garden terrace that overlooks the city from a lofty location in what seems like a well-heeled part of town. Pity they were fully booked for the night, so sunset drinks it was.
And what a sunset!
Spotting big plates of German food being enjoyed by diners out on the front terrace of Andy’s Bar & Restaurant was enough to draw us in to this buzzing place on a small commercial strip near our hotel. I couldn’t help but ogle a rather long wurst glistening in sauce!
I wondered why there were so many Germans everywhere we went. They couldn’t all be tourists? Another thing I learned about Namibia is its bilateral relations with Germany, and that Windhoek and other towns across the country are well-populated with German Namibians; descendants of colonists from very early last century.
Back to Andy’s, this is a pub that’s populated by German locals and and any out-of-towner that happens to drop by. Guns and animal trophies decorate the walls alongside prints and photographs, flatscreens broadcasting all-things-sport and dual bars filling the main room.
German food meant that beer was the drink of choice for me, but the other half went for the good old mojito – served in either 500ml or 1 litre glasses. Um, we’ll have a litre, please?
The rather large menu isn’t exclusively German. Yes there are a few classics, but much of it is a hybrid of cuisines; even a pizza big enough to feed four grown men.
The food won’t win any awards, but what we had was far from shabby. Rustic, shall I say? From the 250 g currywurst (75) to the most divine crayfish tails (120) absolutely drenched in garlic sauce. That salad – an arrangement of ingredients that incite flashbacks from my early teenage years at the Sizzler salad bar.
And a reminder – the Namibian dollar has comparable value to the South African rand. That means we were dividing everything by 10, so it was cheap eating and drinking once again.
I was besotted with the grilled pork fillet medallions (95), served in a skillet and swimming in a delicious ham & mushroom cream sauce. To top it off, an obscene amount of mozzarella. Wow, that meat! So tender. I’m a little ashamed to say that I ate pretty much all of it; apart from the stale baguette on the side.
Our time in Windhoek was shorter than I was expecting. One night on arrival before venturing into the wilderness for 9 days, and one final night prior to heading back to Sydney. I really wanted to get into the centre of town to see what it was like, but we literally had enough time for a drink at the infamous Joe’s Beerhouse and dinner at The Olive Exclusive where we spent the final night.
As for those 9 days out in the wilderness, you’ll be reading about those in upcoming posts.
This truly is a place of luxury. Seven hillside suites set amongst an olive grove, individually decorated to reflect the different regions in Namibia. Oversized photographs, natural textures and furnishings mixed with retro tid bits; even a cut and polished granite boulder that serves as a coffee table in the guest lounge.
Our apartment-style premier suite is just as lavish. Shag rug on the living room floor, African artefacts and hewn tree trunks dotting every space, free-standing bath, wrap-around balcony and deck, hammock, private plunge pool – it goes on.
Upstairs, recently appointed executive chef Anthony Rossouw has applied a modern and contemporary touch to the food he dishes up at the hotels signature restaurant. It’s a small menu – 3 starters, 4 mains and 3 desserts – freshened with seasonal and imported ingredients.
A very un-African salmon sashimi (95) kept me happy with its aromatic hot sesame oil and citrus dressing; crunched-up with a couple of wedges of sesame toast.
I barely got a taste of the beetroot & goat cheese ensemble (60), but was assure it was delicious and full of wonderful textures and flavours – caramelised nuts, strawberries, Cape gooseberries and balsamic dressing.
The butter-braised fillet of beef (175) came a lot rarer than expected, but the chef was more than happy to give it a little more pan-time. I would have loved to see more of that tasty onion purée as there was little more than a tower of hand-cut fries sharing the wooden board.
The slow-roasted Kalahari lamb shoulder (175) may have been the hero in the next dish, but it was the accompanying preserved green figs that had us really intrigued. Juicy, slightly sweet and an ideal friend for the lamb. The meat is pretty good on its own, as well, yet a good splash of brandy cream dolls it up significantly. Loved that it was served on and topped with puff pastry.
For dessert, a chocolate & pistachio semifreddo (60) is creamy and cool, served with a tiny granadilla brûlée encased in its shell. Just one dessert to share before hitting the sack for an early night and very early wake-up call.
Special mention needs to be made about the extra effort the manager of the hotel put in for us on the morning we left for the airport. The company we used to tailor our Namibian travels organised a transfer to the airport, a transfer that failed to turn up.
It was pre-dawn and the office wasn’t open, so one of the security guys that was with us called the manager of the hotel, explained our situation and he tried to help. In the end he drove us to the airport himself in his wife’s car. Now that’s going above and beyond what’s expected in your role.
We probably would have missed our Sydney-bound flight had he not helped us out. So very grateful, and so sorry that we can’t remember his name.
Disclaimer – all expenses were paid for personally
Olive Exclusive All Suite Hotel – Cnr Promenaden Rd & Ngami St