Though I'm always eager to find new hip places to hang out when I'm in Johannesburg, I always seem to end up returning to the same one: The Bamboo Centre in Melville.
The highlight of the centre is Service Station, which must be one of the best cafes in South Africa. It's all brick walls and concrete floors, and the large bank of floor-to-ceiling windows along the front look out over the lush leafy greenery of Joburg's artifical forest. This combination makes for the ideal spot to meet for a late breakfast (pictured above: fantastic salmon scrambled eggs with dill), or for coffee and an incredible baked good. Toward the back, past the towers of baked goods, there's a small deli, with local specialty foods, imported pastas, and a few choice design items for the kitchen. A meal here is so compelling, that one can almost imagine that this is how life in Johannesburg could be: urban and sharply styled, living a life that is surprisingly not closed off or barricaded in.
And after eating, you can continue the fantasy with a little browsing in the neighbouring shops. Love Books has a fantastic selection of handpicked fiction, cookbooks, and volumes on art and design, plus a huge selection of kids books so well illustrated that even adults will want to page through. Among the shops toward the back of the complex, Black Coffee is a well-known local fashion range (though nothing for men, as is unfortunately common in Joburg), and the Blooming Plate has a staggering range of interesting kitchenwares.
Altogether, a great one-stop spot to browse, relax, and enjoy a vision of urban, modern Joburg-- before returning to the reality of four-metre walls and barbed wire malls.
Bamboo is located at the corner of Rustenburg Road and Ninth Street, in Melville, Johannesburg.