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25 May 2018 00:00
Comfort eating: The Lonely Hearts Club in Melville Johannesburg (Delwyn Verasamy)
Scheduling a breakfast date on a chilly Johannesburg morning seems like the first step to reconcile the previous night’s millennials-gone-wild antics for me and my, um, new friend.
Just after 10.30am, we roll out of our Melville-bound Uber and on to 7th Street in pursuit of a quiet spot with a hearty breakfast. Although parked cars fill the street, the road is empty enough for us to cross, hand in hand, without looking left, right and left again.
The stroll comes to a smooth halt when we see our tired reflections in mirrored windows lined with wooden beams that resemble antique vanities.
After tugging at the door, we step into another era that makes our contemporary Fila sweater and Nike sneaker style stand out. The medley of quiet dark browns and greens of the parquet floors, wooden panels, cork and green marble table tops, leather couches and wall-to-wall shelving that holds leather-bound encyclopedias mimics the feel of a law firm’s interior from a scene in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men.
Still cold from being outside and slightly intimidated by the space, we choose a table next to the window to get some sunlight before receiving clipboards that hold the menu. Because we arrived before 11.30am we are limited to the menu’s breakfast page, which offers nine dishes along with freshly squeezed juices.
We order the flapjack stack, a Japanese-style omelette, an apple and mint juice and DIY warm chocolate milkshake — all of which costs just under R250.
Of the nine options on the breakfast menu — which includes homemade muesli, French toast, a hash brown stack, mince on toast and bravas frittatas — five offer a vegetarian alternative.
I browse the space on my return from the bathroom. Across from where we sit is a well-stocked bar behind a marble-top table lined with comfortable leather bar stools. Apart from us, the restaurant is occupied by two one-person parties in the courtyard that’s flanked by a wall of pot plants and mirrors, an olive tree and a mural.
Back inside, a crackling open flame where our dishes are being prepared and a blender liquefying carrots are apparent. The background music is a mix of blues, jazz, soul and swing.
To go with the interior, owners Malcolm Hozack and Jono Kirby have ensured that the music is strictly pre-Eighties. But, from a conversation with the waiter, this may change because there’s talk of including live music performances by local artists to make the space more dynamic.
Our orders arrive and I relax into my chair. Once the mismatched glazed ceramic plates are placed before us, in exchange for my hungry thank you, I chicken out of the conversation and begin the work of cutting through the golden tower that gently oozes syrup and chocolate goo. Unfortunately the impenetrable strips of crisp bacon between each layer of flapjack stop me and I decide to abandon the knife and fork.
Each small bite is a medley of layered sweetness, from the blueberries and chocolate-filled confection to the savoury note from the salt and pepper-seasoned bacon.
Unlike me, my friend took some time before dealing with his golden brown spring onion, sesame seed and basil pesto-infused bounty. The large omelette and toast, doused in butter and garlic, crowd the plate and entice him to take more than a bite. The fluffy omelette breaks with ease at the slight touch of his fork and soon there are endearing bits of leftovers decorating his beard.
We work hard to avoid a hovering silence but our dynamic meals demand attention, allowing the silence to creep up gently above the sound of clinking forks and plates, buzzing blenders and soft swing music. We stop only to look at one another during swallows or swigs of our beverages.
Halfway through his meal he offers me a forkful from his plate to initiate some interaction.
The fluffy egg concoction melts on my tongue and releases a mild tanginess that I can’t pin down to one ingredient. We discuss how finely the ingredients must have been diced to make our dishes Instagram-worthy and, after the initial crk crk crks, the conversation flows naturally. We’re oblivious to our cooling food and all the people who filter in to make the four a party.
The fairly new eatery, located where the cherished La Luna once was, gave me a chance to turn a morning that began with quiet smiles and having to fight the awkward butterflies into a memorable breakfast that ended at lunch.
Lonely Hearts Club is open from 4pm to 10pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays and from 8am to 10pm from Fridays to Sundays. Breakfast is served only on weekends
Read more from Zaza Hlalethwa
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