One of the unfortunate realities about life in Joburg is that if you need something, you’ll probably have to go a shopping mall to buy it. And the malls here are sprawling, crowded, and uniformly depressing.

But if you look carefully you can find some really lovely places to shop. Joe and I live a block away from one such lovely place — a little shopping centre called Bamboo.

Looking out at Rustenberg Road from Love Books, one of the shops in Bamboo.

Most of the action in Melville takes place along a four-block strip of restaurants and shops on 7th Street. You could stay in that area for weeks and never discover Bamboo, an unassuming two-story building on the corner of 9th Street and Rustenberg Road. That would be a shame though. Bamboo is a peaceful little eating and shopping nirvana.

Bamboo is so named because it used to be a place that made and sold wicker baskets and furniture (thanks, joburg.org.co.za). Now it’s home to one of the best restaurants in Melville, a charming book shop, an art exhibition space, a spa, and several more locally owned businesses.

Last weekend Joe and I had breakfast at Bamboo with two friends from the States. Here are a few photos.

A red cappuccino from Service Station. Red cappuccinos — rooibos tea with frothy milk on top — are all the rage in South Africa.  This was my first one. It was okay but I’d rather have a regular rooibos tea or a regular cappuccino.

I’ve written about Service Station before — it serves fresh, vegetarian-friendly food and has a lunch buffet with the most delicious salads, lasagnas, and quiches. The only bad things about Service Station are: 1) It’s only open until 6 p.m.; and 2) It’s a bit noisy, mainly because it’s always full. Not a good place for a first date.

Smoked salmon scambled eggs from Service Station. (Say that three-times fast!)

Service Station serves gourmet ice cream, made by a mysterious ice cream lady on the outskirts of town. We had to have some even though it was only 11 a.m. We wanted honey-balsamic-vinegar, but they were all out of that flavor so we got fig with lavender instead.

Love Books, next door to Service Station. All the shops at Bamboo flow into one another in this zen kind of way, so you can’t help wandering from one place into another. Without even knowing the name of the shop, my friend said to me, “The owner of this store must really love books.”

Rings at a jewelry shop called Tinsel. The jewelry is all displayed on cute dollhouse-sized furniture.

A fashion and accessory store called Black Coffee. Black Coffee is a super stylish fashion label by designer Jacques Van Der Watts. (Jacques is the first legit Joburg celeb who I’ve been photographed with for my blog — see the bottom of this post.) Black Coffee sells a line of clothing called Love Jozi — the makers of my awesome “No one reads your blog” T-shirt.

Upstairs at Bamboo, an art exhibition space on the second floor of Bamboo (obviously). The exhibitions rotate in and out every month or so. This one was a combination of paintings and sculptures by several different local artists.

Wooden aloe tree sculptures for sale at Entropy, a store that sells all kinds of fun, artsy stuff. Nice view of the Melville Koppies, where real aloe trees are growing, in the background.

If you’re visiting Melville or the surrounding area, set aside a morning for Bamboo. And try to time it for the first or third Saturday of the month so you can shop at the farmers’ market on the roof.

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