Melville already has way more than its fair share of enviably great restaurants, but the eco-containers comprising the 27 Boxes park satisfy another food need – meals and snacks of a trendier sort. 27 Boxes is all about design, fashion, foods and drinks. Here’s our guide to the best of the edibles, the quick comfort providers, the quirky spots, and the downright decadent.
A Thyme to Dine
I have known a man to drink a whole bottle of their chocolate balsamic with red wine, though you might prefer it drizzled over some steak. The balsamics are composed of 30% really good cacao and 70% reduced balsamic vinegar, with no preservatives or chemicals. There are variations with lemongrass and chilli, or more sweet and solid forms, like the chocolate smudge, a fudgy pot of dark decadence. You can buy hot chocolates and brownies, and Lwando Mdutyana glints wickedly when he makes up a not-so-little jar with layers of chocolate pistachio, chocolate mousse, and a toffee-cream something with black chocolate shavings on top. It’s over-the-top and fantastically irredeemable decadence.
People trickle in to Camilla’s for something to go with their coffees or after a burger – and then return a few times. These macarons are the double-sandwiched sort with flavours like lemon and rose, black cherry chocolate, raspberry coffee and even champagne. Camilla Coertse also makes up gorgeous croquembouche-type towers of macarons.
The Frying Dutchman
This box is unmissable in the central entrance area, between Biltong Etc. and The Kraal. Enrico “like Iglesias” in a toque is a chatty showman who’s proud of his ouma’s cooking legacy. He keeps fans delighted with poffertjies, little fried-dough cocktail-sized golden treats with cinnamon-sugar and a dribble of maple syrup, or his bitterballen and krokette made from ground meat, garlic, herbs, cumin and coriander. He also has brilliant old-Cape cakes like a spiced orange and a faithful Dutch apple tart.
Impressed Cold-Pressed Juices
There’s something irresistible about pulling a cork from a glass bottle and glugging its contents, especially if they taste this good. Grouped in colours of green, red, yellow etc., the ingredients are just-plucked. The lime-green one contains cucumber, celery, apple and lemon, while the yellow has peppers, pineapple, apple and lemon. For a swifter wake-up, ask for one of the shots: the ginger or mint one should set you straight.
This shop sells all things chocolate. Look out for Nova chocolates (“suddenly the aardvark had a craving for something dark”) in fudgy toffee and peanut butter flavours, some Rocky Road items, and my favourite, Ooh La La’s artisanal marshmallows and confectionery. Find jars of perfectly iced cookies, like the Breakfast in Bed selection, as well as the Zanon chocolate bars in their beautiful wrappers. And pass me a dark-choc naartjie slab while you’re at it. It’s a good gloat that so much of the chocolate is made right here in the Joburg area. Lock me in for the night!
Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream
At the side entrance to the garden and opposite the florist stands Paul’s. His mastery of the best custardy ingredients and methods can be tasted in his simple Madagascan vanilla ice cream or dulce de leche. It’s all pure indulgence from there, with flavours like Turkish delight, birthday cake (cake batter and vanilla) and peppermint crisp tart. I recommend you go all out with a double-scoop of roasted banana and salted caramel. The range of flavours abounds and they change often.
Up on the first floor is Sean Ackerman’s serious-about-goodness vegetarian place, a worthy spot at which to convert. The food is just so tasty and everything is made from scratch. His mushroom burger is fantastic, made with molten goat’s cheese and redcurrant jelly, and the halloumi burger looks brilliant as well, with a crimson tomato salsa. The offering changes according to what’s fresh and delicious that day. There could be an aloo matar, and you must try Sean’s crisp sweet-potato chips, with chilli or his own lime-and-garlic mayonnaise. The day’s dessert – something like coconut panna cotta with lime and chilli syrup – will win you over.
This is the best location on the premises, at one of the ground-floor entrances, and it’s the only one with that very Melville-pavement type of vibe, with little tables in and outside on a wide patio. It pulls both the caffeine and the to-be-seen crowds, all of whom appreciate Rubi’s roasted-right-there Ethiopian beans and perfect productions of steaming caffeine by barista Lawrence Sibanda.
You can find this store – in its own container out on the lawn – blindfolded. Just follow that wondrous warm, hot-cross-bun aroma of cinnamon and butter. These liège waffles are made with real brioche dough, and arrive either bite-sized with just a sugar dusting, or plate-sized and drenched in toppings. Licking your fingers afterwards is part of the deliciousness.
The cronuts come out warm and soft, with sweet creamy insides and that crunch of cinnamon sugar or nuts outside. The chocolate-hazelnut seems to be the most ordered cronut, not surprisingly, but something quite enchanting is the sweet lemon-mint version. The base is lightly minty, with a filling of lemon butter-cream and a crust of lemon sugar. It’s wow. There’s artisan-roasted coffee or many flavours of milks to wash it all down. Mitesh Dayal says he’s bringing on the savoury cronuts next (salmon and cream cheese) and then churros.
27 Boxes, with its 127+ containers, features even more food purveyors. Also check out The Collective, Prawn Stars, Good African Bistro, Curry in a Box, Philly Cheesesteaks, Crumbs ‘n Smiles, an Italian deli and coffee area, Organic 2 Go, Juzi Juice Bar and more. A few container floors are being readied to house an organic deli and food market called Stadsaal; a large restaurant space has just been completed; and a brewery is coming too.