Brunch out south of the Yarra
I recently visited Sydney and was very impressed by the kind weather, majestic harbour and abundance of outdoor dining options. I was having a drink next to a couple of American tourists who were planning to visit Melbourne later in the week and I found myself describing to them with great excitement how wonderful Melbourne was. The wide boulevards, the small laneways, the street art and the food… oh the food. I quickly realised that I could never betray this city and live anywhere else.
Hardware Sociéte is the perfect base for a day out exploring this beautiful city. Like most places worth visiting in Melbourne, it is a tucked away in a small alley and unless you know about it, it is unlikely you will come across it. As we approach Hardware Sociéte I can already see about twelve groups or so waiting for a table. It seems that this is not a well-kept secret and that everyone in this city (even tourists) knew about this place before me.
After a 15 minute wait we are seated on a counter facing the open kitchen. The décor is very different to the usual rustic feel of most suburban brunching institutions; it has a kitschy – sweet feeling, a mixture between a disorganised Parisian patisserie and a mad-hatters tea party. The walls are covered in wallpaper, entirely made up of colourful butterflies. There is a lollipop display on the counter and a selection of grandma-style tea caps hanging behind the coffee machine. The mismatch of everything gives this place a relaxed, welcoming, unpretentious feel.
Seating directly in front of the kitchen gives us a tremendous advantage in choosing our meals, as we can see every single dish from the all day brunch menu being plated right in front of us. The presentation of each dish would make any two chef hats restaurant in the city proud. The menu reveals some serious brunch choices and use of premium ingredients in every dish. Forget your bacon and eggs and be prepared to try something completely new. After much deliberation we order the Omelette with confit potato, Jerusalem artichoke and black Russian tomato and the Poached eggs with Trout en croute, asparagus, dehydrated tomato and a lobster bisque.
Considering how packed the place is, we are amazed how quickly the kitchen staff are getting through each order and our dishes are ready within ten minutes. My co-bruncher, who is not easily impressed, tells me repeatedly that this is the best ever omelette he has ever had. Each mouthful has a perfect balance of egg, potato and artichokes. The dish arrives with a rocket salad and three pieces of crunchy baguette. My dish is beautifully presented and the trout filo roll goes well with all the other items on my plate. In terms of flavour, it is not quite as exceptional as the Omelette but a decent dish nonetheless. One of my eggs is hard poached which is slightly disappointing at a place of this standard. My coffee is also not as great as I expected, but I vow to give the barista another try. Service is efficient and reasonably friendly but there won’t be any smiles or questions about your day.
The atmosphere is wonderful. They are playing Groove Armada, there is conversation and laughter in every corner and ample sunlight to brighten up a winter’s day. I will certainly be back.
Food: 8.5 out of 10
Staff: 8 out of 10
Atmosphere: 10 out of 10
Best for: a day of shopping at nearby Emporium, showing Melbourne to out of towners, a Parisian escape on a shoestring budget.
Getting here: 120 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000 (do not confuse this with Hardware Lane; Hardware Street is up North from Hardware Lane, once you have crossed Londsdale street). Best reached by public transport.