A cafe that has been on my wishlist for ages has been The Hardware Societe. Originally I was planning to go to Melbourne in late January when the fire broke out at a neighbouring Thai restaurant, which led to the closure of the cafe for a few months. Thankfully it reopened again in late February and, like Chur Burger and their own fire incident last year, it has been going as strong as ever.
OK, I have mentioned countless times on how impatient I get when it comes to waiting for a table at restaurants and cafes but seriously, what's with Melbourne dining and queues?! I was hoping to wake up early to get to The Hardware Societe as soon as it opens. But then I like to sleep in even on holidays. As soon as you get there, you write your name and number of people down and the staff person calls out your name when a table is available. I think we waited about 45 minutes before we were seated at our table. Still shorter than waiting at The Grounds for 90 mins.
S already had a sip before I got a chance to take a photo. The latte art looks very lovely and my friend seemed to enjoy her cup. For every cup of coffee, there's a complimentary tiny doughnut on the side, which is really adorable to eat on its own.
Jug of milk chocolate
Making the Mocha
I asked for my usual mocha but did not expect this when it was served to our table. At The Hardware Societe, the mocha was a two-step process with a jug of chocolate milk on one side and a coffee cup with an espresso shot on the other side. Very unique approach to the usual mocha that I've had everywhere else. When mixed together, it delivered a rich, frothy and milky texture with a decent amount of chocolate. Oh yeah and I'm not that great at pouring.
Forgot the name of this drink but the waiter said that they just included it on the menu that week. CC said she really loved this drink and was keen for another glass after finishing it up. Think it was flavoured iced tea.
Baked Eggs with Chorizo Sausage, Piquillo Pimento Sauce, Crunchy Almonds, Queso de Cabra Goats Milk Cheese
After reading about this dish in so many reviews and hearing the recommendations from the waiter, I knew I had to order their famous Baked Eggs. The flavours were not too strong with the sauce, nor was it as cheesy as I initially expected. The crunchy almonds and the well cooked and juicy sausage complemented well with the creamy goats milk cheese and the tangy pimento sauce. Plus there was a generous amount of egg yolk in the sauce for this meal which is delicious if you can handle that much egg yolk mixed in the broth (personally I thought it was fine but that's me). So much eggy goodness zomg! It also came with two slices of toasted bread to dip with the baked eggs and sauce. A great heart-warming, comfort dish to have on a cool morning in Melbourne.
Poached Eggs with Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Cake
While CC and S were busy food envying my baked eggs, I was drooling at their poached eggs with pork belly dish. Pork belly with eggs...why not? The pork belly looked so juicy and tender from observing my friends' dishes and from trying a bit as well. The yolk from the poached was still amazingly runny and messy. Was intrigued by the crumbed sweet potato cake which tasted a tad similar to the croquettes. Liked the crisp coating and the soft filling when I tried a small piece. Would like to order this myself if it's still on the menu next time.
Loads of sweet treats!
We were so full from our dishes so we didn't end up getting any dessert. There was a generous selection of desserts to get for takeaway which I regret not getting because they do look scrumptious. The cafe also has a mini shop on the corner selling various food produce including jams, sweets and spreads. Maybe next time.
Praline filled Easter Eggs - we did grab one of these to take back to Sydney
It was quite different compared to the Sydney cafes that I had been to especially from the interesting mocha and hot chocolate set up to the super adorable teapots covered with the patterned tea cozy (I wish I had a good, non-blurry photo of this). The prices were reasonable with most individual dishes priced at less than $20. Like Mamasita the night before, if I lived in Melbourne or if I have more patience when it comes to waiting, I would certainly be keen to visit again to try many of the dishes on the menu. However with so many cafes in Melbourne yet to explore, a return visit will take its time especially with the long lines and not much time to spare if you are only there for the weekend. Still if you haven't been to this cafe, it's worth checking out at least once for the food and the atmosphere. It has certainly got me addicted to baked eggs since coming back to Sydney.
The Hardware Societe
118-120 Hardware Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9078 5992
Mon-Fri: 7:30am - 3:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 2:30pm
After the mega-filling meal at The Hardware Societe which was worth the wait, we stumbled onto the nearby La Belle Miette located further down on Hardware Lane for our sweet fix. The lane had a touristy and romantic vibe with red being a prominent colour. Beware of the restaurant staff on that street trying to lure you into their restaurant...they literally try to follow and beg you even if you say no!
From the moment I saw the shop from outside, I thought that the decor of the shop reminded me of the patisserie shops back in France. This was evident from its simple, cute, pastel colours evident in the Parisian-esque furniture and the macaron boxes. La Belle Miette also does tea and they have limited seating if you feel like sitting down and having tea inside the store. The staff was really helpful with assisting on which flavours to pick - including the more popular flavours and the special editions.
You can get boxes of 6, 8, 12 or 18 macarons of your pick. Initially I picked 6 macarons but after looking at all the flavours again, I could not help but pick one more. After receiving my purchase, I seriously did not want to open the box because it looked so pretty!
Macarons L-R: 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela), Caramel a la Fleur de Sel, Pistachio, Violet and Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Vanilla
Most of the macarons cost $2.50 which was cheaper than nearly all the macaron shops in Sydney and on par with Zumbo's macarons. There were a few special, unique macarons that were a bit more pricier at $2.80 including the 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela) and the 'Bastile' - Moet et Chandon and Blackcurrent macarons.
Hazelnut Belle Miette
While most of the flavours were similar to what you would expect at Baroque/La Renaissance and at Laduree, what I loved about these macarons was how they were able to retain its shape and firm yet light texture after carrying them around Melbourne all day. The same happened when I bought more the next day and took them back home with minimal damage. There a few moments when I did not want to eat the macaron just savour that glossy shell. In terms of flavour it was very sweet and not too buttery. It's hard to pick a favourite and it was even harder just selecting which one you wanted to order especially when you are at the store gazing at all of those perfect shells. For me I really enjoyed the hazelnut and the sweet and vanilla but to be honest, they were all winners for me.
The macarons were so good that we went back the next day to buy more for the trip home including the Earl Grey and the Moet Chandon. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos from that visit but they were just as good. Since there wasn't much damage when taking the macarons back to Sydney, these macarons will be ideal as a gift for anyone who loved macarons. We are already looking forward to our next Melbourne trip and making a quick stop for more of these delectable sweets along with trying out more sweet places around the city including Luxbite and Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio.
La Belle Miette
30 Hardware Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9024 4528