329 Lygon St Carlton, VIC 3053
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-11pm; Sat-Sun 8am - 11pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9005 8624|
I always thought of it as the golden triangle – a wedge of Carlton north of Faraday Street bounded by Readings, the Nova cinema and Brunetti (before it moved). With an arthouse ticket in your pocket and half an hour to spare you could browse the new releases, then duck around the corner for a gelato, a coffee or an aperitif before the movie, depending on the time of day. It made a perfect northside outing, and if you’re real old-school Carlton you might have finished with a nightcap at Jimmy Watson’s, and squeezed in a plate of marinara on the footpath outside Tiamo. The triangle seems to be approaching northside-outing critical mass, with artisan gelateria Pidapipo popping up permanently, Milk the Cow, a cheese and wine bar, parachuting in from St Kilda, and Heartattack and Vine putting its wobbly benches out on the NorFar footpath.
Heartattack takes its name from a Tom Waits song and its inspiration, says co-owner Emily Bitto, from neighbourhood bars in Italy – places that open all day for coffee and drinks, breakfast, lunch and evening snacks. The decor – dark timber and bentwood chairs – reminds me of an old leftie haunt in Milan’s Navigli district.
Breakfast here is deliberately simple. The Hipster Bircher – grated apple and rhubarb compote with super grains and chia seeds – comes in a jar, while a tortilla roll is comforting and tasty – pieces of lovely soft potato and caramelised onion omelette in a just-toasted ciabatta roll with a little fresh tomato salsa and garlicky hints of aioli.
Lunch is one of several ciabatta-style sandwiches: maybe a three-bib Italian meatball number with a spicy, tomatoey mess of polpetti. But we’re really here for the porchetta. The roast sits gleaming on the counter, waiting to be sliced and stuffed into a ciabatta with salsa verde and slathered with sides of house-made sambal (red onion, tamarind and tomato cooked down with chilli) and dijon mustard.
Free-range McIvor loin is wrapped in belly, stuffed with herbs and given a salt rub, then cooked for two-and-a-half hours, arriving sweet and meaty with lots of nice crackling. Have it with a side of shaved fennel and cabbage coleslaw to keep the vegetable police happy. You might say 15 bucks for a sandwich is a stretch, but Lygon Street rents ...
In the evening cicchetti (Venetian bar snacks) appear: among the regulars are crostini with baccala, arancini, stuffed olives, and a dish of meatballs, but you might also catch a pair of pickled mussels, and if you have room for something sweet after that, there’s a "pearamisu" – poached pears layered with the classic Veneto dessert. All this plus drinks: local and European, mainly Spanish and Italian wines, a range of vermouth and sherry, and good coffee from Wide Open Road – more gold in the triangle.
Do ... come for lunch, stay for drinks.
Don't ... tumble off those wobbly footpath benches.
Dish ... porchetta sandwich with a side of ’slaw.
Vibe ... hip and classic.