In Short: The Hardware Societe’s ambience and food was nothing short of outstanding. It’s also very conveniently located in the city, in the heart of Melbourne’s famous Hardware Lane.
One of the unique things about Melbourne is its famous lane-way culture, with its rich art culture, niche retail shops, restaurants, tiny cafés, and hidden bars. Hardware Lane is a prime example of the thriving lane-way culture. Located right in the city, it runs between Bourke Street and Little Lonsdale Street. While this place used to be a horse and livery trading centre back in the 1840s, it is still surrounded by red brick paving, unique buildings and architecture but is now home to a host of excellent restaurants and cafes, and even occasionally live jazz performances of an evening.
There isn’t a lack of choice for a morning brew and breakfast in Hardware Lane, yet The Hardware Societe is a standout. A favourite among the locals and tourists to Melbourne, this place can get rather busy. Our excursion began with the customary 20-30 minute wait for a table, but once you get inside, you will realise that your patience has paid off big time, as you’re greeted with bright, inviting, French-inspired deco, a long counter, and a lighted cabinet full of sweets, macaroons, tarts, croissants and almond praline biscuits. Specials are written up on a small blackboard on the wall, and the selections change regularly to allow for the chef’s creativity with seasonal produce. Even their teapots are dressed up in a hand knitted woolly cosies.
Once we were settled in, first things first, coffee. The Hardware Societe keep it local, sourcing their beans from local specialty roaster Padre Coffee. I had first tried their coffee on a visit to South Melbourne markets on a previous visit, so the expectation was high. My flat white exceeded those expectations with a mellow, yet naturally sweet flavour. Acidity is restrained, and makes for great drinking.
With coffee sorted, we eagerly perused the menu. Looking into the baked eggs section, Coco and Viner Sacha chose baked eggs with chorizo sausage, potato, piquillo peppers, queso mahon, toasted almonds and aioli. There may be a lot of French influence in The Hardware Societe’s deco and menu, but the Baked Eggs Section’s deux item definitely is more Spanish inspired. Served on a long wooden board in a traditional small Le Creuset casserole pot with toasted bread on the side, the chorizo flavours in the dish are prominent enough to briefly transport you to the Basque region. The piquillo enriched sauce makes this a great winter dish, full of warming flavours, and perfect for dipping those crusty bread pieces into. I particularly enjoy how the toasted almonds add texture and contrasting flavour to this dish. It’s cute and totally magnifique!
I am always in the mood for lobster, so when I noticed their noir charcoal bun with lobster and poached eggs with citrus hollandaise sauce and soft herbs topping, I knew I had to order that. I mean, lobster and poached eggs, what’s not to like about the combination?! The citrus hollandaise sauce is rich and smooth, with a harmonious blending of flavours from the lemon, herbs, pea shots and capers. As expected, the poached egg is done to perfection with its’s runny yolk marrying everything together. This is a simple dish with a luxurious ingredients and it’s done so well, right down to the soft-seeded charcoal bread.
Little Sammi has a slightly less adventurous palate, and she picked out the raisin brioche bread toast from the noisette section of the menu. Served on a long wooden board, the raisin toast comes with a choice of Bonne Maman jam. We went with blueberry conserve which goes beautifully with the thickly sliced, soft and fruity toasted bread.
To conclude a hearty breakfast, I wash it all down with a matcha latte. Matcha lattes have almost equal billing with coffees for it’s striking balance and contrasts in taste. Mine has that familiar explosion of green tea savoury flavour. It’s a creamy drink, with a gentle sweet flavour coming through at the end of each sip. A perfect way to end an exceptional experience at The Hardware Societe.
Overall we had a great time and totally enjoyed the experience and food at The Hardware Societe. One final tip; if you want to beat the lines, be there at opening time.