The Hardware Societe | Melbourne

You know you’ve got an extensive backlog of posts, if you’re still putting up photos that have your ancient watermark over them. But alas, they must step out of the dark some day. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I may never actually catch up, but at least nobody can say that it was for lack of trying.

I’ll try and put up an old post every now and then – at the very least, I hope my backlog will eventually all have my new watermark. That’s when I’ve made progress!

Now, onto the subject of this post – MELBOURNE. I visited this lovely city twice last year, but I’m so far behind I’m actually blogging the first time I went. I’m terrible, I know.

Anyone who visits Melbourne will be interested in the food there, even if they’re not a foodie. It’s hard not to be drawn into this hipster, beatnik city, with its bohemian (and absolutely beautiful) alleyways, hole in the wall cafes, and no-nonsense approach to food. Melbourne’s got some of the world’s best coffee, to boot. Sydney’s food culture is an ever-swanky juggernaut that’s nigh unstoppable, but Melbourne food culture is incomparable – in a dashing way of its own.

Which brings us to The Hardware Societe (or Société if you really wanna go there). Widely regarded as one of Melbourne’s worst-kept secrets, this is a must-stop for almost any visitor, and indeed Melbournite as well. Yes, there are those who deride the hype machine, but I myself am entranced. Read on to see what it’s all about.

Date Last Visited: 5/7/13
Address: 118-120 Hardware St Melbourne, VIC
Recommended Dish(es): baked eggs, charcuterie board, fried brioche


Visually speaking, there’s not much to speak of. Being situated on Hardware Lane, and named as such, there are no surprises that the industrial cast of the cafe’s decor is most assuredly deliberate. This may have been detrimental, as there was a fire some months after my visit that shut it down for awhile, but I digress.

the hardware societe interior

An industrial feel that is balanced out by the warm colour of light it gives out

The cafe is bare, but functional. Unfortunately, it took us a long time to get a good view of the inside, as we had to wait for over an hour just to get a seat. Is that how popular the cafe is? Well, on some days, yes. Today? Not so much. You see, dear reader, it turns out that the waitress who took our name down on the waiting list forgot to transfer our names to a new list when the old one ran out of spots. As such, group after group that came after us got let in, leaving us to stand outside in the cold in bewilderment.

Ok, I’ll forgive them, because they are truly busy, but it didn’t ameliorate our rather deleterious waiting experience. A simple lesson here though: just check up on your name ever few minutes or so. Saves everyone a lot of trouble.

the hardware societe

Our table – before it got invaded by mountains of food

Despite their rapid turnover, they’re quick to restore used tables to pristine conditions ready for the next group. Top-notch efficiency. This is the last time we’ll see so much white on the table, before a positively mammoth amount of food is levied before us from our menu choices.

the hardware societe

You are lemonade no longer

Better drink lots of water, coz the food’s gonna arrive hard and fast.

the hardware societe coffee

Coffees are up first! Gotta love latte art

Well actually, being Melbourne, and being THS, we would be remiss in not ordering any coffee. No sir.

Two things here:

1) It’s probably the placebo effect, but Melbourne coffee just tastes better. Well, in some places, at least. THS is definitely one of those places. As usual, I’m no coffee expert, but I enjoyed my coffee here in a way I just don’t in Sydney. This is true for every coffee I had in Melbourne, by the way.
2) Gotta love latte art, eh?

the hardware societe coffee

Cappucino – a little messy with the chocolate sprinkling, but a great coffee nonetheless

The cap seemed a bit more rushed, evident in the helter-skelter nature of the chocolate sprinkling. I’m sure it was still a bomb in taste.

the hardware societe coffee

Cold drip – in winter no less!

Ordering cold drip in winter is pretty boss, gotta appreciate that fortitude. Again, didn’t get a chance to taste this, but cold drip generally tastes along a similar flavour palate – see my post on cold drip coffee to read more.

the hardware societe hot chocolate

Hot choc – much more appropriate (Y)

The hot choc is definitely something I could have gone with, given the weather. Alas, I wanted to fool myself into drinking less calories so I can eat more calories later. I definitely fulfilled that end of the bargain.

the hardware societe hot chocolate

Deliciousness in a cup

With the drinks out of the way, we can now utilise our teeth (that we eat with our eyes…wait that didn’t come out right hmm).

the hardware societe rice pudding

Warm vanilla rice pudding w/salted caramel sauce & poached pears ($13)

Given that there were eight of us, sharing was always going to be a little difficult. Luckily, we were all tight to the point where sharing was second nature, and as such I was lucky enough to try most of the fare on the table.

I’m glad that this is the arrangement we have, because the food at hardware is quite impressive. Even something as humdrum as warm vanilla rice pudding tasted great – with mellow yellow caramel notes ubiquitous throughout the waxy, textural pudding.

Oh, and the poached pears were great too, but the pudding stood out all by itself. But hey, it’s just a pudding, right?

the hardware societe birche museli

Bircher museli w/blackberries, raspberry coulis, strawberries & macadamia nuts ($13)

Apart from your time-honored croissants and other such bread-based carbs, bircher museli w/berry coulis could quite possibly be the flip-side of that “common breakfast” representation. The masticating pleasure of crunching museli with the sweet, jammy notes of many a berry undoubtedly makes for a satisfying feed.

