Review: Perfect pancakes at Arbour Café & Courtyard in Birdhaven

Hidden behind the stylish shops of Wrenrose Court you’ll find an enchanting leaf-dappled alcove, aptly named Arbour Café & Courtyard. Robyn Timpson, chef and owner of the French-inspired café and crêperie, has created a whimsical and elegant space that will nourish your soul as well as your stomach, says Eat Out critic Kate Liquorish.


Arbour is open for breakfast and lunch with their gluten-free, buckwheat galettes (savoury French pancakes) taking centre stage. The menu itself is an orchard of fresh and free-range, with only the best ingredients used.

For breakfast you can choose to build your own, which comprises your preference of eggs on either rye or baguette with an array of salaciously rich and decadent sides, including smoked streaky bacon, hand-made beef chipolatas, creamy wild mushrooms and Norwegian smoked salmon. For those wanting something a little naughty, you can choose between butter croissants and French toast with lavish toppings or, if low-GI is your thing, there are fruit bowls with porridge or Greek yogurt and homemade muesli.

A photo posted by Arbour Café (@arbourcafe) on

Lunch appeals to both the in-and-out business crowd and those with time to linger; the menu boasts a wonderfully balanced mix of salads, sandwiches, galettes and mains, all of which taste as good as they sound.

The salads, whilst presented in a delicate fashion, are robust and flavourful in all the right ways. The smoked salmon salad with avocado, grapefruit, cucumber, red onion, black sesame and a citrus dressing is the quintessential lady’s lunch and the chicken salad, piled high with avocado, broccoli, beans, Rosa tomatoes, parmesan and toasted seeds will bust your hunger the healthy way.

The sandwiches are casual, simple and tasty. The galettes, Arbour’s signature, are what people really go for: they’re light and crisp with gorgeous fillings. Options like creamy herbed wild mushrooms, the five-spiced duck and cherry, and the flambéed chorizo with mozzarella, tomato and basil are all wonderfully rich and seductive.

For mains you’ll find gorgeous rib eye steaks, simply cooked and beautifully presented, as well as seared salmon with creamed avocado, duck confit, and chicken fillets with an artichoke, sage, caper and lemon cream sauce. If you’re one with a sweet tooth, the selection of crêpes will have you weak at the knees.


They specialise in imported French ciders that, whilst delectable, come with a heavy price tag. The wine list is different, but concise, with wines that are on the delicate side to pair with the menu. You’ll also find some local craft beers and ciders, as well as a few cocktails for those keen to hit the brunching scene.

A photo posted by Arbour Café (@arbourcafe) on


Arbour is just delightful: feminine and refined, French and floral. The courtyard is ideal for spring and summer days; it’s a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Melrose, and one of the few courtyards in Johannesburg that isn’t looking onto a parking lot. It can be too cold to sit outside during winter, but the inside section is warm and welcoming, dotted with ferns, beautiful mirrors, flowers and a central table flourishing with butter croissants, cupcakes and other delights.


It’s personal and continually good. This is generally the case with owner-run restaurants, but the team at Arbour is always willing to go the extra mile, making it the perfect spot for a special occasion.


They open bright and early and serve fantastic almond-milk cappuccinos.

Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

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