When I announced on Instagram that I’d visited The Hardware Societe, one of the comments was “the iconic cafe” and there’s something pretty iconic about a cafe that also owns the cafe across the road as a second choice for when they are too busy. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this French inspired cafe, the lines to get in rival some of Melbourne’s top restaurants, so turn up early and be prepared to wait. The cafe itself is tiny, but it’s great to see they haven’t crammed it with tables and keep the space busy, but comfortable.
We visited on a Sunday morning and of course it was packed! My lovely friend arrived early so luckily I only had to wait about 5 minutes, but in total I would say she waited about 30 (and by the time we sat down wait times had crept up to 45 minutes). We sat outside and although we were right by the entrance, I felt removed from the people queuing and the many people walking by. Service was very good, and appropriate to the level of custom. The host originally had us seated at the bar, but then a table became free so she seated us there instead, which was thoughtful and much better for us and our overdue catch up. We were served promptly with time taken to explain the menu and specials. Our waiter was friendly but aware of how busy the restaurant was – making time for a chat, but not lingering too long. We were made to feel welcome, but not fussed over; served promptly, but not rushed.
I ordered the sweet special: fried brioche, with deconstructed cheesecake and fresh berries. The brioche was wonderful, had a gorgeous flavour and was fried to perfection. I loved the berry combination and the deconstructed cheesecake, but for me there was too much of the yogurt based sauce so this overpowered the dish a little. My friend ordered the roasted mushrooms, which was a generous portion with a lot of flavour. The coffee was delicious, with a smooth flavour.
Overall, I found the experience at The Hardware Societe to be very enjoyable, but it just didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. Not that I’m saying it isn’t an excellent brunch venue, it is, and it offers a gorgeous menu – it’s more the hype’s problem, than it is the Hardware Societe’s. Before you go, just take it down off that pedestal so many people place it on, temper your expectations and enjoy a really great brunch.