The Leopard: From Parkhurst to Melville

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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29 Comments

  • Reply gilli March 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I ate at The Leopard in Melville the other night and found it outstanding. Had eaten once at the Parkhurst one and thought it was ok.
    Had a lettuce and herb salad and seabass in a creamy chilli sauce. Thought it was quite pricey but excellent. Also loved that could order a glass of sparkling wine. My friend had white anchovy bruschetta (at R75 a pricey starter) and cannot remember what he had for a main course – neither can he. But it was ok.
    The problem was the lighting. It is far too bright. It is also a little pretentiously too trendy but I will go there again.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      It’s funny, my trendiness threshold is normally very low but I didn’t think it was pretentiously trendy at all. Maybe I’m just so excited to have a new restaurant in Melville that I didn’t notice.

  • Reply victoriabruce March 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I’ll give it a try. I h aven’t been to Melville for ages – I’m one of the “good ol’ days” crowd. It’s nice to read your blog and see it through new eyes. Melville was never like Parkhurst is now, but it was full of little stores, very ubique clothing, eclectic junk shops and very few bars. Of course, I mourn the loss of the Bassline. It was an institution. I think I broke up with a rather ghastly boyfriend there. I dragged my best friend with for moral support.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      Melville still has all those things (except the Bassline), just more bars too. I forgot to mention that Melville certainly has it’s share of drunk students too. But especially lately, there are more and more cute shops coming in. I need to blog about those too. The problem is I don’t have any money to shop in them 🙂

      • Reply victoriabruce March 26, 2013 at 9:48 pm

        As a cash strapped student I think most of my wardrobe came of there. That a brilliant shop somewhere in Braamfontein that was an apartment. Each room was quite literally piled ot the celing with clothes. The jeans room. The shirt room. The dress room. You had to take a flying leap on top of all these piles of clothes. Everything was about R20. Striking gold was regarded as finding a pair of butter soft Levis. My need for very cheap clothing was a direct result of leaving all my clothes in a hut in the Transkei see: http://furrynuff.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/the-blonde-was-called-freedom-the-dark-one-enterprise/

    • Reply Gail July 11, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Can you perhaps remember the name of the coffee shop that was here in the 90″s? We would party at Rattlesnake till it closed and then have coffee at these premises early in the morning!

  • Reply roetsuprooted March 26, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Hooray for Melville!

  • Reply eremophila March 27, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I get it 🙂

  • Reply Project Deeds March 27, 2013 at 4:10 am

    That food looks amazing. Love your page.

  • Reply Charles Visser (@CharlesVisser1) March 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I’m going to be there as soon as I get back to Melville.

  • Reply Darryn March 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Wow! Sounds great, keen to give it a try! I must be honest I haven’t ventured out into Melville yet, but I have done Parkhurst and completely agree with your description of it: Too “trendy”, too pretentious, too much!

    Excited to read more on your blog!

    • Reply 2summers March 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Haha, I’m so glad you came over to read. Come to Melville! We are very unpretentious here 🙂

      • Reply Darryn March 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

        Yay! Definitely going to give The Leopard a try! I’m vegetarian so love trying out new places!

        Hope you have a great long weekend

  • Reply Jaco Roets March 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Suck it Parkhurst! Hehe!

  • Reply changingmeforlife April 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Reblogged this on changingmeforlife and commented:
    Was wondering what happened to this place, now it’s in my hood.
    Happiness

  • Reply changingmeforlife April 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    re-blogging this post

  • Reply ae May 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Thanks to the Leopard I discovered this blog 🙂 I have lived in Melville since 1995… moved downhill from Brixton and it is simply the best place to live in Johannesburg. Parkhurst… far to preppy… and all those home wannabe ultra cool dec shops destroy any pretentions it might have to being a suitable hangout for people who think.

    Parkhurst are a bit like Apple computers: an accessory for people who feel they need to up their ‘cool’ creds.

    Melville is just Melville… rough edges here and there, amazing views, trees, people, community. But we need music…..losing Wednesday nights wtih Marcus Wyatt and friends at Wish is really quite sad. But as with other good things in Melville that disappeared, it is bound to be back one of these days.

    • Reply 2summers May 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment! I’m glad you stumbled your way over here. Obviously I agree with you — Melville is the place to be. And it’s true that every time a good place closes, something else interesting pops up to take its place.Change is difficult but usually it’s good 🙂

  • Reply dr.zeek June 12, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Food is superb – bookings are thus essential.

    I have eaten at the new premises 4 or 5 times and not been disappointed, which is saying something (I am fussy!).

  • Reply Charles Visser July 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    You have to book several days in advance to get into The Leopard these days, my friends tell me.

    • Reply 2summers August 1, 2013 at 9:23 am

      I went a couple of weeks ago on a Monday, and was able to book a table on the day. I have a feeling that’s going to change now though, if last night’s explosion of Leopard google searches is any indication.

  • Reply pippaleenstra August 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Heading to The Leopard this evening, loved the food when it was in Parkhurst, agree 100% re. the pretensh vibe in Parkhurst though… ! we avoid that place on the weekend but I love it in the week when it’s nice and quiet…

    • Reply 2summers August 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Cool, have a great time tonight! I’m sure the place will be buzzing after all the TV hype.

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