Try a little tenderness: This one’s not only for the lonely

Lifestyle

RESTAURANT REVIEW

Try a little tenderness: This one’s not only for the lonely

A new eatery in Melville from the people who brought you Hell’s Kitchen and La Santa Muerte

Jessica Brodie

Lonely Hearts Club is the latest in the rising tide of trendy spots to eat in Melville. It is oddly difficult to find, tucked away and badly signposted, but it is there, unassumingly situated next to that Melville stalwart Ratz, impossible to exterminate.
Duck out of hellish 7th Street and it’s glorious in there: pristine herringbone parquet and turquoise floor, thick starchy linen napkins on the tables. The irreverent 1980s music is well curated and effortlessly mood-lifting. It doesn’t feel like you are in Melville, and I mean that as a compliment. No hard feelings Melville, but you have gone to the dogs a little in the last few years. It’s like Melville meets Melrose. Or if Parkhurst were cooler. It is an outlier that would be special anywhere in Joburg but is downright dumbfounding here.That’s not to say that it's without teething problems. It has only been open since March but somehow the ubiquitous awful clipboard menus look like they’ve been around for months. Mine came complete with an harissa fingerprint, unwelcome evidence of those who came before.  
The menu is reassuringly brief, with a single page of tapas on offer. Mostly it is reassuringly authentic, with only a few unfortunate forays into the East. One day there will be a restaurant that avoids throwing in a superfluous Asian dish. A girl can only dream.What we ate: 
Grilled Artichoke Hearts
Smoky and briny, the artichokes make a big noise for such a little dish. The charred edges give way to soft protected petals. It is the perfect white T-shirt of dishes.Fire-roasted Vegetables
A mixed bag here. A base of lovely spicy harissa with a plethora of vegetables piled on top. Some of our vegetables were not seasoned but others were perfect. Worth an order just for the charred broccoli that was in the mix.Bloody Mary Chicken Thighs
This sounded so delicious. It was, however, an entirely forgettable cheap canapé wearing expensive tasteless microgreens. Do not order.Calamari
The squidheads on the menu were not available and so we were offered a “special” grilled calamari instead. It didn’t quite live up to its title but it was perfectly edible, if a little unremarkable.This place is a one-two punch. Good for drinks and good for food. The bar is fantastic with a great selection of spirits and a bartender who appears to be a dab hand at cocktail-making. The gin martini is smoother than a new razorblade. Perfectly made, sharp, and just as dangerous.
There are five artisanal gold tequilas to try. The food needs some refinement, but in an interesting turn the vegetarian options outshone the meats. I would quite happily spend another evening here and would suggest eating after a martini or two, which are sure to smooth over the minor food flaws you encounter.On the weekend a DJ plays a selection of music from dirty country to funk and jazz with everything in between. It’s great on a Friday night for a drink and a snack after work, and then let the low lights entice you to stay longer and interact with the other interesting Melville characters.Last word
Be sure to take a moment to admire the great skull mural with flowers for brains. It’s a little underappreciated on the outside back wall.

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