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Lucky Bean (Melville)

Lucky Bean (Melville)
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Cost
R110 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual
Food
Bistro fare, Burgers, Modern, South African, Vegetarian
Payment
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Marie-Lais Emond

Food
Photographs of the lit-up Lucky Bean tree mural is well known, appearing in many guide books about Johannesburg and Melville. This unique welcome matches the individualism of the management and the menu. Comfort food is interpreted in some surprising ways on a seasonal menu.

Highlights include a thick, port-based oxtail soup, served with smaller versions of African dombolo and snoek-en-patat fishcakes with moskonfyt. Owner Conway Falconer ensures that the fish is strictly SASSI green. Humble hake can be outstanding when prepared in a confit and served with a darkly umami-mushroom-hazelnut sauce alongside a lemony beetroot risotto. Beautifully tender venison gets a tweak like a peppery brittle crumble and intriguing caramelised yoghurt with winter berries and leaves. There are some vegetarian and vegan options, too, like the double-leek dish.

Dessert might be an unforgettable homemade basil ice cream with mango purée; a warming apple-and-pear pie made with Syrian spices; or a hot fritter stack with caramelised carrot, boozy raisins and citrusy syrup.

Drinks
The wine list is full of tasty favourites. The restaurant prides itself on advice about wines to pair with the dishes. Interesting beers might also be recommended and prices are realistic.

Service
This is, and has always been, Lucky Bean’s strong point. Many of the excellent staff have been here for more than a decade. They are super knowledgeable about wine and well informed about the food.

Ambience
During the day there might be lunch meetings, while the early evening brings the trend-conscious set for after-work cocktails and snacks. The spacious bar next to the restaurant attracts the Melville creative and academic set. The owner has a successful guesthouse and is in touch with many interesting travellers. It’s a congenial, comfortable place.

And…
Turn over the menu and see a tasting menu for travellers. It’s nice for us locals, too.

(September 2016)

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  • Ambience
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  • Food
  • Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine

    Food
    Over the years Lucky Bean has always delivered consistently good food, combining traditional South African flavours with a contemporary twist. As a starter, the ostrich bobotie spring rolls (four in a portion) drizzled with a thick berry and balsamic reduction offer a satisfying salty crunch and sweet, cool smoothness. It remains a firm favourite on the menu.The Cuban-style, slow-roasted pork belly in a citrus and garlic dressing is very tender and served with more than a few forkfuls of black beans and rice. The spicy snoek and sweet potato fish cake, however, is not so successful, served as a lone and rather flat offering with a few lonely sprigs of watercress. Noteworthy mains include the open springbok pie, slow cooked in port jus and with caramelized onions, mashed potatoes and rooibos. The jelly and the ostrich burger with bobotie rice stuffing, mushroom and bacon sauce, accompanied by either hand-cut chips or salad, is also worth your consideration. A selection of homemade ice creams includes flavours like mango and chilli, Turkish delight and rosewater, vanilla bean and espresso as well as amasi – a light and exciting way to close the meal. The delicate coffee and cardamom mousse served on mint chips is also a fine choice.

    Drinks
    Wine selection includes varietals and cultivars from De Morgenzon, Meinert, Babylonstoren and Badenhorst family wines, proving that the owner pays attention to good wines as well as good food. Cocktail lovers will enjoy the not-too-sweet sweet and slightly sour Wasabi Wazoo. It’s made with fresh lime, cucumber, lemon juice and gin laced with wasabi and topped with dry lemon. The Gold Margarita, made with lime juice, gold tequila and a touch of Grand Marnier, served frozen or straight up with the traditional salt-lined rim, also goes down well.

    Service
    The waiters are accommodating, friendly and efficient and owner Connor Falconer always makes tim, to pull up a chair and get to know both new and regular patrons.

    Ambience
    The décor (including the Lucky Bean tree and matching murals that snake around the walls) could do with a bit of a refresh, something perhaps a touch more modern, to reflect the contemporary style of the cuisine.

    And…
    On weekend afternoons, the vibe is set by guest DJ’s spinning their beats.

  • Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine

    Food
    Over the years Lucky Bean has always delivered consistently good food, combining traditional South African flavours with a contemporary twist. As a starter, the ostrich bobotie spring rolls (four in a portion), drizzled with a thick berry-and-balsamic reduction, offer a satisfying salty crunch complemented by a sweet, cool smoothness. This remains a firm favourite on the menu.

    The Cuban-style slow-roasted pork belly in a citrus-and-garlic dressing is very tender, served with more than a few forkfuls of black beans and rice. The spicy snoek and sweet potato fish cake, however, is not so successful, arriving as a lone and rather flat offering with a few lonely sprigs of watercress. Noteworthy mains include the open springbok pie, slow-cooked in port jus and served with caramelised onions, mashed potatoes and rooibos.

