June, 2017: Namibia wouldn’t usually feature high in a gourmand’s itinerary but in the two weeks we spent there we had some awesome eating experiences. From simple barbecues in local markets, to Swakopmund’s brauhaus, to refined dining in a converted tug boat, we were pleasantly surprised by what Namibia had to offer. Namibia doesn’t have the culinary pedigree of South Africa but it does have a coastline stuffed with quality seafood, delicious game meat and the ongoing influence of the German colonialists. Here is our Compass & Ladle greedy eater’s guide to the best restaurants in Namibia.
Best restaurants in Namibia: Windhoek
Kapana, Single Quarters Meat Market (no website or confirmed opening hours)
Tucked away in the Windhoek working class suburb of Katutura you’ll find grill masters working long charcoal fired barbecues of fresh beef and cow’s liver (kapana) at the Single Quarters Meat Market. It’s very much a local’s affair where hungry punters stand around their vendor of choice eating freshly cooked goodness straight from the grill. Chefs grab slabs of meat and liver from the butchers behind them, grill them over the open coals and chop them up into little morsels. Customers can then buy whatever portion they want and then stand happily dipping their choice of cuts in a little salt and chilli powder (or take away for later enjoyment). For a little freshness you can buy a simple but delicious tomato and onion salad from within the market. All in all a carnivores paradise. We just asked our hotel in the centre of town to flag down a taxi who took us straight to the market. When you get there make sure you taste the kapana from a few different vendors before deciding on your vendor of choice.
NICE: Mon – Fri 12pm – 2:30pm, 6pm – 9pm / Sat 5pm – 11pm
The Namibian Institute of Culinary Education (NICE) is a training centre and finishing school for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals. Young locals get to brush up their skills either in the kitchen, behind the bar or on the floor of a refined dining room set in a lovely old colonial mansion. At times the service is a touch tentative and nervous from the young trainees but it’s very friendly and the food is great. There is also the added feel good factor that you’re dining somewhere whose objective is to build careers for young Namibians. Think mediterranean inspired cuisine featuring local Namibian game and seafood plus also a surprisingly extensive sushi menu. We gave the sushi a miss but had a tasty Kudu (large antelope) fillet carpaccio and some delicious grilled Oryx (another type of large antelope) with spatzle.
Joe’s Beer House: Mon – Thurs 12pm – 11pm / Fri – Sat 11am – 11pm
Joe’s is an atmospheric pub and bit of an institution in Windhoek. What we assumed is the original pub area is a large but still cosy, multi-roomed space of wooden, candle lit tables where the walls are stuffed with a random collection of Namibian oddities and artefacts. Outside you have a much bigger, and modern style covered area of long tables and bar seating. On a fresh night with a bit of a breeze with thought it was a touch chilly and lacking in atmosphere. Joe’s is famous for providing huge portions of grilled game plus German favourites like pork knuckle and bratwurst. We had a delicious grilled kebab of crocodile, kudu and oryx plus an ENORMOUS plate of pork knuckle which we couldn’t finish. Arguably the best part about Joe’s though is it’s bustling, friendly atmosphere and opportunity to meet a random collection of locals and tourists alike.
Best restaurants in Namibia: Swakopmund
Swakopmund Brauhaus: Mon – Sat 10am – 9:30pm
Swakopmund is like an 19th century German village filmset tucked away on Namibia’s desert coast. While this sounds weird (and it kind of is a little) it does have a great brauhaus where you’ll find a range of German beers (alas only by the bottle) and a menu stacked with German favourites. We had a quality plate of schweinebraten (roast pork), sauerkraut and dumplings plus delicious bratwurst and mashed potato. While we were mildly disappointed not to find any German beers on tap the Windhoek lager was perfectly chilled (and made to German specifications) and the atmosphere felt authentically like a Bavarian beer hall. We thoroughly enjoyed perching up at the bar and feasting on our massive plates of porky goodness.
The Tug Restaurant: (Lunch Fri – Sun / Dinner Mon – Sun: varying times)
For something more refined with an awesome view out across the Atlantic, The Tug Restaurant in Swakopmund is a great option. An old oil fired tug boat has been converted into an appropriately nautically themed restaurant which sits grounded right on the beach. Service was fantastic (even despite the blackout) and the food super tasty. Chef Immanuel’s menu serves up a range of local seafood such as Kingklip, Kabeljou (Cob) and oysters, while you can also find grilled local game and pasta. The highlight of our night was definitely a fillet of biltong crumbed Kingklip which sounded a bit weird at first but really was quite delicious. The Malva pudding was also pretty outstanding. It’s worth getting there a little early and watching the sunset over the Atlantic with a G&T in hand.