120 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Oh my. Oh my goodness. Today I had one of those meals, you know the ones, where it is all just so WONDERFUL. Where the food, the ambiance, the company, the conversation are all just so freaking perfect you can hardly believe how wonderful life is? Well, when that happens, you tend to form a sentimental attachment to the place where this was all realised. The Hardware Societe.
We had to wait 10 minutes to get a table, but the staff were super friendly, and I enjoyed people-watching. The place is very very small, which is a shame in one sense, but in another sense it’s rather fortunate, because it feels more intimate, friendly. Lots of natural light and exposed light bulbs. A delicious looking counter full of bready-type things to eat and baked goods. And a fabulously fluorescent display of Italian lollies. Just look at those adorable macaroon decorations hanging over the counter!
We were having lunch, so M had the Saucisson Lyonnaise with puy lentils and apple cider relish. She took one bite and instantly pushed the plate across to me, insisting I try some. Oh wow. These would have to be the best lentils I’ve ever tasted (sorry mum, yours are still great). They had a distinctly porky taste, which makes me think they were cooked with pork or in a pork stock. The saucisson and relish were also great, but definitely the standout for both M and I were the lentils. Outstanding.
I chose the Moorish lamb leg with red peppers, eggplant, orange, green olives, coriander and poppyseed labne. So good. The lamb had been slowly braised for hours, and just melted in your mouth. I also really liked the (rather extensive) list of ingredients in the salad, they managed to work together, although perhaps I would I have preferred it without the coriander because I don’t really like it raw. I especially liked the lemony labne which offset the meat perfectly.
We finished our lunch with coffee and sweeties. My flat white was fantastic, so so creamy and silky. And they’re served in adorable little pastel cups and saucer sets with mix-matched colours (although my saucer was white so the effect isn’t quite the same). Love.
I chose a selection of biscuits for us to have, I got one of those canéles for M who hadn’t had them before. And then I got us each a chocolate, prune and pedro xeminez macaroon, and a berry lychee macaroon for myself. The lychee macaroon was unbelievably light and delicate, and had such a lovely purple colour. The chocolate macaroon wasn’t quite as delicate, but the taste was superior I thought, especially with the subtle plum-like prune taste. M enjoyed her canelé because, as I rather enthusiastically assured her, it wasn’t very sweet, and lovely and moist.
Basically a fabulous (and fabulously-priced!) lunch at The Hardware Societe (two mains, dessert, coffee for me and organic lemonade for M was $48, very reasonable), all the flavours were good and strong. and the service was attentive and cheery, and the general feel of the place is something you’d want to return to. I will most definitely be coming back here as soon as I can.
I did return, a few months later, to again sample the delicious offerings of The Societe. Here’s my second take:
It was a gorgeous sunny winter’s day in Melbourne, and I was catching up with V, who had been away traveling around Europe for months, lucky girl. We met outside the GPO, which has become a bit of a Melbourne icon, and while I waited for V’s train to come in, I people watched and was quizzed by some high school girls doing a survey about whether I thought Melbourne was an attractive spot for tourists.
I said “to some degree yes, but not in an obvious way. For example, many of my favourite things about Melbourne are relatively unimpressive to the typical tourist, you know, laneways and great coffee and rooftop bars and multiculturalism and Fitzroy and such.”
“Uhhh, we’ve only got a ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ option, so…..”
Right. Better just pick one then.
We went to what I now like to call an old favourite, the Hardware Societe. She ordered the Saucisson Lyonnaise, which I’ve written about before.
They had changed the menu a little since I’d last been there, the Moorish lamb leg is still on but comes dressed a little differently. This time I had it with swiss chard, cavolo nero, chickpeas, red peppers, pomegranate seeds and saffron yoghurt.
I really enjoyed this, especially the bitter cavolo nero and the pops of pomegranate seeds. But this version of Moorish lamb leg wasn’t quite as good as the previous one, I felt, let’s hope they bring back their Moorish salad in the warmer months!
(Coffee was stellar, as usual)