    The ostrich burger with bobotie-rice stuffing, mushroom and bacon sauce, accompanied by either hand-cut chips or salad, is also worth your consideration.

    Lucky Bean’s selection of homemade ice creams – including flavours like mango and chilli, amasi, Turkish delight and rosewater, vanilla bean, and espresso – make for a light and exciting way to close the meal. The delicate coffee-and-cardamom mousse served on mint chips is also a top choice.

    Drinks
    The wine selection includes offerings from De Morgenzon, Meinert, Babylonstoren and Badenhorst family wines, proving that the owner pays attention to good wines as well as the food. Cocktail lovers will enjoy the not-too-sweet and slightly sour Wasabi Wazoo. It’s made with fresh lime, cucumber, lemon juice and gin, laced with wasabi, and topped with dry lemon. The Gold Margarita, made with lime juice, gold tequila and a touch of Grand Marnier, served frozen or straight up with the traditional salt-lined rim, also goes down well.

    Service
    The waiters are accommodating, friendly and efficient, with owner Connor Falconer always making time to pull up a chair and get to know both new and regular patrons.

    Ambience
    The décor (including the Lucky Bean tree and matching murals that snake around the walls) could do with a bit of a refresh – something perhaps a touch more modern, to reflect the contemporary style of the cuisine.

    And…
    On weekend afternoons, the vibe is set by guest DJs spinning their beats.

    (June 2015)

  • Hennie Fisher

    Food
    A self-proclaimed proponent of all things good about Johannesburg, this eatery strives to deliver an unpretentious, cosmopolitan, warm experience. A dish called snoek montecato (smoked and poached snoek, whipped up with olive oil and garlic) is served on a slice of lovely grilled ciabatta with chopped tomato and leaves – a great introduction to food that represents South Africa. Other starters include a crispy leek and poached egg salad with toasted sesame, pumpkin and cumin seeds, mint and rocket and a lemon dressing; ginger fishcakes; and ostrich bobotie spring rolls. There’s a section on the menu called ‘tastes for travellers’, which includes an old-fashioned pie and gravy made with springbok, and even though it’s a lovely idea, the gravy was a touch bland. The ostrich burger is given a twist: the mince comes in bobotie format, with yellow rice stuffed inside the patty – a tasty and novel way to introduce this meat to the uninitiated. Mains include lamb shank with mint gremolata; a lovely vegetarian option of roast chermoula aubergine with bulgur wheat; or the fabulous Lucky Bean beef burger. If you’re after something sweet, there’s koeksisters with amasi ice cream; a dark chocolate tart; and a watermelon plate consisting of fresh watermelon served with lime sorbet and limoncello.

    Drinks 
    A very nice wine list with a focus one some of SA’s finest boutique wineries. The likes of Sterhuis, De Grendel, Meinert and Mount Abora are represented. There are also craft beers on offer, and a separate cocktail menu with drinks like The Lucky Cosmo and The Lucky Mai Tai.

    Service
    Service is laid back, perhaps to the point of being slightly bothersome, but this is also a serious nighttime spot offering live music, so it's just natural that waiters need to ‘move with the groove’. On the other hand, should one order a fresh orange juice and they’ve run out, one of those same energetic people will run out to buy a bag of oranges – accommodating guests appears to be part of what they do well.

    Ambience
    Situated at the northern end of Melville’s main drag, this is a good spot for a relaxed restaurant where friends can unwind. It's a pleasure to see so many pedestrians coming and going from various B&Bs and other accommodations in the vicinity. While some of the furniture may not benefit from close daylight scrutiny, this establishment should come into its own at night. At times unusual music sets a cool vibe.

    And...
    There are a number of tables and couches on the pavement, which adds to the charm of the Melville experience. Lucky Bean should be hugely popular with tourists and locals alike wanting to experience the amazing Johannesburg weather and watch people passing by.

    (July 2014)

  • The location, at the calm end of vibey 7th Street in Melville, makes this a good hob-nobbing spot for hot chefs and celebs (but owner Conway Falconer will remember your name from your first visit, too). Lucky Bean somehow maintains brilliant service and food standards with their seasonal menus. The staff all function pretty much as sommeliers, with imaginative wine suggestions. Stand-out dishes must include the ostrich burger. The mince patty is imbued with Cape Malay flavours: it’s never overcooked and it comes with hand-cut chips – totally unique. There’s also a seared tempura tuna dish, the tuna wrapped in nori, served with ribbon vegetables and pickled ginger, and another must-try is the Vietnamese five-spice chicken, which comes with its own chilli, soy and fish sauce dip.
  • Food
    The name changed from Soulsa some time back, but not the service, which remains a beautiful experience. Haute-comfort food, elevated by carefulness and loveliness. Include slow-cooked pork belly in a star anise sauce for starters and a prawn risotto with chorizo and white wine. Vegetarians love Lucky Bean for the stylish treatment of their dishes. Venison Pie is tenderly encased and an ostrich burger, cooked with bacon and bobotie stuffing, is irresistible. For dessert enjoy a trio of heavenly ice creams or a fine fig pudding with caramel sauce and cream.

