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Mark Davidson reviews Heartattack and Vine, 329 Lygon Street, Carlton

Mark Davidson
Article image for Mark Davidson reviews Heartattack and Vine, 329 Lygon Street, Carlton

Heart Attack and Vine, 329 Lygon St, Carlton

Heart Attack and Vine is what I imagine to be John Burns’s idea of heaven.  As I walk through the doors of this narrow, dimly-lit yet inviting restaurant on Lygon Street, I can picture him in my mind’s eye perched at the bar – flat cap pulled down over his forehead, blue driving loafers tapping lightly against the counter – with a glass of Italian white in hand.

He’d enjoy it here for a few reasons: the relaxed, convivial atmosphere; the selection of fine but affordable European and Australian wines; and the alluring array of Italian-style tapas (Italian tapas? I’m coming to that).

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I wouldn’t describe Burnso as a big eater.

He prefers to have a variety of little bits and pieces and share them with his dining companion rather than filling to bursting point on a single main dish.

And this is what Heart Attack and Vine is all about: cicchetti. Or put differently, small Venetian bar snacks .

It’s best to come for dinner, when the cicchetti is lined up, temptingly, in neat little rows on the counter, and you can go on a kind of choose-your-own, pick-and-mix adventure.

Lunches are great too, albeit more limited, with a selection of ciabatta-style sandwiches (slow-roasted free-range porchetta, poached salmon in a lemon caper aioli) and salads on offer.

Once you’ve selected your spot at one of the intimate small tables, communal bench or along the bar, a great thing to do is to take it in rounds to head to the counter to order a board full of cicchetti ($4 each or 3 for $10) for everyone to share.

Tasty surprises for all my friends!

The menu rotates on a daily basis but some of the things we ate included squid ink focaccia with burnt butter, anchovy and native sea veg (absolute showstopper),  smoked mussels with a burnt fennel emulsion and pickled fennel (ridiculously delicious) and polenta squares with blue cheese and pear paste (come at me!).

If you fancy something a little more substantial, opt for the succulent meatballs wading happily in a rich tomato sauce with grated ricotta salata, with a side of moreish, crusty bread.

We shared a bowl but I could have easily snatched it off my significant other and wolfed it down myself.

I don’t have a nonna but these meatballs told me everything I needed to know about what it must be like to grow up in an Italian household.

Heart Attack and Vine is a great place to take a first date, celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary, or simply catch up with friends and lovers.

And if you do come, keep an eye out for Burnso. He’ll be the one at the bar, wide grin across his face, a board loaded with cichetti and a glass full of plonk.

The happiest man on earth.

Mark Davidson