120 Hardware St
** EDIT: READ ABOUT MY MOST RECENT VISIT HERE ** There are lots of places that I’ve eaten at that I’ve liked, and wanted to go back to. But Hardware Societe may be one of a small handful that I can’t go a week without thinking about, and swearing that once I have the funds, I will eat there at least once a week.
Hardware Societe is located in the quieter end of the Hardware area, and it’s actually on Hardware Street, not Hardware LANE. From the street, there is nothing to alert you of its presence, other than a small yellow sign that says ‘cafe’. But walk inside and you’ll be greeted by a small handful of smiling, enthusiastic staff, bustling about the small and eclectic space. It’s hard not to be charmed by the magazines hanging off the ladder in the corner, or the colourful tea cosies, or the little shelf of herb pots sitting outside on the laneway, soaking up the sun.
The brunch menu here is short and sweet, consisting of no more than 10 or so items, ranging from 7 to 14 dollars each. We ordered the Fried Brioche with sliced banana, chopped hazelnuts, Nutella, clotted cream, and drizzled with maple syrup ($13), and BLT with watercress, some kind of mayonnaise, and some kind of fancy German bacon ($9, and pardon the lack of proper name, but this really was quite a while back). Both dishes came out at the same time, which I love – saves both people sitting there awkwardly as the food cools.
Now, imagine the most delicious and decadent dessert you have ever eaten. Got it? Ok, now imagine something three times as good. Can’t do it? Well once you have the fried brioche, you will know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. I was already salivating as the plate was set down in front of me, but the first bite shattered all my expectations, I literally closed my eyes just to savour the taste of it. The fried brioche crispy, sugary and decadent, but not cloying, the banana and hazelnuts on top added a slight semblance of healthiness (HAH!) as well as flavour and crunch, and with the Nutella sandwiched between and the cloud of slowly melting clotted cream on top, it made for one heck of a mouth-watering brunch.
The bacon sandwich was nothing short of brilliant either. Looking a little less dramatic than the fried brioche, it came out cut in half with a couple of lean rashers of bacon visible, and a small amount of watercress and mayonnaise. Despite its humble appearance and simple ingredients however, the taste was sensational. The baguette was fresh and chewy, and biting into it gave way to bacon that had a much smokier and meatier taste than most other bacons I’ve had. The mayonnaise added moisture and a subtle creaminess, and there was just enough watercress to stop the sandwich from tasting greasy. All in all, a delicious sandwich where the fresh, top quality ingredients speak for themselves.
The service here is charming and helpful, our water was kept constantly topped up by a friendly waitress. Halfway through the meal, she came over to ask us how everything was, but unfortunately I had a mouthful of bacon sandwich in my mouth at the time, and so I had to answer her with watercress dangling out of my mouth. Awkward. But at least she seemed happy with my answer (‘Ishh Gwreat!’).
We couldn’t leave without trying the macarons. We shared a salted caramel one between the two of us. Unfortunately it wasn’t as great as the meal. It was somewhat on the dense side, and the flavour wasn’t very pronounced, and it was overly sweet. But I’ve recently read that they have improved their recipe, and now have one of the best macarons in town. Another reason to go back, not that I need one.
Rating: 16/20 – must come back