    Wine
    All dishes have wine pairing suggestions, but there’s also a select wine list.

    Service
    A beautiful experience. All the waiters know everything.

    Ambience
    Certainly the place to be in Melville, frequented by incognito media types and national chefs.

    And...
    Few men can resist the puds here. (MLE)

User reviews

  • I went to Lucky Bean for an early lunch just after they opened (at 11h00), so I'm sure the service and ambiance picks up as the day progresses - it seems very popular with tourists (as Melville tends to be). To start off with, I had two stunning cups of coffee - Americanos, not too acidic, yet full bodied and just strong enough for lunch. I then had two starters - Pork Belly (which could be better with some crackling) with Bacon Bits and Apple Puree; as well as beautifully decorated Ostrich Bobotie Spring Rolls with a Berry Balsamic reduction. Both plates, absolutely delicious. Lovely little gem and definitely recommended, thank you.
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  • I had slow cooked pork belly and star anise sauce, my husband had the salt and pepper calamari. The pork belly was tender and scrumptious, paired with a sauce that was to die for ! I had the chickpea patty in whole wheat pita, with red & green pepper relish, capers and beetroot, for mains. It was hearty & delicious! Definitely going to come back (with friends). The atmosphere is chilled and relaxed - so worth another visit!
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  • Really bad dining experience. Horrible service and badly managed restaurant. Will never visit again!

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  • If I lived in Joburg, I would definitely be back for more at The Lucky Bean. Interesting menu, with something for everyone, and in our party of 8, every single person enjoyed what they ordered. Great wine list, fabulous cocktails, excellent service - all round, a wonderful experience.

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  • What a lovely place! It's beautiful inside and the food was delicious! I would definitely recommend the pork belly starter in star anise jus with calamari stuffed with chilli coconut jelly - wow! Great service, great food, great wine and romantic atmosphere, would go back!

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  • Everything was brilliant, from the minute we sat down till we paid the bill. The food and recommended wine were outstanding, with service to match. A definite must try!
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  • This has been one of my favourites for five years. No more though. On our last visit (evening of the South Africa/Uruguay match), the record of our booking was lost, we were accommodated at a poky little table, the staff were under far too much pressure (not enough staff? too many bookings?) and the food was truly abysmal. Tough steak, with toppings so over-spiced and over salted that they were almost inedible, dry and stodgy bread and butter pudding (constipation with custard). Between the chaos and the vuvuzelas we didnt complain (which I regret), ascribing the low quality of the meal to the nature of the event, but left as soon as possible. Then to top it all, my partner was violently ill for 24 hours afterwards, and still goes green even at the mention of the restaurant.
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  • I recently had a birthday party for around 30 people in Soulsas most beautiful function room. The decor is stunning and the crystal chandeliers are exquisite. Unlike so many functions we go to, the food was excellent, beautifully presented, served hot, on time, and we all ate together! Our waiters (only two of them) even remembered who ordered what. Everyone said their meals were cooked to perfection, as they like it. The waiters also made sure that glasses were charged, remembering who drank what. All in all it was a perfect evening. Soulsa is by far my most favourite restuarant. All thanks and best wishes to Conway,Nikki and their team. Angie12-Mar-2009
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  • The last meal I had in South Africa was at Soulsa in Melville - and it was FABULOUS!! Ive been thinking about it for the past week back in the USA, and have provided the name of the restaurant to my SA friends and family. My selection was vegetarian risotto and salad...excellent; my three friends had equally superb and inventive meals. The atmosphere, wine and of course waitstaff were just as fine!! The one regret was that I had to leave before dessert in order to make my Paris-bound flight. Many thanks for the best meal I had in my 2.5 weeks of fine dining throughout South Africa. 5-Mar-2009
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  • In December we invited 30 guests to Soulsas private dining room for my parents 50th wedding anniversary - and what a treat it was! The ambience was wonderful, the canapes superb and plenty, and the waiters (in the absence of the owner Conway) excellent and accommodating, as we had guests from 5 to 85 years old! I highly recommend Soulsa - we are actually dining there again tonight!
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Accommodation
  • Child friendly
  • Cocktails
  • Fireplace
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Smoking
  • Takeaways
  • WiFi

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