28 Mai 2007 | Windhoek

A fresh taste of local finesse

It's not just anything that goes on this menu. But even the Namibian standard, steak, is also served - but always with finesse. Today it is undoubtedly an institution in Windhoek: Gathemann. Even celebrities, among them the Klitschko-brothers, are on the guest list here.

An exquisite, but at the same time warm and personal atmosphere welcomes guests after making their way up the stairs. One seems to breathe in history in the pleasantly arranged rooms in the old Gathemann house. From the terrace one has a wonderful view over the crowded Independence Avenue.

Here Urs Gamma's recipes always include two main ingredients: individuality and a strong will to succeed. "It took time to develop," says the restaurateur. It was all but an easy beginning, when, almost 20 years ago, he arrived in Namibia and opened up shop. "I had to prove to Namibians that salad can really be served in a variety of ways," he laughs. But, as time went by, he managed to tame Namibians' taste buds. "Besides - serving game and steak every night can even get the most enthusiastic chef down."Still, it was and is by no means the ambitious restaurant owner's intention to transplant European Haute Cuisine to the Namibian capital. Actually it is more the other way around: With patience and love for his art, he makes use of local favourites and recreates it into more delicate cuisine. Passion fruit from the North finds perfection in a delicate ice cream, while goat mozzarella from Otjiwarongo baked in phyllo pastry crowns delicious salads. Starting with truffles from the Kalahari and oysters from the Atlantic Ocean, or green asparagus from Swakopmund, the menu can - depending on the season - be expanded. "Namibia has so many great foods to offer," says an enthusiastic Gamma, even though many ingredients cannot be found at the local supermarket and have to be looked for. But, says the gourmet, all the trouble is worth it.

Frozen food simply will not do at Gathemann. And when choosing wine, Gamma is also very selective - buying not only wine produced in Namibia, but also from well-known vineyards in South Africa. To replenish his stock, he often travels to the estates of our southern neighbours himself. But, he says, he always has a supply of wine from Omaruru, Naukluft and Outjo on hand.
In terms of staff the restaurateur follows the same route, and he is a great supporter of employing locals. "Spoon by spoon" he educates his crew. Gamma gladly employs interns from the Windhoek Polytechnic Hotel School at his restaurant. It means a great deal to him when these students suddenly realize what it is all about when they work for him.

But the highest reward for this food wizard is when guests trust his skill totally. Then the ambitious restaurateur prepares a surprise menu. "Even for vegetarians and vegans," he says proudly. This makes the challenge even greater. But whatever he puts on the table, "Even if it is steak for the 10 000th time," the secret lies in the fact that he serves it with the same enthusiasm and finesse he had with the very first time.

Fact file

Gathemann Restaurant, situated at 175 Independence Avenue (opposite the Zoo Park), is open daily except Sundays. For more information and reservations, call tel./fax: +264(0)61-223853 or send an email to: [email protected]

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