Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Deliciousness of Passion Part 2

The awesomeness of what passion can achieve overwhelms us again, this time at:

Hardware Societe
Brighter then your average industrial fitout

This place is so wonderful, that I'm actually happy to overlook it's one fatal shortcoming: They don't serve all day breakfasts. Terrible, I know. But there's so much to love about Hardware Societe, that it hardly matters. I turned up at 11.30 on a weekday, hoping to partake in the delicious breakfast treats I'd had once before... Only to be told that breakfast service finished at 11.30, and that lunch didn't begin till 12. The waiter must have seen the pure disappointment on my face, as he bounded over to the kitchen to see if they could extend breakfast a smidgeon. No such luck. But after one glance at the lunch menu, it didn't even matter.

Spanish-Style Rice Pudding

Hardware is one of the most blogged about cafes of the moment, and it deserves the attention. Its meets all the criterion, and then some! Laneway: check. Funky, friendly staff: Check. Welcoming yet industrial style fitout: Check. Not enough seats to satisfy demand: Check. Droolworthy Menus that live up to the descriptions: Check, check and Double check!

Coddled Eggs, Mushrooms and Gruyere on Gluten free. mmmm

The food at THS, as its affectionately known, is spectacular. Delicious, interesting, perfect flavours and well priced. the breakfasts are wonderful. They don't have a hugely extensive menu, but you will still struggle to make your choice! Coddled eggs, omlette, or spanish style rice pudding, you won't be disappointed with whatever you choose. The flavours are well balanced, and the combinations interesting without being too avant garde. The menu changes regularly, so something like the mushrooms and gruyere with coddled eggs (pictured) is no longer on the menu, but I can guarantee it's been replaced with something just as good. The lunch menu is just as great. I had some of the best cooked, best priced duck I've ever had at a restaurant. I was lucky enough to be sitting opposite the chef, who handed over my plate directly and was happy to chat with me about it. I'm going to go back to chat to him, as he requested, after I've had a chance to re-create his lovely rice pilaf.
Confit Duck on Rice Pilaf

You may have noticed one omission from this entry so far: Any mention of the coffee. In my mind, this is where THS still has room for improvement. Don't get me wrong, they make a lovely coffee, with passion and skill (and lactose free milk!) but sadly, with a coffee company that I'm not enamoured with. I'm not into the naming and shaming, and this coffee brand can be found at many otherwise excellent cafes, but it just doesn't do it for me. Have the Iced chocolate instead. It's delicious!

 On the allergy front, THS has gluten free bread (just county life by my guess) and gluten free options for nearly everything on the menu. They also have lactose free milk as an alternative alongside soy milk, which I for one am grateful for!

So go, and enjoy, and see some of the best of what's on offer in Melbourne at the moment,

The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Deliciousness of Passion Part 1

After some significant time spent trawling the cafes of Melbourne, I've realised what makes something exceptional. Passion. It sounds stupidly obvious, but the difference between somewhere run by people who are truly passionate about what they do, and by those just going through the motions is huge. I've decided to review two wonderful cafes that so clearly love what they do. They have been receiving a fair amount of attention lately, and are deserving of almost all of it! Monk Bodhi Dharma and The Hardware Societe.

 Today, you get to read about Monk.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Costa Rican syphon
In typical Melbourne fashion, tucked away in a parking lot behind a main street with minimal signage. If you don't know where it is, you could spend days looking. Tiny space, wooden stools, huge communal table. This place is so cool, even the air-conditioner had a wooden cover so that it doesn't interfere with the aesthetics. Whether you love or hate the reclaimed warehouse craze sweeping our town, check out Monk anyway. It's truly one of the only places in Melbourne that is equally as passionate about its coffee, tea and food.

The coffee: Wonderful. Always. I've never had a bad cup. Being a sucker for the syphon, that's what I always get, and it's always done to perfection. The ordinary coffees are beautiful too, always made with love. My only gripe is that the staff rarely have time to discuss the coffee with you, unlike the larger setups like St Alis. Its the trade-off for the homely atmosphere, and its not the worst. And the tea.... Oh the tea! Delicate blends, and they actually care about the brewing times! I've never understood why tea and coffee are so often mutually exclusive at good cafes. As a lover of both, it's heart-warming to find somewhere that is as passionate about all warm, caffeinated beverages, regardless of whether they started as bean or leaf.
Saffron French toast with Poached Pear and Lemon Ricotta

The Food: The food at Monk was a bit disappointing on the Gluten-free front when they fist opened. Although they had a great vegan and wheat-free selection (and still do!), they hadn't quite made the gluten-free leap. They finally have, and boy am I happy they did! The menu is fairly simple, but with delicious flavour combinations.  The french toast was the best I've had in a long time. The saffron and lemon perfectly balanced the sweetness of the chai pear and sugar syrup. I love a good ricotta, and this one was truly up to scratch. Sweet, savoury, chewy and filling: just about the perfect breakfast.

Sadly, I don't know what bread they used, which ties in to my only gripe: The service. (Ok, I lied. I have two gripes. They really need some comfy seats!) The service is fine, friendly and quick. But the passion that is apparent behind the food and drink preparation just doesn't come across in the service. It's as though the customer is an almost irrelevant part of the whole process. I hope this changes in the near future, because everything else about Monk deserves our love and adoration.


Monk Bodhi Dharma on Urbanspoon