Laksa Bar (Melbourne)

Overall: 3/5

Big cities are always full of pleasant surprises for food. After a day of sightseeing, we looked to grab a quick bite close to the hotel. This led to the unassuming Laksa King in an alley nearby. People were waiting for seats, usually a good sign of decent eats.

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The interior is simple and clean. The moderate din of conversation will require flexing of your vocal cords to make yourself heard. A great place for a quick, casual dinner. The food is moderately priced, with nothing topping over $15 Australian.

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Crispy Spring Roll with Prawn and Crab

These were an interesting take on spring rolls. The fried wrapper was crispy and flaky. It was closer to fried taro than flour. The mealy filling had some nice snap from the prawns, but I could not taste the crab. These came out a little cold, which made it less appetizing. The chili/sweet-and-sour sauce on the side did not make much of an impact either way.

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Seafood Clear Noodle Soup

You have seen this before: it is the seafood udon you would find in most Japanese restaurants. A generous portion of shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid, tofu, and vegetables with thick udon noodles and a light chicken/seafood broth. Nothing objectionable, but not great either.

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House Curry Laksa with Soft Shell Crab

When in Rome, right? Curry laksa uses coconut milk as the soup base instead of the sour asam variant. An enormous piece of fried soft-shelled crab accompanies bean curd puffs and two types of vermicelli (along with some vegetables and other seafood that I cannot recall). The broth was sweet with very mild heat from the chilis. The had a very thick batter that made it harder to enjoy the meat underneath. My exposure to laksa is limited which makes me a poor judge of authenticity. Still, I liked the dish and would have finished it were it not for the massive serving.

In the end, this is a joint where your dining experience is primarily defined by how you feel afterwards (full and content). Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Laksa Bar (Melbourne)

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)

Overall: 4/5

One of the charming aspects of Melbourne are the little alleyways that run through downtown. Restaurants, coffee shops, and bars dominate these streets, attracting significant foot traffic during peak times.I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for the poor drivers trying to navigate both the narrow streets and the flood of pedestrians – though masochism is the only reason I can fathom for turning on those streets in the first place. We watched with morbid fascination a garbage truck trying to make a three-point turn on one of these alleys that felt like a scene straight out of Austin Powers.

But, uh, I digress. Hardware Société (what a pain in the butt to type) is a French cafe tucked away in one of the aforementioned alleys (on Hardware Lane, original). Popular with locals and tourists, and well-regarded for its brunch, we arrived early on a Saturday morning to take see for ourselves.

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Note that long lines form quickly after opening, and the compact interior and porch makes the place unwieldy to very large parties.

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Poached Eggs with Mushrooms

Looks good, right? It tastes like how it looks. The braised shiitake mushrooms were tender and paired well with the goat cheese spread on the bread. These guys had the egg poaching down pat – the yolk oozed out at the slightest touch. The accompanying greens and walnuts did not add much, but were not a distraction.

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Tuna with Roasted Vegetables and Poached Eggs

This was the special of the day. And, like the dish above, it hit many high marks. Roasted vegetables (potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus) rested on a bed of microgreens topped with seared tuna, poached eggs, and homemade tartar sauce. Baguette slices were provided to mop up the yolk. Again, tastes like how it looks, though I did not care for the tartar sauce.

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Nutella Cronut

At the checkout counter, I found these in the display case. Against better judgment, I took one of these back to the hotel, where it didn’t last long before it was consumed. A croissant with a touch more doughiness with Nutella, this is not meant for the faint of heart. Also, the sugar coating was overkill.

Overall, Hardware Société lives up to its sterling reputation. Paired with a young and friendly staff, it is a fine place to fuel up in the mornings.

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)