Bathing in goat’s milk, commuting to school by chopper, sailing on a yacht with an ensuite for every bedroom … I can only describe my first experience at The Hardware Societe as ‘luxury-for-breakfast.’ Perched at a marble table by the laneway, my first meal at this café was brioche with rosé-scented pear, dulce de leche, and pistachio praline. Fit for a queen.
Recently, friends visited over an extended weekend and The Hardware Societe immediately sprang to mind. This time, we dined amidst the café’s fine white walls and beautiful teacup montage. Our orders included oatmeal with poached pears and macademia crumble and bircher with berries and macademia crumble.
We were thoroughly satisfied with our meals, but did look on with envy at Emma’s decision: the two-in-one skillet scrambled eggs with chorizo and filled baguette, served on a wooden board.
With its restaurant decorum, The Hardware Societe is definitely a special treat. On most occasions, you’ll have to queue for a table, even on weekdays; menu items cost slightly more than similar meals in other “cafes” (but well worth the extra dollars); and most importantly, every bite of your meal will be an experience to remember.
120 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Brunetti is an iconic Melbourne destination for European cakes and coffee. But it’s a particular favourite of mine for a little something-something after dinner; for those times when you really “shouldn’t”, but nevertheless have a craving for something sweet. Whether you’re counting calories or just have a small ladies stomach, Brunetti has the perfect solution for you: mini cakes.
These cakes are about the quarter of the size of Brunetti’s regular slices of cake and are available in the same, if not similar, range of flavours. Options include: chocolate, orange, chocolate mousse, New York baked cheesecake, and berry cheesecake.
Gone in a few bites, these mini cakes are the perfect fix for a sweet craving – with minimal damage to your diet halo.
214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Also in Carlton, Camberwell, Myer, Dubai, and Singapore.
As the name suggests, Longrain is an Asian fusion restaurant. Thai, and Southern Chinese, specifically.
Following tradition, the restaurant features a long communual table, intended for ‘banquet-style’ eating (ie. large dishes shared amongst large groups). However, we arrived for dinner as an intimate party of two and were content to share amongst ourselves!
The menu features a mouth-watering range of tempting options. These include ingredients such as: smoked trout, banana blossom, Ora king salmon, green papaya, caramelised coconut, slow cooked duck, eggnet, caramelised pork hock … the list goes on.
Here’s what we settled on:
Caramelised pork, prawn, peanuts, and sour pineapple (entrée)
Duck, banana blossom, roasted eschalot relish, and Changmai sausage
Slow cooked yellow curry of Bultarra saltbush lamb with kipfler potatoes
I particularly enjoyed the sticky-preserved texture of the pork entrée and I’d definitely order the lamb again, just for the buttery, creamy kipfler potatoes. An array of exotic ‘fusion’ cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are also available to accompany your meal. And if you can’t wait until dinner, these can be ordered as pre-dinner drinks in the lounge as you wait to be seated. Longrain has venues in both Sydney and Melbourne and I was as happy with my experience, if not more so than my visits to other popular Asian-fusion establishments. Price and quality is comparable, the only difference being Longrain provides a formal setting, appropriate for a special night out. Reservations are taken only for Friday lunches and group bookings for dinner are generally limited. (We chose to arrive promptly at 6pm to avoid the evening queue).
44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
85 Commonwealth Street,
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, and honey yoghurt
Captain Melville is the latest addition to my list of C&Cs and best-value restaurants.
My introduction to this establishment was the most chic ‘casual’ dining experience I’ve had. At accessible prices, the meals looked akin to those from Melbourne’s most popular dining establishments. I ordered the quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, honey yoghurt and the Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle.
Reviews claim the restaurant serves pub-style food, but the food is more pub-inspired – fancy meals with pub labels. (There was certainly no shame around my sister ordering a ‘chicken parma’ that night!). The menu also caters to a range of occasions /food envy complexes/ diets, offering single serve /tapas-style items, share plates, and large meals.
Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle
In addition, Captain Melville’s website claims food is sourced from “ethical and sustainable Victorian farms and producers of the region traversed by the rebel bushranger himself.” And with alcohol and coffee as after-dark options, what’s not to like?
Completely booked out on the Saturday we visited, Captain Melville is clearly a favourite for a fine casual night out.
Address: 34 Franklin St, VIC 3000
Facing a cobblestone alleyway, Wonderbao is one of Melbourne’s more recent ‘bao’ havens. Their approach is just as much ‘downtown Chinatown’ – authentic, cheap, simple – as it is ‘now’ – fresh, fun, minimalistic.
Wonderbao serves several delicious varieties of bao, including:
- Braised pork belly gua bao
- Roast pork belly gua bao
- Da chicken bao
- Cheung chay bao (chinese sausage)
- Choi bao (veg)
- Nai wong bao (custard)
Choi bao and Braised pork belly gua bao
Yum. And each bao is priced between $2-4, so they’re genuinely street treats.
Kitchen-sized, seating is limited so be prepared to order to go.
Address: Shop 4/ 19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 (by RMIT University)