Everyone has a soft spot for this city laneway cafe’s extensive breakfast dessert menu.
With one at every street corner, down every cobbled laneway, on every office building lobby floor, Melbourne CBD is not wanting for cafes. It has been wanting though, for cafes that offer interesting takes on the routine breakfast/brunch/lunch options, and/or a different cafe experience. Located at a quiet end of Hardware Lane, and occupying a compact space, Hardware Societe has been a favourite of MoMo & Coco since its opening a few years ago. There are narrow round tables on its front porch, while inside, a large raw wood communal table is a focal point. Arguably, the best seats are right at the back of the cafe, providing one with a view of the dexterous efficiency of the chefs and of the bustling bubbling venue as a whole. Decor is bright and uncluttered, Nordic-esque, not really much to speak of. Rather, the constant flow of people constitute Hardware Societe’s furnishings — a collection of relaxed off-work brunchers hunched over papers, books and iPads, suits having casual meetings or grabbing an espresso, and increasingly, students recharging with food and friends while fishing out enormous, telescopic, non-student-budget cameras.
Hardware Societe’s breakfast menu is a short-and-sweet one-pager, with all the usual breakfast suspects being present, but interpreted in differently delicious ways, and mostly successfully (the baked eggs come with our highest recommendation for those less sweet-tooth readers). For the sweet-tooths on the quest for sweet breakfast, Hardware Societe never forgets you. There are almost always three sweet options available — a fruit-based bircher muesli, cake-bread and french toast. The first sweet breakfast option that MoMo & Coco recommend is the “Bircher Muesli” ($11). Hardware Societe’s muesli rendition is a deeply satisfying interpetation that refuses the usual “too boring” or “too healthy” labels commonly associated to this grain-based brunch. Pictured below is the Spring 2011/Summer 2012 (S/S 2012) version. A generous serving was soaked overnight in a tart berry mix to confer a pinkish hue. It came with an entourage of golden wedges of sweet mango, flicks of crushed pistachio and a slightly ugly entanglement of stringy rhubarb. As rhubarb is most unpalatable to us, MoMo & Coco personally prefer a past bircher dish that floated in a decadent berry syrup, smothered in winter berries.
The second sweet breakfast option available at Hardware Societe is the cake-bread, most often a “Banana Bread” ($13). Pictured below, the S/S 2012 version was a veritable three-tiered tower of highly flavoursome, moist banana bread. It was styled with two priceless slices of banana, crustings of hazelnuts and pecans, and drizzlings, rather than a drenching, of somewhat watery dulce de leche.
Although we love the above-mentioned sweet breakfasts available at Hardware Societe, MoMo & Coco especially bestow our highest recommendation to the third sweet option of an unmissable traditional brioche french toast ($14-$15), laced with maple syrup, honey, passionfruit curd, or other sweet things (as we have devoured on past visits). Recently though, the S/S 2012 version marched down the catwalk counter and in front of our ogling eyes dressed-up as the rather alternative, “Fried Almond Croissant” ($15). Against the sweeping curves of two large almond croissants layered one on top of the other to form a tall golden mountain, little bijoux rocks of meringue were scattered for crunch, and a flattened mass of citrus flesh and a tarty berry coulis for relief. It was three sins in one — buttery, fried, sweet. Arterial and venous clogging and diabetic-inducing perhaps, but let’s embrace the fleeting sweetness of life, and of Melbourne’s spring and summer. Simply heaven. Snap up this limited edition irresistible quick!
Hardware Societe is a lovely and arguably, indispensable addition to Melbourne CBD’s cafe food scene. You won’t be coming here so much for the coffee (which by the way, arrives with a complementary mini doughnut, another plus for us sweet-tooths), as for the reasonably priced, generously served, delectable food. By contrast to other Melbourne cafes, the food offerings at Hardware Societe are not a mere nonchalant after-thought. The consistently welcoming, efficient, non-hipster service is yet another distinguishing factor. Breakfast or lunch, savoury or sweet, with friends, family, colleagues or even on your lonesome, Hardware Societe is a solid winner.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Hardware Societe Cafe, 120 Hardware Street, Melbourne CBD, Vic 3000.
- ☑ Budget: $.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Breakfast dessert.
- ☑ Must-eat: Every dessert that you can fit in, but especially the “Fried Brioche.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Everyone has a soft spot for this city laneway cafe’s extensive breakfast dessert menu.