Sunday, 2 November 2014

Melbourne Series - Hardware Societe

There is a cafe in Melbourne that seems to be the most popular spot in the universe!  I've been wanting to check out uber cafe, the Hardware Societe, the last two or three times I've been to Melbourne, but alas, its been closed for a while.  You can imagine my excitement then having been told that the cafe had re-opened after a fire had partially destroyed the premises.  I had to get along and check it out.

I only really had one morning available to me on my trip, which was a Friday morning.  When in Melbourne, I normally make my way to The European in Spring Street, which had been my favourite breakfast spot down south (see post here), but I was willing to make an exception. Knowing that Hardware Societe was pretty damn popular, I thought that I'd get up early and make my way over at around 7:15am, a little while before it's opening time of 7:30.  I was pretty glad that I did, there was already a decent queue forming and I managed to join it about twenty people deep.

Hardware Societe is located, unsurprisingly on Hardware Lane and with not much to do in the queue other than clock watch, I tried to get a feel for the cafe.  It was pretty hard to see inside, but outside was an open book.  The first thing that stood out was the big cock, I mean Rooster, which held a sign asking people to 'wait here, we will be with you in a minute'.  There was also a yellow cursive sign that I thought said Hardware, but upon closer inspection looked to say welcome. There were also a few seats outside and once the clock struck 7:30 and the all clear to 'come-on-in' and the queue started to shuffle inside, myself and a couple of others in the queue decided would be just fine to sit.

It meant that I didn't really get to see the inside of the cafe (until later on), and for a while I thought I'd made a tactical error by not dining inside, there were no wait staff outside!  It was a momentary set back as a stream of staff came out to start taking drinks orders and let us know they'd be back to take food orders shortly. 

I'd asked if there were any smoothies on offer, and as is pretty much the case throughout Melbourne, I was told that there wasn't.  At a bit of a quandary, I decided that I'd have to break a self imposed ban and order a coffee!  I guessed since I was in one of Melbourne's top cafes, the coffee would have to be pretty good.  My latte came a short while later, unusually in a cup that was more akin to a flat white, but it was really good...  I could feel the old coffee addiction kicking into gear, so I resolved to just make it the one.  

The Hardware Societe menu was ensconced in a wooden cover with the cafe's name prominent with cool looking font.  Looking through the menu and I was immediately on the back foot, it was pretty contemporary with lots of interesting looking breaky selections, but nothing that ran a more traditional route.  Even the more traditional fare like the omelettes and the baked eggs had ingredients that were pushing convention.  I wasn't the only one that was struggling a bit, the two blokes next to me echoed my thoughts to each other and then all three of us had a chuckle.  In the end, there was really only one item on the menu that really appealed, so I went for it.

The simple sounding 'scrambled eggs' were anything but simple with two versions; the Un - hot smoked salmon with pickled green tomato and avocado puree; or the Deux - chorizo with romesco manchego cheese and artichoke chips....  Guess which one I went with?!  It was of course the Deux with chorizo and when the plate was presented, it looked amazing.  The scrambled came eggs cooked with the chorizo chunks and was presented in a little pan, on a wooden presentation board with some thick toast that had the romesco, manchego and artichoke chips.  The colour of the scrambled eggs was inspiring and calling me to dig in, as did the smell, which was sweet due to the cooked chorizo. Unbelievably, I've never had chorizo cooked scrambled eggs before and I'm now wondering why, they were sensational.  The slight heat and sweetness of the chorizo worked incredibly well with the creamy scrambled eggs.  I scratched at the thick toast, but it was only secondary to the beautiful chorizo and eggs.

While I was eating my eggs, I caught the eye of my waitress and asked her for......  No, not another coffee, I did have some restraint, but an iced chocolate.  When the drink arrived, it was another pleasant surprise, it was huge with a decent scoop of ice cream with some chocolate powder sprinkled on top.  It was definitely a drink where you needed to eat as much as drink, but I had no problems doing that - it was pretty decent...

When I'd finished my breakfast and iced chocolate, I sat around for a bit thinking about what else I could order, I wanted to bask in the glow of a decent breaky and didn't want to leave my table just yet.  After loitering for a while, I decided that I had to get back to reality and head over to the final day of the conference I was attending.  It was only as I was paying that I finally got to have a look inside the popular little cafe.  It wasn't huge and every bit of space was used to sit people and serve food.  I quite liked the eclectic feel of the cafe, which was bright and airy and decorated with exposed light fittings and lots of butterflies!

I'd had an awesome breakfast, even though I thought that I'd struggle to find anything on the menu that I would like to eat.  I did miss the ability to make additions, which is fairly common in most cafes and I would have added bacon to the equation if I could have - I mean, really, you need bacon at breakfast, right?  

Given how the initial queue had formed, I was impressed with the ability of the team at Hardware Societe to manage the queue, get everyone seated and have breakfast served in relatively short order. I guess they are pretty practiced at managing big crowds of people looking to enjoy their breakfast and it definitely showed with the team remaining friendly and professional the whole time.  It was even easy to pay the bill, something that can often be the Achilles heel of many a restaurant (you'd be surprised by how hard it is to get out of a restaurant sometimes!)

Was Hardware Societe the best cafe I've ever been to?  Probably not, but I can see why it's really popular and one of Melbourne's iconic spots.  Would I go back to Hardware Societe next time I'm in Melbourne?  Definitely.....  It's just usurped The European as my go-to breakfast space in Melbourne and I can't wait to head back (with SC in tow).

The menus were pretty cool - the wood covering hid a very contemporary offering
Those scrambled eggs were pretty special - yeah, I'd go those bad boys again
The coffee was well constructed, with milk the right temperature and well extracted coffee - mmmmm, coffee
The kitchen out the back and tables scrammed into ever nook and cranny
I wish I'd bought some French Caramels...
The cupcakes looked great and were all gluten free
There was an abundance of butterflies around the place
I'm not sure what French Lollipops taste like - I should have bought one too!

The Hardware Société on UrbanspoonThe Hardware Societe

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