Call me a sheep but I just had to try out Hardware Societe after reading so many blog posts about this little hidden gem (not so hidden anymore). It serves French/Spanish breakfast and lunch dishes (unfortunately no dinner yet) during weekdays and now on Saturdays as well until 2pm.
This place is probably totally packed for as long as it’s open. It’s no wonder as well because they are just so good! The food is innovative and delicious, drinks refreshing, desserts totally scrumptious and best of all, it’s not expensive! The only problem you’ll have with enjoying a lovely meal here is seating availability.
Yuye, Dana and I decided to trek a block or two from Dana’s place to try out Hardware Societe a few days ago without making a booking (this was a bold move indeed but I did hear they don’t take bookings). Yuye and I arrived a tad early so proceeded to ordering drinks to cool off from the heat outside (or heat up even more as Yuye found with his tea). As seen on other blogs such as I’m So Hungreee and Ooh, Look, teapots at the Hardware Societe come with bright, floral tea cosies. It added the perfect touch of homeyness to this already very cosy place. With the velvety floral wallpaper to the hand written menu on animal shaped boards, the Hardware Societe is everything a foodie can desire on a beautiful day for breakfast or lunch (or usually brunch for me because I’m SO good at getting up early).
Yuye’s tea was very strong and herby (he got the peppermint and fennel tea for $4.50), just how he liked it. I ordered an iced chocolate ($4.50) which was nice – not too sweet (although I thought it didn’t look as good as some others I’ve had). We then proceeded to go through their menu. Although not that extensive, I still had trouble picking which dish to have since they all sounded quite intriguing and different to the usual French/Spanish cuisine.
I finally settled for the terrine ($15) featuring duck, pork belly and chicken liver with a walnut and celery cream and spiced prunes. What? Only $15 you say? Yes you read correctly. This lovely classy looking terrine was cheap and delicious! I would usually get a hot dish but as it was so warm outside, a cold one seemed quite appetising. The terrine itself tasted very meaty and full of liver goodness (which is one of my favourite flavours :D) and was surprisingly filling (despite not looking that big). The sauce is chunky and creamy although I found the celery taste wasn’t that strong (it was quite refreshing though). I left the prunes to the end because I wasn’t too sure about them. Yuye did a taste test for me before I devoured the remaining 2 while craving for more. We both thought the bread was a bit too tough and dry, almost like it was stale. This was the only flaw I could find with the restaurant. It also came with a salad which wasn’t overpowered by sauce but had enough flavour to compliment the remaining dish.
Yuye ordered the pork belly (duh…this wasn’t at all surprising) for $16 with pomegranate molasses, cous cous, roasted nectarines and hazelnuts. We didn’t know what the red round things were until i read the menu again (roasted nectarines of course). They tasted quite tangy and sweet – a perfect seasonal fruit addition to the dish! The pork was perfectly cooked through – it was tender and juicy, however we would have liked the skin to be a bit more crunchy. The salad underneath was slightly bland but still went well together with the meat. Yuye also alerted me to the HUGE spring onions mixed in with the salad, he picked them out because they were too big and raw but some people might like them.
Dana ordered the duck confit ($17) with roast beetroot, goats cheese and red quinoa. This would have been my first choice if I picked a hot dish because I totally adore duck. It was indeed a very interesting version of duck confit (I’ve had many at other French restaurants but this was by far the most different) and definitely in a good way. I still can’t believe such an innovative dish with fresh, beautiful ingredients at quite a reasonable size can cost only $17 (about half what it costs in other restaurants). No wonder Hardware Societe has a 3 star presence on The Age Cheap Eats Guide.
Although I was quite full already from my terrine, there was no way I was leaving without trying some of their famous macarons. Yuye ended up getting a coffee and we got 2 macarons to share – raspberry vanilla and pistachio for $2.50 each (what value!). They were very large macarons mind you. We both liked the pistachio one more but both were great. They were not as sweet as some others I’ve had (which is a good thing) and the fillings were very tasty, the best macarons I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be surprised if these were one of, if not the best in Melbourne.
Dana tried the Spanish Orange Cinammon Creme Brulee after hearing a great recommendation from the waiter. So, which country really invented the creme brulee? Is it France or is it Spain? I think whichever tastes better wins :). The sugar was perfectly burnt and cracked open with a crunch. The creme was thicker than the French versions I’ve had and tasted distinctly like cinnamon. This was served with cream and fresh chopped mangoes (this was $6 from calculating backwards but my memory is stale so correct me if I’m wrong). This is too cheap no?!
Overall a lovely dining experience and the Hardware Societe lived up to or even exceeded my expectations. I was almost ready to say ‘this place is overrated’ before I visited but really, it’s not overrated at all. Definitely try this place if you’re looking for a good breakfast/lunch place in the CBD. You will not be disappointed.
The Hardware Societe
Phone: (03) 9078 5992
120 Hardware Street, Melbourne CBD 3000