The Hardware Club

43 Hardware Lane Upstairs,
Melbourne, VIC 3000

Another casual Italian restaurant? Yeah yeah whatever, show us something new. Except you’d be wrong to write off The Hardware Club as just one of the throng (like I almost did), because this place is a total gem. Though respectfully Italian in spirit, this boisterous trattoria takes a loose-limbed, fun-loving approach to the cuisine, giving the traditional dishes a modern, distinctly Aussie spin. The meal was pure joy from beginning to end, and the cherry on top is emerging back into the spruiker gauntlet on Hardware Lane, smug in the knowledge that you’ve just had a superior meal.

Rating: 15.5/20 – pure joy.
Must-order: oh my, where to start? it’s genuinely all excellent.

Update (24/04/24): I went back again with some friends, and I can also highly recommend the signature crab spaghetti, as well as the tinned anchovies. But once again, everything is tasty.

Roasted Marrow Bones Toast ($21)

There’s no boring, bog-standard bread course here; if you want carbs, it’s going to have to be interesting. Think Roasted Marrow Bones Toast ($21), grilled until the marrow turns into aromatic butter, to be scooped out and spread luxuriously over thick-cut sourdough. A dash of salsa verde and a squeeze of lemon breaks up the richness.

Roast Beef Sirloin Carpaccio ($25.5)

Not being a fan of raw meat, I was delighted to see a Roast Beef Sirloin Carpaccio ($25.5), which has all the refined indulgence of the original, without the ick factor (in my opinion anyway). We’re talking paper-thin slices of rare roast beef that just melts in the mouth, dressed with beef-dripping mayo, and a flurry of parmesan. Though incredibly light, it’s super decadent in its buttery texture, especially when contrasted against the crisp flatbread crackers.

Cacio e Pepe Taleggio Crispy Cheese Toastie ($16)

Needless to say, the Cacio e Pepe Taleggio Crispy Cheese Toastie ($16) is a signature, and a must-order. There’s cheese on top, cheese in the middle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was also some kind of cheese in the crumbed coating the toastie that gives it an extra crunch. Despite how excessive this snack may seem however, it’s actually surprisingly balanced; you could easily have one to yourself.

Pappardelle with Nduja and Stracciatella ($32)

Though succinct, the pasta list here has something for everyone. My eye however was caught by the day’s special of Pappardelle with Nduja and Stracciatella ($32), which was an absolute dream for spice lovers. The chewy, hand-pulled noodles were slathered with a slick sauce of nduja and olive oil, the smoky heat of the sausage mellowed out as it emulsifies with the cool dollop of stracciatella. This may be a very simple dish, but the quality of the ingredients and the skills in the kitchen really shines through.

Beetroot ‘In Saor’ ($19.5)

We were encouraged to try the Beetroot ‘In Saor’ ($19.5) for something a little different. Based on a traditional Venetian dish with a base of fried sardines, this has been given a distinctly Australian twist by replacing the fish with baby beetroot. This may seem like an odd switch, but it is actually complete genius in how well it works. The lightly pickled beetroot takes on the most delicious shades of sweet and sour against its natural earthy base. The addition of caramelised onions and fresh pine nuts gives it a little more body, and the result is the most deliciously unexpected accompaniment to the mains.

Panettone Pudding with Vanilla Pastry Cream, Caramelised Peach and Apricot, and Miso Caramel ($16)

The tiramisu here is apparently sensational, but I couldn’t go past the Panettone Pudding with Vanilla Pastry Cream, Caramelised Peach and Apricot, and Miso Caramel ($16), which turned out to be a very worthwhile trade. Soaked in milk and sugar, then squashed into a square tin to bake, this has the best of both worlds – the creamy, pudding centre, and the crisp, caramelised edges. The spiced bread really adds an additional festive element to each bite, and the vanilla custard with charred stone fruits was just pure deliciousness.

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