What’s News Namibia: Autum 2012February 8, 2013
Small step for Namibia, huge leap for the African Wild DogFebruary 8, 2013
When I asked Mike Warren and Carol Mentz – managers of the recently opened The Olive Exclusive in Klein Windhoek – which dish I should mention as the ‘chef’s speciality’, they ummmed and aaaahed, then chorused, “Just one? They’re all phenomenal!”
After much persuasion they narrowed it down to the prawn starter, which Mike says he would serve with confidence to anyone on the planet; the melt-in-your-mouth fillet; and the pear-and-fried-brie salad. It was decided that the oysters (from the lunch menu) topped the list.
The small (and sumptuous) menu is the brainchild of consulting chef, Jacques Erasmus, responsible for the initial development of the menu and the training of kitchen staff. The menu focuses on what works locally and what is seasonally available, changing every three months or so as it is updated, allowing space for inspiration and seasonal delicacies.
As part of the Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel service, the restaurant has a lunch menu offering ‘something light’; ‘made to order’, including the olive burger with a homemade 180–200-gram ground-beef patty in a toasted ciabatta; ‘open gourmet sandwiches’; the coconut chicken with Moroccan humus; and Mike’s favourite, slow-roasted tomatoes.
Fresh oysters are served three ways – au naturel, poached in white chocolate and champagne, or grilled with lime and sriricha butter (a Thai hot sauce) – these delectable delights, whether savoured sweet or salty, are decadent and delicious.
Sit at the attractive bar to sip on a cocktail, make yourself comfortable in the restaurant under a tree creatively constructed out of chunks of different wood, or enjoy the fresh air on the outside veranda amidst the olive trees.
The winter dinner menu offers four courses. First up is a soup of the day, an opportunity for the three chefs to be creative with broths such as hot vichyssoise with pieces of smoked spek for touches of deep-fried flavour, and mushroom soup that ‘will make angels weep’.
Competing with the warm-roasted pear-and-brie salad for the top starter- are herb-buttered prawns on panwilted lettuce and puff pastry, and tartare of free-range Namibian beef.
For the mains, there is a soft, velvety fillet with café d’olive butter – a hollandaise-based sauce with capers, olives and a smidgeon of anchovies; fresh line fish (when available) served with artichokes, parsley and white-wine-parmesan butter; and slow-roasted Asian-inspired rolled neck of pork (a good winter dish) with molasses, ginger and cauliflower-nougat purée.
A meat-free option suitable for vegetarians is delicious spinach gnocchi with fresh Lüderitz asparagus and finely cut apple.
In all the dishes a balance between richness and freshness is maintained, satisfying and tantalising taste buds and taking taste sensation to a new level.
A dessert favourite is dark chocolate fondant with fresh cream. Consisting of steamy spongy cake with a soft centre, it is served with either kiwi fruit or strawberries, giving- a bit of tartness to complement the decadent chocolate. I am assured that any diner who has sampled this delight is permanently hooked.
The meal begins with a thoughtful gift from the kitchen, served by the chefs themselves, and has included tantalising fare such as devilled quails’ eggs with salmon. The chefs have a little fun and at the same time establish a connection with the diners.
Say Mike and Carol, “Watch this space, the menu changes regularly. The only way to keep it fresh is to keep everyone inspired.”
To achieve this objective they keep the menu small, allowing themselves the opportunity to produce the best every time.
This article appeared in the Oct/ Nov 2011 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Other establishments under the Big Sky Lodges banner are the Olive Grove Guest House, Etendeka Mountain Camp and Erongo Wilderness Lodge.