UPDATE (August 2017): Sadly, the Leopard has left Melville and reinvented itself as a much smaller deli at 44 Stanley in neighboring Milpark. The new Leopard still serves delicious food, but is no longer a full-service restaurant (no tables, only take-away).

As a Melville resident and passionate lover of all things Melvillian, I have an inferiority complex about the nearby suburb of Parkhurst.

I’ve ranted about this before so I’ll keep it brief. But basically, many Joburg residents are under the mistaken impression that Melville — once a Utopian gathering place for bohemian intelligentsia and hotbed for Jozi fun — has now deteriorated into a rat-infested drug den. Even some Melville residents fall into this trap, glorifying the old days when Melville had the Bassline and Soi Restaurant, and bemoaning the fact that today’s Melville isn’t more like Parkhurst, the bustling neighborhood to the north.

Don’t get me wrong — I like Parkhurst just fine. It has lovely restaurants and coffee houses, trendy shops, and a charming village vibe. Parkhurst even has a rad tattoo parlour. It’s a bit…shiny for me, and on weekends it’s overrun with preppy students and drunk 20-somethings. But other than that I have nothing bad to say about it.

Except for one thing: Parkhurst isn’t Melville.

I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again: Melville is awesome. I don’t know what it was like ten years ago. But I do know that now, Melville is a fun, quirky place to live and hang out in. Melville has character. It’s a Jozi suburb of substance.

I was pleased to learn that Andrea Burgener and Nicholas Gordon, owners of The Leopard restaurant, agree.

Leopard looking out

The Leopard, formerly of Parkhurst, in its new location on 4th Avenue in Melville.

The Leopard opened in November 2011 in Parkhurst, and quickly became one of the go-to restaurants of the neighborhood. I hadn’t eaten there but I’d heard the buzz. Andrea is an experienced chef who made a name for herself at several other highly regarded restaurants around Joburg. She’s known for creating quirky food combinations, like spaghetti with Marmite and Caesar salad with chili.

As far as I can tell the Leopard was doing well in Parkhurst. But Andrea and Nick decided to move to Melville. When I ate at the new Leopard location last weekend, I asked why. Nick listed a few reasons: less space in Parkhurst, higher rent, younger clientele. But really, the impression I got was that Nick and Andrea just like Melville. They used to live here themselves before moving to Parkview a few years ago. (In fact, I later learned from my landlord that Andrea and Nick lived in the house directly next to the Lucky 5 Star Commune. So we’re, like, next-door neighbors once removed.)

The Leopard is classy, but not too classy. The interior is simple and white. The lamps, chairs, and dishes are intentionally mismatched, which I think is a brilliant design strategy. The walls are decorated with old maps and antique pictures of dogs.

Fiver and Nina

My friends Fiver (left) and Nina show off the Leopard’s cute and intentionally mismatched sugar and milk pots.

I went to the Leopard with three friends — Fiver, Stuart, and Nina — and we ordered a wide selection of dishes. Everyone enjoyed everything, which is saying something. Nina and I are pretty easy to please, but Fiver and Stuart are not the types to say they like something just to be polite. They offered nothing but praise.

Here are some foodporn shots.

goat cheese

“Pepe Charlot goat cheese with honey and thyme”

pata plate

“Pata plate: taro leaf masala roll up with tzatziki, apple-atchar and flatbread, with smokey chicken.”

chicken fried rice

“Free-style chicken: bit-spicy chicken-fried-rice with ginger, peas and peanut sauce”

rib-eye

“Greenlands grass-fed rib-eye with: piri-piri, olives and smashed-up potatoes”

fish cakes

“Sea-bass fishcakes + caper mayonnaise”

We had dessert too but it seems that I forgot to photograph it. The coffee was also very good.

The Leopard’s prices are in line with other “classy but not too classy” restaurants in Joburg. Main dishes range from R65 ($7) to R150 ($16).

Stuart and Heather

This nice man is not my date. It’s Fiver’s husband, Stuart. (Photo: Fiver Locker)

Anyway, the Leopard is in Melville now and I’m happy about it. You could even say I’m a bit smug. Take that, Parkhurst preppies.

The Leopard is at 63A 4th Ave. in Melville.

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