The Hardware Société
118-120 Hardware St Melbourne, VIC 3000
Melbourne’s laneways are a treasure trove of excellent eateries, but it’s not often you’ll find a crowd quite like the one queueing outside The Hardware Société. Arguably the city’s most well-known café, its French-inspired dishes, consistently good coffee and cute décor all add to the appeal. Its reputation has spread far and wide in recent years, and despite its small size, attracts and serves a huge number of diners each day. As a result, expect to wait in line – there’s no bookings system, but your name will be taken upon arrival and added to the growing list. While this may be frustrating, such is the cost of choosing to eat at such an iconic Melbourne café.
Their menu consists of a wide range of sweet and savoury options, from French toast to croque madames to their ever-popular baked eggs. The specifics of each dish vary throughout the year depending on seasonal produce, but the standard has been consistently top-notch whenever I’ve visited.
K’s always a little offended by the milk that accompanies the cold drip at The Hardware Société – he feels that it defeats the purpose of this particular method of coffee brewing. That notwithstanding, the cold drip itself was clean and refreshing, but otherwise not terribly memorable.
I loved this dish for its very generous serving of lamb meatballs, the flavourful tomato sauce with just the right kick of chilli, and the crispy croutons perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce.
As the café’s signature dish, Baked Eggs are always on the menu. Served piping hot and with a side of bread, it’s the perfect comfort food. K was impressed with the amount of chorizo he received, and praised the eggs for being perfectly cooked.
As a testament to their food, The Hardware Société was my café of choice when my family came to Melbourne for my graduation, even though K and I had been there only a week prior. The four of us waited more than an hour to be seated, but even my 10-year old brother didn’t mind once he had a taste of the food.
Fresh seafood smothered in a delicious gribiche sauce (think mayonnaise). The scallops and prawns were just cooked, which made them beautifully tender, and the fennel salad provided just the right amount of freshness to the dish.
Be warned – this dish is huge! The pork belly was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and I particularly enjoyed the crispy potato and bacon hash. The only downside was the apple sauce – it was too sweet and contained too much cinnamon for my taste.
I honestly wasn’t sure if my brother would like this dish, but he ate every last bite. The fresh lobster and runny poached eggs were absolutely delicious, although both he and I felt that the hollandaise was a tad too heavy. That being said, he ended up declaring this dish the best that he’d had in Melbourne – no mean feat!
Some more pictures from previous visits:
The Hardware Société has a big reputation to live up to, and for the most part, I think it does very well. Sure, I wish the lines were shorter and perhaps the menu more exciting, but I’m always impressed by how professional the staff is despite the horde of hungry diners, and how consistently fresh and tasty the food is. It’s popular for good reason, and I expect that this won’t change for a very long time, so if you happen to have a day off with not much to do, snag a table at The Hardware Société and let me know what you think!