27 boxes in Melville is a great new addition to Jo’burg’s social and food scene, says editor Mary Jane Harris
I read that an exciting new retail centre had opened in Melville, and I finally got there this weekend. 27 Boxes is an interesting concept where shipping containers have been placed Lego-style to create a unique shopping, market and eating complex in 4th Avenue in the heart of Melville.
It’s certainly unique for Jo’burg, quite basic with lots of metallic clanging as you walk up the stairs – but what a vibe! Jo’burgers love a trendy new place to go, and this certainly fits the bill. For those who are nervous of parking in Melville, there is safe underground parking – just get there early. While some ‘boxes’ are still empty there are plenty of interesting shops that are open.
These offer jewellery, ceramics (ceramicist Deon de Lange’s great shop Concrete Jungle is filled with interesting must-haves), divine designer clothes, exquisite floral scarves and even colourful, eco-friendly alternatives to disposable nappies. I spotted a stool in the shape of a Marmite jar right next door to a shop displaying prints by top South African artists. There’s definitely something for everyone.
Another thing about the centre – you definitely won’t go hungry. There is a plethora of eating places, and though most of them are on an eat-on-the-go basis, there was no shortage of places to sit. If you can’t find a table and chairs, there are plenty of handy straw bales to sit on. I spotted places selling waffles, pancakes, prawns, Italian food plus there were loads of coffee places and even a shop specialising in macarons.
For lunch, we opted for the Ritual Food Bar which boasts fresh, wholesome and healthy food. We overheard a teenage boy telling his parents that if the food’s all those things it can’t be good. Well, he was wrong. The aroma was enough to entice even the strictest dieter. And the food was even better. We were there because Sean Ackermann, the chef, is a friend. One thing I didn’t know about Sean is that he has a gift for blending spices. He told us that the day before a customer from Kerala, India said the aromas coming out of his bar reminded him of home.
I spotted someone having the lentil and split pea curry and the look of utter bliss on her face made that my choice. My friend had the Thai butternut soup, also divine, with mushroom pinwheels and sweet potato chips. While it’s labelled a vegetarian restaurant, Sean allows those of us who need protein to add organic chicken to our curry of choice. But don’t miss the mushroom, goat’s cheese and red currant jelly burger. I never knew vegetarian food could taste so good. Best of all, Sean offers a daily special that you can order in advance and pick up to heat at home.
27 Boxes is definitely the place to go and in just an hour or so I spotted Reinhardt Lotz, marketing manager for Caxton Magazines, Plascon colour ambassador and stylist Claire Bond, PR executive Natalie Madies and her husband Stefano, and events organiser extraordinaire Rudi Stoop of Rudi’s Events. 27 Boxes is very family-friendly with loads of spaces for kids to run around and have a great time.
Make a plan to go there next weekend.