Stop the presses! I think I have discovered one of the most enjoyable cafes so far in my blogging voyages. A place that I just want to keep returning to in order to try everything I can. So much so that I and a cohort have visited it TWICE in the space of mere weeks!
First visit: fellow food obsessive Phoebe and I decided to have a pretend payday lunch (where you ignore the fact that you still don’t get paid for another week and eat like you’re rolling in the cash), and out of my obscenely long list of places I plan to visit we decided on Hardware Societe. After a brief period of confusion where the question “is Hardware Street the same as Hardware Lane?” was answered with a resounding “NO”, we found ourselves cupping cute china cups while sitting on Hardware Societe’s outside tables, cooing at the handmade woolen tea cosies keeping our teapots nice and toasty.
Hardware has a standard menu, plus a daily rotating selection of savory tarts, empanadas, and desserts. I went with the tart of the day, broccoli and blue cheese. Normally I’m not much of a blue cheese person (it’s the “Oh, someone just put something that’s DEAD under my nose” smell that generally puts me a little ill at ease), but the smell was virtually annihilated in amongst all the broccoli goodness and allowed me to enjoy the deep, rich cheesy taste without being overwhelmed by any pungent wafts.
Phoebe went with the braised beef empanada with capsicum pesto on top. It was brimming with both beefs and gravy inside, crowned with a glowing orange mound of pesto. Phoebe attacked it with gusto, and declared it fab.
But enough of the comparative meaninglessness of savoury meals, WHAT OF DESSERT? Oh, this is where it gets fun. I had a piece of flourless orange cake that, surprisingly, had a thick layer of lemony frosting and candied orange slices on top, and came out sitting in a veritable sea of cream and orange syrup. This was just heaven, the cake was deliciously moist and made more so by being very keen to soak up the sugary orange syrup; I ended up making my spoonfuls tinier and tinier in order to make the experience last as long as possible.
Phoebe had banana pudding, which was also served in a puddle of cream, and was sprinkled with pistachios. It was a deceptive pudding (in a good way!), as it was quite small yet was very dense in flavour and had a hefty fill-you-up clout. Phoebe enjoyed it immensely, and was full of nothing but praise when the chef popped out to ask if she had enjoyed it.
The second time Phoebe and I visited I wasn’t as vigilant in taking notes as to what we ate. I know I had a risotto brimming in peas and rocquefort (I’m not sure why every time I go to Hardware I seem to partake in stinky cheese dishes, it just seems to happen. And they are DELICIOUS, so it’s okay), Phoebe had some kind of chorizo stew special that she liked well enough but felt maybe needed a touch of parmesan to really give it a kick. But what really sticks in my memory is the creme brulee. We both ordered one, and they came out on long wooden boards with a collection of white ceramic pots sitting on top containing the brulee itself and a gathering of condiments such as cream and berry compote. Crack! with the spoon and you are in a world of crystallised custard delights, and I quickly became a flurried blur of flying cream, custard and berries. It’s one of those dishes that is going to stay at the forefront of my favourite food memories for quite a while.
And all this isn’t even going into breakfast! I want to experience a Hardware breakfast so badly, but I’m going to have to learn to be more co-ordinated and actually get up early as they stop serving breakfast at 11.30. They have a brioche with kumquats thing, and gingerbread with honey, and a mushroom melange on toast… I’m sorry, I think I have to go lie down, food dream overwhelming.
A couple of survival notes: Hardware Societe is only open till 3 on weekdays so if you’re a lingering luncher like I am, get in early. Also make sure to bring plenty of cash as they don’t have card facilities.
The Hardware Societe
120 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Ph: 9078 5992