While I appreciated how lovely such a dish was, I needed something more…something with…substance.

the hardware societe fried brioche

Fried brioche w/lemon curd cheesecake, gratinated rhubarb & meringue cloud ($18)

Oh now THAT’S what we’re talking about. Fried brioche? Lemon curd cheesecake w/rhubarb & meringue? Are you kidding me? Buttery, sugary bread that’s fried once again? I’ll sell my liver for this because it’s going to be useless anyway faced with the onslaught of sugar oozing from every inch of the plate.

I honestly don’t think I could have finished this myself, for which I’m glad I was able to share it around for everyone to have a bite. It’s one of the most depraved dishes I had during any of my Melbourne trips, and worth every calorie.

the hardware societe baked eggs

Baked eggs w/two choices: 1) piquillo pimientos, thyme & jerusalem artichoke puree, triple cream brie OR 2) chorizo sausage, piquillo pimientos sauce, crunchy almonds, queso de cabra goats milk cheese ($17)

There’s a common plug that THS’s baked eggs is the shiz, that they’re the best Melbourne has to offer. I don’t personally know enough to vouch for that statement, but it’s decidedly first-class fare. Baked eggs don’t usually work for me unless there’s a meat element, for which THS thoughtfully provides you the option.

If you’re a vegetarian, you can opt for the vego option – so every bird is taken care of with this stoner of a dish.

And I mean stoner in the best possible sense, of course. Capiche?

I didn’t get to have many bites of the baked eggs as I didn’t order them, but guess who’s coming back for a full savvy?

the hardware societe poached eggs

Saucisse de morteau – white beans & chorizo broth w/poached eggs & sourdough ($20)

You can always trust The Shen to choose what appears to be the meatiest, protein-packed dish on the menu. No surprises then when the saucisse de morteau, of which I understood not a whit was chosen. Hey, it’s got chorizo and poached eggs, what could I complain about?

the hardware societe chorizo

SAUSAGE YEAHHH

Actually, a major bit – that “chorizo broth” they spoke of, is actually pretty horrid. I try and say that nicely, but “horrid” isn’t really a word that can be put nicely. Problem with this “broth” is that to me, it almost tastes like the watery runoff you cook sausages in. It doesn’t taste great, it doesn’t have any particular texture to it (watery), and overall is most unpleasant.

To round off the bad before I get to the good – the bread was also pretty standard. Well, perhaps substandard, given the bar I’ve arbitrarily assigned. It was nothing special, so got lost in the milieu of chorizo and egg.

the hardware societe eggs

EGG PORN YEAHHHHH

Speaking of the chorizo and eggs themselves – yes, they’re pretty much what you would expect from Melbourne. Shiok, as the Singaporeans/Malaysians would say.

I mean to say awesome. That’s what I mean to say.

the hardware societe fried eggs

Fried eggs w/jamon & roast tomato tostada, el trigal manchego ewes ($18)

The fried eggs w/jamon is not a dish I actually tried at all, but from le friend’s accounts, it is “good”. Well, I suppose this is why I food blog and others don’t…LOL.

It is indeed likely “good”. Can’t go past a classic American fried egg & jamon (= fancy bacon*) to boot!

*Yeah I know jamon isn’t really fancy bacon but STILL.

the hardware societe charcuterie

Charcuterie coddled eggs – cured meats, house smoked sardines, fromage du jour ($19)

Easily stealing the award for most impressive looking dish (sorry Leo, you don’t win this one either), the charcuterie board is always bound to turn heads. What is charcuterie you ask? It’s basically cured meats & pickles, often with cheeses & bread laid out on a board. It’s relatively healthy depending on the meat & cheese choices used, as there’s no frying in oil magic going on here.

the hardware societe

Getting in on the details

THS’s charcuterie stands out from others in the inclusion of coddled eggs. These are basically eggs that have been boiled in a shot glass. Then seasoned and ready to be eaten out with a spoon.

the hardware societe

Egg shots 😛

I totally dig this idea. Taste-wise, it was less impressive as it was still just a boiled egg, but points for the presentation.

the hardware societe

My cherry on the icing is a pickle. My icing is meat. Go figure

The Lady ordered this one, but she piled up a mouthful for me – STACK!

Despite our initial terribad service experience, THS was really the first cafe I’ve been to that pushed the envelope with what cafe fare could be – it isn’t your usual eggs benny or your french toast. It does so much more – indeed, you can’t even find those plodding dishes on THS’s menu.

Frankly, I don’t miss that – when you’ve got a one page menu, there is more peregrine fare to put on it. There’s always a host of other great cafes that serve the usual, after all.

Would be back for seconds and thirds.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

Awesome:

  • Does great standard cafe fare: tastes great
  • But also does excellent job of turning foreign cuisine elements into breakfast – there’s a ton of variety
  • Melbourne coffee is just fab
  • Melbourne prices are awesome.

Not so Awesome:

  • Service hiccups, especially when it comes to wait times
  • Chorizo broth is the shiz and I say that in the worst possible way

8/10 Caesars
The Hardware Société on Urbanspoon

11 comments on “The Hardware Societe | Melbourne”

  1. Ramen Raff Reply

    Love Hardware Societé! Their confit duck is freakin awesome! Glad to see they’re back and stronger than ever after that fire incident.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Oh wow that would be on their lunch menu right? Can’t imagine that for brekky. Looks like it’s lunch could be as good as it’s breakfast (y)

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Nah, our wait was unusual due to that service kerfuffle. You’ll be fine!

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Hahahaha I love how you’re so positive over that! We eat more often than we blog – a good problem to have.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      I would /almost/ say the wait would be worth it – but no cafe is worth that long of a wait.

      Try coming earlier next time!

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