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Escape Joburg by staying in Joburg. Visit Pablo House.

An afternoon at Melville’s Pablo House, and a meal at Dos Manos, reminded me that I don’t have to travel to feel like I’ve travelled.

So, you badly want to escape…

  1. your state of mind, or
  2. your anxieties, or
  3. Joburg (I mean, load shedding into cable theft into a sub-station fault into a water shortage into tigers on the loose, twice…), or
  4. your life

OR all four…

But you can’t go anywhere far or expensive. What you can do is seek out places in Joburg that are:

  1. yum, or
  2. affordable ish, or
  3. close ish, or
  4. Insta-sexy

OR all four!

You can be Like a Tourist in your own city. (Yep, yep, I couldn’t help myself 😂)

Introducing Pablo House in Melville…

If you’re on top of Joburg entertainment culture, you’ve either heard of Pablo House or you’ve already been there. Like, in 2016. 

Early adopters, you can stop reading now, except for two quick reminders: The sunsets at this time of year are beyond. As are the epic storms. Go again. 

Those who, like me, are a bit slower to catch on to local treasures, listen the hell up.

Let‘s start with the food

Look, we may have over-done it. But we were hungry, everything sounded great, and Mark Sham only eats, like, once a day. So I wasn’t going to waste the rare opportunity to Jewish-Mother him.

Together we smashed:

The Rambo-Een Pizza – This miraculous thing tasted even better than it looked, if you can believe that, with fillet slices, caramelised onion, balsamic glaze and fresh greens…on top of a pizza. I mean, yes please all day long. Thank you. 

The Cheese Smash Burger – Almost as tall as a Melville koppie, this is a tower of beef smash-burger patties, cheddar and smoked mozzarella cheese, fresh garnish and sauces inside a toasted brioche cloud-bun, plus triple-cooked chips.

The Pablo House Salad – Nope. We weren’t done, so we (mostly I) dived into a bowl packed with fresh greens, red onion, tomato, avocado, goat’s cheese, radishes, walnuts and dried cranberries.

The Lightly Fried Calamari – Granted, we didn’t have a lot of capacity left for this guy. But we tried! Delish, as you might expect, with fresh parsley and a tangy lemon aioli.

We drank: Water. 

Then, completely and entirely dik, we went exploring.


Pablo House sits at the suburb’s highest point, so it looks across the lush Melville Koppies and several of Joburg’s most iconic landmarks: the ‘old’ CBD (town), the ‘new’ CBD (Sandton), and also clouds of CBD emerging from the hippie homes of Melville. 

It is beautifully located for nights out in Melville, if that’s your thing, or access to the city’s many tourist attractions, shopping hotspots (27Boxes, Living Artists Emporium, Rand Steam, etc.) and business districts. 

Lounge on the patio, at the restaurant or anywhere else, and you feel like you’re sitting in a treehouse. Owners Louis and Leigh Roux have said, “Having a view in Johannesburg is a luxury in its own right – it gave us the feeling that anything is possible. We designed the spaces to heighten the experience.”

Of course, Mark and I took the drone for a spin. I say “we” but I wouldn’t know how to fly a drone if you tattooed the instructions on my forearm. Mark spun it. I watched, made inappropriate comments and secretly hoped one of the neighbours might try to shoot it down. 


This is luxury accommodation, for sure, but it’s relatively affordable given the value and there are options: standard double rooms, a deluxe double room, a deluxe twin room, a superior double room and a completely breathtaking double-storey studio apartment. 

You can expect quirky touches, comfy beds and couches and all the usual trimmings of a luxe stay – coffee machines, bluetooth speakers, rain showers, private terraces/balconies, etc. And every room is different. 

The art blows my mind. If you’re into that sort of thing, look out for work by Norman O’Flynn, Pauline Gutter, Gary Stevens, Fausto Becatti, Richard Smith, Norman Catherine, Patrick Willock, Gavin Cohen, Laerte de Souza, Jana Hamman, Steven Daniels and Johan Moolman.

There are also pieces from the owners’ travels, including a sequence of three meaningful items in Dos Manos:

  • a bronze sculpture of Asase Ya / Asase Afua, the Akan goddess of fertility, love, procreation, peace, truth and the earth;
  • a traditional wooden mortar and pestle; and
  • beads with markings representing diverse African tribes.

Located near the kitchen, these are intended to enhance the food and to nourish the eater. Honestly, who thinks of this kind of thing? Pablo House does.

Vibe and visits

Strong on atmosphere, and popular among party hosts, event planners and those who (unlike me) have demanding and thrilling social lives, Pablo House is a day-time and night-time favourite for many locals. But it’s also a gem for tourists, who can request tours by professional guides, spa treatments by expert therapists, and more. 

Bottom line

If you want to flee Joburg, but you have to remain within the city limits for whatever reason, get to Pablo House for a few hours, a night or more. Any time you spend there will feel like a holiday. And you’ll feel… Like a Tourist.

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