The De Baba Eatery Sparks a Melville Comeback

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 10 comments

Ever since I moved to Melville in 2010 — and since long before that — people have been portending the suburb’s demise. “Melville’s not like it used to be,” people would say. And I used to chuckle at those people until a couple of years ago, when I’m ashamed to admit I became one of them.

A lot of my own favorite Melville spots — the Lucky Bean, Nuno’s, Ba Pita, and (most tragically) the Ant — closed during the pandemic. Then I moved out of Melville to neighboring Brixton. I stopped going to Melville as often, without really meaning to, and felt a bit down when I did go. I was especially depressed by the corner of 7th Street and 4th Avenue, which had a gaping hole: a shopfront that had housed many of Melville’s best restaurants and cafés over the years, but had become stubbornly vacant.

Those sad Melville feelings continued until about two months ago, when the De Baba Eatery moved into that empty shopfront. Now the whole suburb looks different to me.

De Baba on 7th Street and 4th Avenue
De Baba, standing loud and proud with its colorful new paint job, at the corner of 4th Avenue and 7th Street.
Fiver in front of De Baba
De Baba’s entrance is a great place to take portraits of friends in colorful clothing. This is Fiver.
Debjeet in front of De Baba
And this is Debjeet, a.k.a. @everyday_traveler, with 7th-Street legend Shepherd the bead guy in the background.

I first went to De Baba a few days after it opened in February, and I knew as soon as I walked through the door that I wanted to blog about it. But I kept going back, telling myself I wanted to taste one more delicious pastry or shoot one more photo of the beautiful interior before telling the world about this fantastic restaurant/bakery.

Today, the time has finally come.

Inside the De Baba Eatery in Melville
Inside De Baba. It’s a delightful place to eat or just sit with a coffee.
Wide shot of the De Baba interior
I love everything about the layout and decor.
Pastry cabinet at De Baba
One of my favorite parts of De Baba: the pastry cabinet. There are different magical things inside every time I go.
Coffee cups at De Baba
I challenge even the saddest person not to smile when served coffee in a cup like this.
De Baba decor
Did I mention I love the interior?

De Baba’s owners, Ansie van der Mescht and Jean Rene (J.R.) Onyagunga, are my favorite part of the De Baba story. I know J.R. as the founder/owner of the local fashion brand Dr. Pachanga, which I blogged about many years ago. You can see that Dr. Pachanga himself is the force behind De Baba’s decor.

Dr. Pachanga jumping
I don’t have a photo of JR in De Baba, but here is a picture I took of him in 2018 and I think it tells you all you need to know.

Ansie, who is J.R.’s life partner as well as his business partner, is an accountant-turned-self-taught-chef, who told me she learned to cook and bake by watching videos on the internet and playing around her kitchen during the pandemic lockdown. Ansie now devotes 100% of her time to De Baba, cooking and masterminding spectacular baked goods.

Ansie at De Baba in Melville
Ansie preparing bread in De Baba’s bakery.

I don’t know J.R. and Ansie well. But you don’t have to spend very much time with them to see that these are special people — Melville people — who can, and will, make a restaurant work on this corner where so many other restaurants have come and gone.

I haven’t told you much about De Baba’s food yet. Currently the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and a fabulous array of pastries, cakes, and breads. Everything I’ve eaten there (and I’ve eaten quite a lot) has been amazing, but highest marks go to the almond croissants, the blondies — which are huge and moist and stuffed with nuts and chocolate — and the sunflower sourdough bread.

The almond croissants are topped with almonds, cut in half, and filled with a sweet, buttery almond paste. I had one for breakfast this morning.
Southern fried chicken sandwich
The southern fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun.
Croissant at De Baba
I had this several weeks ago and no longer remember what it was but it was definitely delicious.
Slice of Russian honey cake
Russian honey cake: Eight layers of ginger biscuits with dulce de leche in between.

It takes a lot to get me out of the house after dark these days. But whenever De Baba opens for dinner, which Ansie says they are working toward in the next several months, you can bet I’ll be there. In the meantime I’ll be there often for breakfast, lunch, and mid-morning or -afternoon snacks. I haven’t been this excited about a Joburg restaurant in a long time.

Also, as a general side note: The entire Melville 7th Street, not just De Baba, looks great these days. I feel good vibes there again. Thanks to all the Melville residents who are working tirelessly to keep this community going. Although I don’t live there anymore, Melville was my first South African home and the place that made me fall in love with Joburg. I’ll always be a Melvillite at heart.

I love Melville sign
I (still) love Melville.

The De Baba Eatery is at the corner of 4th Avenue and 7th Street, Melville. They’re currently open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow them on Instagram.


  1. dizzylexa

    I’ve been wanting to try this place out but something else always comes up. I think this should be our next lunch date spot as it all looks so yummy.

    • 2summers

      Oh yes, please. Can’t wait.

  2. Strini Perumal

    I feel like a reformed Melville’ite Heather; thanks for the post.

    • 2summers

      Haha, me too. You’re welcome.

  3. Maarten Bollen

    Melville will always go up and down, and every now and then new ideas pop up and make Melville proud again. BABA EATERY is an mazing place and at least my weekly stop over for coffee and some sweets. You must come back to Melville more frequently.

    • 2summers

      My next stop is the new Mexican place!

      • Josef Talotta

        Ummm, did you just say “New Mexican place”? Que pasa alli? 🤷🏼‍♂️

        • 2summers

          Yes! It’s called Arturo – people seem to like it so let’s see

  4. AutumnAshbough

    Those French fries look really, really good. But so do the almond croissants. It’s always nice to see something lovely rise from the ashes.

    • 2summers

      It’s all so good but the almond croissants are special.


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