“What’s the Terminator?” I asked Ananda.
“It’s huge. Between two huge pieces of Ma se Brood homemade bread lie two beef patties, two eggs, steak, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and fried onions.” She pauses, her blue eyes twinkling. “No one’s ever finished it.”
Being a big eater it was all the push I needed. “Challenge accepted,” I declared. “Which one’s the biggest?”
It was around lunchtime on a Monday that my stomach suggested we go find somewhere to fill it up when I happened across Village Café in the downtown area of Swakopmund. I didn’t think much of the place at first. The outside of the building, flanked by a real estate agency on its left and a Spurs restaurant (a steak chain) on its right, is a concrete grey. On the window is a humble sign – Village Café (‘VC’ as the locals call it). Nothing flash, no strobing lights, no A-sign parked on the sidewalk to block your way so you can see what specials are available, or fancy slogans to entice you in. The window itself was, well, it was just a window. You’d think it to be a furniture store at first glance.
But then you see the people inside. I took a closer look and suddenly noticed waiters, practically dancing between the tables, beaming smiles on their faces. I’m no cat but curiosity got the best of me and I pushed open the door.
The first thing that’ll grab you will be the smell of the coffee. It could wake a dead elephant. Next you’ll be greeted by cousins Lali and Ananda, projecting genuine warmth, as though they’ve known you your whole life. Then the other waiters pause mid-service to make you feel welcome with ear-to-ear smiles. And they don’t give you one of those fake ones you get in most places. Real, legit smiles that warm you up like a good cup o’Joe. Even the décor seems to grin at you with art by local artists hanging from Namibian desert-red walls.
Village Café is a family operation with the musician of the family, Andra, performing there during the high-season (December. Check out her talents here.CDs can be purchased at the counter).
I’ve had over 10 years of hospitality experience – anything from working as a dishwasher all the way up to a restaurant manager. If you’ve ever worked in hospitality, the minute you step into an eatery as a customer you start noticing and judging everything. It’s built into you, automatically activated. You time the service without noticing. You look to see if the waiters are attentive to other customers while you hold your date’s hand. You’ll notice everything that makes your place of business successful and seek it out in other places. And before you take a bite you’ll turn the plate 360°, scrutinizing every little thing on the ceramic placed before you.
And it’s with this decade-old experience that I’ve concluded that the best eateries are the family-run ones and not just because the family comes together and everyone’s in it for the family. Not just because the menus are simple but because you know the food, like all good home-cooked meals, will be topped with the most important ingredient that most commercial restaurants lack – love. And lots of it.
“Would you like to sit inside or out in the courtyard?” I was asked by Sida, my first waitress, her smile brightening up the room.
“There’s an outside?”
I walked down the hallway, passing another few tables hidden away to my left before stepping into an open-air courtyard, the walls a sunset orange with a colourful rose compass painted on the brick floor, tables strategically placed to utilise the space and behind it another indoor section with more seating. There’s even a VW combie van to choose from as a seating option.
The waiters wait aroundת attentive like sprinters waiting for the start gun to go off, ever watching the customers should one suddenly require service (if you’re lucky, you might catch some of them dancing to the music).
Village Café specialise in all-day breakfast and lunch specials that range between N$48-N$65 ($4.80-$6.50 AUD). But no visit is complete without trying their specialty dish, ‘Ma se Brood’ which means Mother Bread, an oversized home-made bread.
And it’s not just the Ma se Brood that’s homemade. Everything on the menu is homemade and made–to-order. The produce is sourced from local markets and an organic farm in Omaruru. Nothing is pre-mixed. There are no substitutes for bacon or butter or the cream. Only the coffee crosses the border, a secret blend sourced from South Africa.
This just might be heavenץ
Which is why, when it gets busy, your order might take a little longer but trust me, it’ll be worth the wait. You can even bring your dog or your cat (but they have to be on a leash) and order sausages, steak or even tuna for them off the doggy menu.
Yeah, the doggy menu.
Village Café has such a warm and inviting family-feel that I couldn’t bring myself to eat anywhere else in town. For the next 5 days I found myself returning to my adopted family, excited to walk downtown for my late breakfast lunches, to see the smiling-dancing waiters.
“We want famous people to feel local and local people to feel famous,” Ananada says.
I’m not famous and I’m not local but I can guarantee that once you’ve been to Village Café, you’ll feel like a famous local.
You can find Village Café at 23 Sam Nujoma Drive, opposite the Brauhaus Arcade with plenty of parking all around the block.
Open every day except Sundays from 07:00-18:00 including public holidays. December is when they’re at their busiest and sometimes they’ll have live music in the courtyard.