I’ve been on a family holiday in the small coastal town of Walvis Bay for the past two weeks and am really settling into the slow rhythm of life in Namibia. It’s a country that holds a special place in my heart as I was born here and lived here for the first ten years of my childhood. Coming back, after not having been here for three years, I am shocked at the development and change this little town has gone through, but also am pleasantly surprised by the culinary secrets I’ve discovered with the help of my local friends. This holiday we are only exploring the short strip of coast between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, and I thought a blog post on some of my not-to-miss culinary experiences is in order. So here goes:
On my first day in Namibia the parents of a good friend of mine took me to ‘Dessert Hills Farm and Food’ on the Swakop plots in the Swakop River bed – a deli that is seemingly in the middle of the desert, but is only a short 15 km outside of beautiful Swakopmund. I was totally blown away by the place. A German couple has started pressing oil from the ‘Narra’ pip, a type of melon that grows in the desert. I can describe the taste as being something between a pine nut and smooth olive oil. The Narra supply is limited and harvested by the ‘Topnaars’, a nomadic people living in the area where the Narra plants grow. At the deli they are selling products like pesto made with Narra pips, dried narra pips and beautiful veggies grown in a few tunnels which they use in the restaurant as well. I ordered the Oryx steak with seasonal green salad, which consisted of greens grown there and a variety of sprouted beans with Narra salad dressing (also sold at the deli). Currently they are only open on Saturdays, and I’d highly recommend making a reservation as this is a very popular lunch spot with the locals.
The other foodie stop I’d highly recommend not missing is the olive oil farm on the road to Desert Hills, called Shalom. They also currently only open on Saturdays and sell beautiful organic tunnel-grown vegetables presented in huge woven baskets. Products like beetroot, lemon grass, marrows and olive oil are for sale as well as light lunches and drinks being sold all day. The lunch can be enjoyed at tables dotted under palm trees in what can only be described as a little oasis.
For seafood I have to mention “Anchors” at the Walvis Bay waterfront (close to the yacht club), serving locally caught, thick calamari rings – their speciality, but everything we tried was absolutely delicious. This is a another locals spot with a huge following, so make a reservation if you’d like a good table. Your meal will be started with thickly sliced ‘pot bread’ served with butter and apricot jam, and for those wanting other options than seafood there is lamb burgers and even fried liver on the menu.
In Swakopmund – On Saturdays there’s a tiny ‘market’ in front of ‘Photo Behrens’ where a Dutch woman sells fresh locally grown vegetables, including the most tender asparagus grown in the Swakop River bed (this is a not-to-be-missed local delicacy). In Swakopmund my husband and I also stumbled across the trendy Slowtown coffee roastery in the centre of town. The coffee aromas fill the streets and this is where the young and hip seem to congregate. We had the most amazing chocolate nut cake and there is also fresh cheese cake to be washed down with an ice coffee served in glass jars. There is a variety of coffee roasts from various African countries to choose from. Another incredible coffee stop is the institution that is Café Anton. Here I’d highly recommend sampling their apple strudel and sharing your seat with the local sparrows under the huge palm trees while people-watching.
Back in Walvis Bay, the Probst Bakery is a corner street café that is jam-packed with locals on most days. I have fond memories of cheese Brotchens bought on the way to school for lunch and the delicately glazed Palmiers (pastries), which is still my absolute weakness. They also serve German classics like spaetzle served with Goulash stew and Brotchens with various traditional German toppings like raw mince and onion, or schnitzel.
Between the explorations, we’ve had time to make curry fish from fresh cob, eat fresh crayfish, white wine steamed mussels and barbeque a ‘snoek’ on the fire. All in all, it’s been a foodie’s dream, savouring what the oceans and area has to offer and being very, very lazy while the whole family gets involved with the cooking. I’m feeling a little nostalgic today. Another year comes to an end… Here’s to health, happiness and prosperity, and many more happy meals with friends and family!