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By Marita van Rooyen
“Namibia has so many unique products, all provided with love from the earth.”
Since 1988, Urs Gamma has been converting unadventurous eaters into serious food fanatics at Restaurant Gathemann in Windhoek. There is an irony in this, because the man himself is actually a trained mechanical engineer who never imagined he would evolve into a restaurant owner and master chef.
But, after a shift in passion, he transformed himself into ‘the only waiter in Windhoek who could carry four plates at the same time’ and worked himself up through the ranks to become the owner of Gathemann Restaurant. Then he opened his cookbooks and started learning. “I decided to change the whole restaurant set-up, adjust my recipes in accordance with the season, and so transform the general eating mentality.”
By now he knows where to buy the freshest green asparagus, the most tender cuts of meat, the finest game products, the freshest fish, and where to source top vegetables. Today Gathemann is renowned for preparing truly exotic Namibian foods, combined with personalised Swiss specialities.
Urs’s delicacies include – and are by no means limited to – golden Swiss potato cake (rösti); cinnamon ice parfait; Kalahari-truffle ice cream; delectable omajova dishes; hand-made spätzle; apfelstrudel with dough as thin as newspaper; German-baked cheesecake; the best mushrooms from Okahandja; vibrant red tomatoes from the Swakop riverbed; maguni fruit treats; efukwa beans, wonderful mahangu with barely a smidgen of sand; marula oil for marinating, and fresh oysters from Lüderitz.
Urs put a great deal of emphasis on supporting local farmers and producers and serving their products as fresh as possible.
He also specialises in homemade ice cream, which includes many unique ingredients. Think vanilla ice cream with olive oil and salt (“…the combination of these flavours in your mouth! Fantastic!”), thyme and fig, rosemary and honey, and maguni pulp ice cream.
But, admits Urs, his all-time favourite concoction is the combination of apricot, green asparagus and springbok. “I sauté the apricot in butter, with drops of cinnamon and apricot brandy, and put it on fresh asparagus as a topping for springbok filet.
Springbok is a very tender meat that you can use in almost anything. Springbok liver is also a popular speciality, being very aromatic and tasting rather like herbs. The tongue is just as tasty. By now I can even make out from which part of our country the springbok originated.”
Gathemann offers a standard lunch and dinner menu, lightened up with seasonal specialities, and complemented with imported South-African wines, 90% of which are hand-selected by Urs. He also stocks Namibian wines: Thonningii sourced from a farm near Otavi, and wines from Neuras in the south, and the Kristall Kellerei in Omaruru.
Urs says in conclusion: “Cooking and experimenting with food is part of my life now. It has become an obsession.” And this is a guy whose obsession needs to be tasted!
Gathemann Restaurant is situated at 175 Independence Avenue, Windhoek. Tel: 061 22 3853.