Before I even begin this post, I need to confess that I love Hardware Société – ever since Melbourne Gastronome posted a review about doing breakfast in the CBD over two years ago (see post here) and I had my first breakfast there. At the time, most excellent friends R and K had decided to try each of the 12 breakfast places in that review, one per month, over the course of 2010. Once we visited HS though, the first café on the list – we found it very difficult to move on… even now, 2 years later – there are breakfast places on the list we haven’t tried!! The question always was – why move on when the breakfasts here are so fantastic? And we just kept wanting more of their amazing Fried Brioche… but more about that later…
The Hardware Société has recently undergone a recent evolution – taking over the little shop next door and transforming it into a mini-marché where you can buy great provisions. This has also had the effect of adding a lot more dining space to their miraculous little operation (I say miraculous because the number of covers that go out of that kitchen is truly staggering!).
Ahh… but this is what we’ve come for – breakfast. First up – Le Padre coffee (which they also sell in the mini marché) with the obligatory, signature mini donut. Life really doesn’t get much better in the mornings does it?
And this – my friends – is what keeps me coming back and has ruined me for French toast anywhere else. The Fried Brioche – I would argue – is their signature dish. And only they know how to do it – I have seen imitators try – and fail. The brioche has been lovingly soaked in custard and is then fried and caramelised (and maybe even a little bruléed) with the result that it is crispy and golden on the outside, and gloriously moist on the inside. The topping on this incarnation is a berries and chocolate combo of strawberries and nutella – a classic pairing that works, which is then scattered with roasted hazelnuts. Yum!
What is amazing and fantastic about the Fried Brioche – is that it keeps changing. The creative culinary team of Will and Di keep coming up with mouthwatering, explosive flavour combinations – just to keep you on your toes. I have to admit – I’ve had favourites. The most recent one being the amazingly gorgeous gratinéed rhubarb and passionfruit curd!! But you know what? Part of the joy and mystery is wondering what they’re going to come up with next!! There is quite simply – no other place to have Fried Brioche (or French toast). This is the place. Hands down.
Of course, there are a myriad of other dishes on the menu to try – and I have enjoyed various incarnations of baked eggs, omelettes and other things – so there’s lots to try. The coffee is amazing, and the wait staff are lovely. All in all – there’s a reason why this is one of the most talked about cafés in Melbourne – they are bloody brilliant! Thank goodness they’ve expanded… go and enjoy.