The Service Station has a good view of the Rustenburg Road and Ninth Street intersection on the edge of Melville and motorists often pull over (or drive past) as they recognise a familiar face in the windows.
It serves the kind of good, fresh food you would find in the home of, say, Nigella Lawson or Donna Hay, where the walls are lined with cookbooks and the cook really knows their way around a quiche.
Owner Carmen van der Merwe has a small shelf of cookbooks behind the till — I spied the Moro cookbook by Sam and Samantha Clarke.
I suspect many diners are drawn to the place for her yellow and golden quiches, the surfaces of which seem to tremble slightly on their corner of the buffet table. The restaurant has been open for 12 years, which means it has made at least 8600 of them. It was one of the first in Johannesburg to offer a by-weight buffet, in this case, at R145 a kilogram. Now, it seems that every second deli has diners lining up with their plates.
The quiches, with short-crust pastry, are made every day of the week. The ingredients vary with the season, but always include two cups of cream and five or six eggs. The list is extensive: roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, sage and spinach; roasted pear and gorgonzola; roasted tomato, artichoke and origanum; roasted leek, feta and bacon.
There is always a huge bowl of mixed garden salad with leaves, cauliflower, raisins, chickpeas and parsley, and a jug of thick dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey.
There is a plate of roasted beetroot with large shards of gorgonzola and a brown-rice salad with spring onions, red peppers, roasted brown mushrooms, parsley, almonds and lemon zest.
The list goes on: couscous with grilled peppers, roasted brinjal courgettes, roasted brinjal salad with a red chilli and mint dressing, fresh pear, boiled green beans, rocket and thinly sliced raw fennel bulb.
Academics, families or journalists will often have their iPads and appointment books on the table, or be talking loudly to one another. This makes the place a little loud because the sound bounces off the tiles and walls.
Johannesburg is not known for its inventive breakfasts, but the Service Station has its die-hard fans — come rain or shine — who can be found at their regular tables, munching on croissants or scrambled eggs and salmon. The fresh porcini, fried with parsley, garlic and lemon zest, on bruschetta, is also worth having when in season.
By Matthew Burbidge for Mail & Guardian online