In its heyday, Melville was one of Johannesburg’s trendiest suburbs, home to offbeat bars, unique shops, and imaginative restaurants. An economic downturn soured its reputation for some time, but this neighborhood is well on its way towards reclaiming its hip reputation. Here are a few amazing restaurants that are helping Melville return to its bohemian roots.
The Leopard strikes an ideal balance between sophistication and playfulness. The menu is a blend of Asian and bistro-style cuisine. Dishes change frequently based on the seasons as well as the ever-evolving inspirations of Chef Andrea Burgener. Although the combination sounds odd, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the unexpectedly delicious spaghetti with marmite. The restaurant’s predominantly white interior features a pressed-tin ceiling and appealingly mismatched furniture. The walls are decorated with antique maps and eclectic pictures of dogs. A small but well-curated wine list rounds out the menu at this affordable restaurant.
Known for its ultra-thin crust, the Ant Café is widely agreed to serve the best pizza in Melville. The restaurant’s interior is cozy, simple, and small, with additional seating offered on an outdoor terrace. Pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven and served up on pieces of bark, rather than traditional serving boards. Go for a simple margherita, or for something a little more adventurous, try a pizza topped with chicken liver, peppadew, feta, onion, sweet chili, and rocket. The restaurant also offers a selection of pastas, paninis, salads, soups, and sharing platters. Befitting the restaurant’s unpretentious atmosphere, wines available are on display instead of being on a list.
The Service Station is one of Melville’s most loved breakfast and lunch spots, known for its fresh, house-made fare. The menu is small and seasonal, highlighting handpicked produce sourced from local suppliers. Its lunch buffet features a light, healthy spread of roasted veggies, a wide variety of salads, and quiches baked on-site. There’s also a wonderful selection of drinks made in-house, including lemonade, fresh juices, and ginger beer. The restaurant’s bright interior features a large workspace in the back, making it an equally perfect spot to grab a quick meal or to linger and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
La Luna is a chic restaurant that specializes in Italiancuisine. The restaurant’s small, thoughtful menu reflects Chefs Klaus Beckmann and Lindy Pretorius’ collective experiences cooking in fine-dining restaurants around the world. The menu focuses on pastas, along with a selection of salads, soups, and other lighter fare. Most dishes are made from scratch, and gluten-free pasta is available. The restaurant’s interior is clean and elegant, featuring large windows as well as a lounge area with a fireplace. The degustation menu with wine pairings is an ideal option for first-timers.
As its name suggests, Jo’Anne Melt Bar is all about melts, otherwise known as toasted cheese sandwiches, packed with a variety of creative fillings. Try the mac ‘n’ cheese melt topped with cheddar, mozzarella, and herby tomato sauce. The restaurant offers a solid selection of craft beers, South African wines, and cocktails to enjoy alongside its tasty melts. The laid-back interior features a retro theme, along with exposed brick walls and a huge round wooden bar. The building’s original pressed ceiling has been transformed into a cool wall art feature.
Café De la Crème is a long-time local favorite spot for light brunches and afternoon coffee breaks. One side of the restaurant is a bakery, serving a beautiful selection of croissants, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods, while the other side is a charming tea room-style dining area. The interior is classically elegant, decorated with chandeliers, antique furniture, and lovely wooden windows. The menu is a mix of breakfast classics, soups, toasted sandwiches, and salads, as well as light meals such as wraps and burgers. Save room for a slice of lemon polenta cake, or take home a jam biscuit to snack on later.
The Lucky Bean takes its name from a type of tree used in traditional medicines and rituals, called the Lucky Bean tree. Murals of this tree run around the walls of this low-key restaurant. The restaurant brings a contemporary approach to traditional South African cuisine, with an emphasis on seasonal produce. Go for the ostrich burger, which includes bobotie rice stuffing, mushroom and bacon sauce, as well as a choice of hand-cut chips or salad. The restaurant also includes a lounge and bar area, with live music featured on weekends.
Open 24 hours a day seven days a week, Catz Pyjamas is one of the oldest restaurants in Johannesburg. The restaurant often features live bands and themed shows. There’s a large deck for dining outdoors, as well as big-screen TVs inside. The massive menu includes everything from omelettes and wraps, to stir-fries and pizza. There are breakfast options for early risers, as well as cocktails for the after-work crowd. With free Wi-Fi, it’s a great place to find a quiet corner to catch up on work during the day. Later, it’s the perfect spot for late-night eats.
Hell’s Kitchen features great music as well as a hip interior inspired by 1920’s speakeasy. Its black ceiling and walls are decorated with rock music memorabilia and neon signs, while the floor tiles are a bold checkered pattern. Live music is featured on weekends. The menu is creative American-style fare, including burgers, tacos, wings, and wraps. The restaurant also offers a superb selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails, in addition to their signature ‘Hellfire’ cinnamon whiskey, which is brewed on-site.
Headed by self-taught co-owner and chef Carolina Rasenti, the Great Eastern Food Bar offers an eclectic menu of Asian-inspired dishes. The menu changes frequently but typically includes dishes ranging from Korean kimchi and lemon pickle dumplings to sweetcorn ramen with house-made miso and hard cheese. The restaurant’s produce is sourced from local farms, and a variety of its herbs are grown right on-site. The wine list focuses on boutique wineries that produce fewer than 5,000 cases. The restaurant’s interior features an open kitchen and a neutral color scheme complemented by pops of gold. The balcony offers fantastic views of Melville Koppies Nature Reserve.