Wednesday, 12 March 2014

La Brocante – second hand at first class

Since 2012, I've been designing the SME Gazette. Last month I got to flex my writing muscles by penning a restaurant review as well as the feature article on flextime and working remotely. Thank you to the editor Servaas van den Bosch for the super opportunity!

"Namibia's premier SME Publication The SME Gazette is Namibia’s foremost publication for SMEs. We deliver relevant, up-to-date and detailed news directly to the doorstep of several thousand SMEs and business development agencies. We recognise the amazing potential that SMEs have in building the economy and celebrate entrepreneurs as the pioneers of industrialisation. The SME Gazette offers controversial stories, breaking news, interviews, profiles, business tips by business giants, information on events & trainings and news from business development agencies and financial institutions. The SME Gazette is free of charge and available in print and electronic form. We offer competitive advertising rates and have a special tariff for SMEs." 

La Brocante – second hand at first class
By Tanya Turipamwe Stroh

Walking into the great architectural hall at La Brocante leaves me with a curious feeling of awe and
wonder. The faded emerald walls, wooden trusses, proscenium and fresco, are all reminiscent of a
bygone era, where I would have been addressed as Fraulein Stroh. I find myself replying: “Toto, I've a
feeling we're not in Windhuk anymore” – except I am. The year is 1906 and I’m in the historic
entertainment hall of Windhoek’s first hotel the Gruner Kranz.

In every nook and cranny are themed displays of quirky vintage goods, antique furniture and modern
knick knacks, carefully curated by manager and industrial Steffan Loubser. La Brocante, French for the
second hand trade, has brought back a new lease of life to building in the form of a vintage store and

Set under a shaded passage with mismatched furniture and potted herbs, it’s the sort of ambiance where
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the garden gnome come to life. The lunch crowd is almost as eclectic as
the wares on offer. Middle-aged corporate suits, moms and kids and the up-and-coming, which arrive, eat
and leave in under 20 minutes flat. Some patrons are obvious regulars, arriving just before 1pm, taking up
a table and dashing to fill their plates with the Daily Speedy Buffet.

The large chalk board details the specials of the day. Stuffed chicken breast, pork schnitzel or hake fillet.
My friend and I both opt for the buffet special, a selection of hot cold foods priced at N$16.00 per 100g.
The moreish spread, set up inside the hall, almost ubiquitously becomes part of the display. The hot
choices included chicken curry with rice, beef lasagne, fish and veggie skewers and a hake quiche. Cold
options included adventurous vegetable salads and mixed green salad goodies.

I appreciated the pops of flavour with regards to the cold salad choices. Raisons in the coleslaw, the
roasted butternut salad spread with capers, thinly sliced red onion and mixed seeds, though I found the
sundried tomatoes too chunky. The green been, carrot and baby potato salad was perfectly cooked with
each veggie still crunchy.

Robust flavours and textures were aplenty in each dish, with additional seasoning hardly required. A
waitress is on hand to assist, weighing your plate, though I did feel a little clumsy, negotiating the lifting of
lids, while dishing and holding my plate at the same time.

Don’t expect huge amounts of each portion, and I feel rightfully so. If it’s done – it’s done, so come early
to avoid depleted serving dishes. My plate came to a total N$35.00 for a decent lunch portion – a good
option for the more frugal foodie. The service was to the point, with orders and empty plates arriving and
leaving the table quickly.

At La Brocante, it would seem that you can have your cake and eat it too. For dessert I order the Cake
Trio to share. Three smaller slices of cake, apparently for those who can’t decide. Variety is the spice of
life I say. This has me thinking, why don’t more establishments have this option? The 3 precisely-cut cake
slices, with pear garnish, are served at just the right temperature. Small details count.

Stefan makes a turn at the table, enthusiastically enquiring as to which one is best. The cheesecake is
the winner. I admit to my friend, under breathe, that it may well be better than my own, Grade 6 baking
competition winning entry. A good balance of texture – the clean cream cheese filling offset by a crunchy
caramel base, works well as a palette cleanser. The cinnamon carrot cake is a close second with the
chocolate cake trailing in at third – a little too sweet for my liking, though I did like the coffee flavoured
icing set between the two layers.

A la carte options included sarmies and salads from N$16 to N$50. Breakfast choices are plenty too
ranging from pastries to poached and soufflé eggs.

Windhoekers will agree - coffee shops open after 5pm seem to be the extinct species Coffea Arabician.
On Thursday evenings, La Brocante is the exception, offering the working masses a chance to unwind
with wine, pizza and music played from LP records. Wine is provided by Barrel and Grove, another gem
in the complex, just adjacent to the café. If wine isn’t your thing, there’s a good selection of freshly
squeezed juices to put back the pep into your step. I had the refreshing apple and lemon juice, complete
with faux bamboo-illustrated straw.

The pros don’t stop there. The café also has a children’s playing corner, free 4G WIFI, colour printing on
request and takeaways. Short on time but still want to eat-in? La Brocante will prepare your order, ready
to serve by the time you arrive. Orders should be placed by 11am with your expected time of arrival. (I get
the impression that some serious consideration went into the “Things we want to offer our guests”
brainstorming session. 10 points.

La Brocante seems to think of everything. If you’re looking to escape - time travel included, leisurely
coffee sessions, a remote office in a quiet corner of town or an efficient eating-on-the run-experience, La
Brocante has an offering to keep you returning time and again...since 1906.

Old Gruner Kranz Hotel Complex, Macadam Street, Auspannplatz, Windhoek (Across Obeco)

Opening hours
Monday to Friday: 08.30 to 17.00
Thursdays: 08.30 to 19.00
Saturdays: 09.00 to 13.30

Steffan Loubser
Phone: 081 621 8395
Facebook: La Brocante

Since going to press La Brocante has extended its trading hours on Thursdays to 21.00

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