Heading north on the A1, leaving the bustle of Gaborone behind you, there is a place tucked away at Setlhoa Mall that makes it worth pausing on a road trip if The Design Quarter is not your destination.
Offering a broad range of food options, Ate @ Design is a restaurant for foodies of all kinds. Open from 6am on weekdays and 9pm on weekends, the menu boasts a variety of breakfast options – including one cheekily called the Hungover, which is just a few additions short of being the full breakfast but is considerably filling for a precarious morning after.
Local cuisine staples such as seswaa and oxtail also feature on the menu, yet more excitement awaits the discerning diner in an entrée selection featuring duck, goat, game meat and even pizza. Standing out from the norm, the offerings, paired with the beef and chicken dishes, sidestep the regular starch and vegetables. Priding themselves in procuring fresh produce direct from source, it leaves room for the chef to play with their balance of flavours and textures.
The diner’s palate is turned into a bare canvas upon which the food artistry plays out. Supporting farmers in close proximity not only works in the better interest of bolstering the economy but also ensures better management of meeting demand and minimising waste. So, if you’re one to care about your food’s carbon footprint, this place has you covered.
A modest deck greets you as you make your way to the entrance, but the interior is what makes Ate @ Design a premium destination. Visual art connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike will find themselves spoiled for choice with the eclectic yet measuredly curated selection of artworks – all of which are for sale – that adorn the walls. Expansive, metre-wide canvases sport vibrant colours, novel scenes and entrancing gazes in portraiture. Smaller works also stand out and are not overshadowed by the large pieces.
Besides being based in a precinct carved out for design, the incorporation of art is in the DNA of the restaurant’s culture. Since its establishment in February 2020, the ethos has been “to offer artists the opportunity to have greater visibility and allow their work to be sold”, says Ronald Chiruma, the restaurant’s owner. Chiruma adds that the space remains available to interested artists with appealing signatures to collaborate while their singular benefit is a commission per sale.
While sipping on my drink, the Barman’s Choice, I await delivery of my dish entertained by the works of Ronald Kegomoditswe that are as robust as the beverage. Upon recommendation of my server, I opted for seared crispy skin duck breast, which, I am told, is second only to the 500g French trimmed bone-in Tomahawk steak as a favourite. The easy swing of reggae covers of pop songs animates the background, offering the comfort of familiarity yet not disrupting the serenity that emanates from the venue.
Lush greens and oranges of the roasted vegetables jump off the plate beside the sliced breast and pickled beets. The plum sauce is well seasoned with oriental notes and complements the duck which is, true to its description, crispy skinned, highlighting the tenderness of the breast meat. There is no temptation to reach for additional condiments as each flavour profile marries seamlessly with the others.
But if the artwork on the walls and the diverse menu are particular, so is the restaurant’s wine list. Semillion, Viognier, Malbec, and Blanc de Noir sit alongside the familiar Pinotage, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc varietals. For those with a penchant for luxury, there is also a selection of sparkling wines. Most impressively, the restaurant stocks Magis Vitae – an MCC range founded by a Motswana – keeping the trend of placing Botswana’s offerings at the front.
From opening with a Valentine’s Day celebration graced by Kalanga crooner, Lizibo, in 2020 the Ate @ Design team has been adamant about cementing its place in the cultural landscape of Gaborone. Other offerings have included morning yoga sessions and saxophone soirees, proving that a diversified approach to entertaining clientele is the smartest way to remain fresh and retain interest throughout the seasons.
As the economy continues to work its way back from the blows dealt by the necessary restrictions to abate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is inspiring to have a top quality establishment that makes it worthwhile to be away from home.