I arrived in Melbourne on a cold and wet afternoon – an excuse for some H&M and UNIQLO retail therapy. But, before getting excited about shopping I had to feast. And, having skipped breakfast, a light snack wouldn’t cut it. My empty stomach guided me straight to The Hardware Société, known for its hearty fare.
The Hardware Société is tucked away at the end of Hardware Street. You’ll likely see the crowd outside patiently waiting for a table before you see any sign of the cafe itself. The wait can be as long as 90 minutes on weekends – so I felt lucky to be seated within 20 minutes.
After more than 5 years feeding discerning Melbournian foodies this is a place that knows itself. After a fire in 2013 the cafe closed for 3 months and the refurbishment exudes attention to detail within a clear quirky identity. Inside its bright and bubbly with yellow chairs, butterfly wallpaper and tons of cute crockery that you’ll wish you owned (or maybe that’s just me). It’s almost Alice in Wonderland tea party like.
Different seating options include a communal table, small tables inside and outside and stools around a bar. Don’t be picky though – chances are you’ll grab whatever table you’re offered just to get seated. And if you’re a ‘I don’t like elbow nudging strangers when feasting’ type then rest assured they do very well to pack up to 70 people into the small space without it feeling claustrophobic.
Head chef, Jean Paul Dargan, is devoted to using seasonal produce, across a menu that caters for meat and fish lovers as well as vegetarians. Most describe the food as French bistro style.
The good news? Breakfast is available all day – so you won’t get caught out by an 11.30am cut-off when you’re waiting patiently in the queue. From what I could see (at 2.30pm) the baked eggs with chorizo in a mini casserole dish fly out of the kitchen all afternoon. But there’s also bad news for die hard breakfast fans. With lunch dishes priced between $18 and $21 you’ll be very easily tempted away from the brekkie delights. Indeed Di Keser, the owner, told me at chance meeting at her other cafe (Bowery to Williamsburg), that they don’t look to make money on the lunch menu. Rather their breakfast turnover allows them to keep their lunch prices reasonable.
On to my feast comprising of two lunch dishes (shared of course – I’m not that gluttonous before shopping for skinny jeans). Both arrived promptly within 10 minutes of ordering and I really had to exercise self-restraint to grab a couple of photos before tucking in.
If I was vegetarian I’d have sweet dreams about this lasagne – it’s packed with flavour through the combination of pumpkin, goat’s chevre and sage. My carb and grain conscious side would‘ve loved the pasta to have been a tad lighter, but what the hell sometimes you’ve got to live a little……..
The fish special of the day was salmon. Two pieces of fillet, medium cooked and with crispy skin were served alongside baby potatoes, green beans and a red wine based sauce. It wouldn’t have looked out of place at a more expensive French brasserie.
Between meal snacking
Keen to try The Hardware Société but don’t fancy a big meal? You’ll be pleased to know that a range of smaller temptations are on offer – from croissants, to pastries to macaroons and cakes and biscuits. All pair perfectly with single origin coffee that’s among Melbourne’s best.
When it comes to Feasting Wisely I’m an advocate of balance. There’s times when my body needs superfood ingredients like kale and quinoa, chia seeds and sardines. But there’s also times when the most every day of ingredients, like pumpkin, eggs and salmon, cooked with a lot of love and a good dash of butter, cream and cheese are just what the doctor ordered.
Here’s where I usually recommend when to visit to avoid the crowds. But honestly I’m not sure The Hardware Société is ever quiet. So my tip is not to go with a hungry belly – it’s the best way to keep your sanity and patience intact during the wait for a table. And if the queue is unbearably long try Bowery to Williamsburg – a NYC style deli with the same owners a 10 minute walk away.
By Feast Wisely
- 120 Hardware Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
- 03 9078 5992
- Open weekdays 7.30am to 3pm and weekends 8am to 2.30pm
- Twitter – @hardwaresociete
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