#2111 | Mocha Mondays: No Bad Brunches – Hardware Societe Cafe Melbourne

2017-10-15 01.21.16 22017-10-15 01.21.15 12017-10-15 01.21.14 1

Hardware Societe Cafe, Melbourne
All pictures taken on the Nikon D750 with a 35f1.8mm lens

Day three of melbourne and I am convinced there are no bad brunches in Melbourne. Such a thing cannot exist – or if it does, I suppose it it ferreted away like a secret, away from the critical eye of this city of foodies. Yesterday was such a prime example of this that I now want to go into the cafe business – in an alternate universe where I actually can cook, of course.

Xiaoqi and I found ourselves at Hardware Societe Cafe because multiple people had recommended the baked eggs to us, and I cant lie, I love eggs. I honestly think eggs are the perfect survival food, and if one were stuck on a desert island with only one thing to eat for the rest of their lives, the best thing one could do is ask for an everlasting supply of eggs because they can be cooked like fifty different ways and they are an excellent source of protein and they are also SUPER YUMMY. And that was essentially what lured me in and had me commit to a twenty minute wait for a table, because from what I understand, Hardware ALWAYS has a queue.

2017-10-15 01.21.15 2

The queue when we reached

We put our names down and had a gander down the adjacent road, then came back just when our names were called, so the wait was actually alright for us. I dont think most people realised they could just put their names down and walk around (we asked), but in any case, you heard it here first!

Anyway, we finally got seated at the alfresco area cos there were only two of us, and we (totally over)ordered what was soon to reveal itself as the best brunch of our lives with the super friendly staff. There is no way to do this elegantly so I am just going to describe what we had:

We started off ordering drinks and a Cruffin. A Cruffin is basically a hybrid of a croissant and a muffin, and this is the second cruffin i have ever had, ever. The first I had was in a cafe in Bangkok, and I wasnt very impressed with it. However Xiaoqi spotted the cruffin in the window of the Hardware Societe counter and went straight for it and thank goodness she did because it was HEAVENLY.

2017-10-15 01.21.11 12017-10-15 01.21.11 22017-10-15 01.21.05 1

Matcha and Strawberry cruffin

This is the strawberry matcha cruffin which was the perfect mix of fluffy, crisp, and NOT TOO SWEET. The not too sweet part is important, i do feel that too often people make pastries way too cloying, and that ruins it for me because i dont have much of a sweet tooth. But this was really good – the server later said it was the best thing on the dessert menu.

Will I ever have a cruffin again in my life? Can anything ever live up to this experience? Look at that crisp fluff, that amazing dollop of matcha and strawberry.

Two mains: we ordered the famous chorizo baked eggs, and the salmon millefeuille.

First, the baked eggs. They come in two variants, scallop, and chorizo. We got the chorizo cos we were already ordering salmon for another dish, and we thought we should get one seafood and one non seafood dish. The chorizo variant comprised chorizo sausage, potato, piquillo peppers, queso mahon (a type of white cheese), toasted almonds, and aioli, which is essentially atas mayonnaise.

2017-10-15 01.21.10 22017-10-15 01.21.07 12017-10-15 01.21.09 1

Eggs r life

The baked eggs were pretty ace, but the bread it came with was what really impressed us – it’s the right amount of crisp without being dry, and complements the wet of the eggs perfectly. I particularly liked the almonds in the eggs because it added texture to the dish, and I could objectively recognise that this was delicious – but i just didn’t see how baked eggs with chorizo could differ that much from a standard taste. We suspect the scallop variant might have been better, but limited by money and stomach space, we regretfully did not try it. Perhaps a half and half next time? Still, it was a great dish that raised our eyebrows upon first bite. And we thought, jeez, melbourne. Is there any dish you can’t do?

That was until the Salmon millefeuille came, and we totally freaked.

2017-10-15 01.21.10 1

LOOK. AT. THIS.

Millefeuille, in addition to being a word i cannot pronounce, is a type of french puff pastry, which typically has vanilla custard or some kind of sweet paste in it. The combination of that light pastry structure with salmon tartar instead of a sweet layer was a stroke of genius. I am a huge fan of salmon, but I always hesitate to order it while dining out because it’s too easy to screw up and too often I’ve sat, disappointed, in front of an overpriced, dry piece of baked salmon. But this dish came with two forms of salmon and both were perfectly done, and when we ate it it was like everything was right in the world.

2017-10-15 01.21.06 2

LOOK AT THE CRISP LAYERS OF THE PUFF

Lets talk tartar. The salmon tartar (raw salmon, seasoned) was made fresh – you can always tell when it’s not because it’s slathered with sauce, and fresh raw fish should never be overwhelmed with sauce so that you can taste the freshness – with horseradish and avocado. The horseradish wasnt too strong – i think it might have been pickled actually – and it was served in very thin slices so it didn’t overpower the rest of the dish like i was afraid it might. Basically the perfect balance of this dish was essentially physics. The people behind this are scientists. I am convinced to my very bone.

2017-10-15 01.21.06 1

Look at that sear, look at the pink in the middle of the fillet T-T

And the confit atlantic salmon it came with??????? Was so perfectly cooked with the nice pink soft middle??????? I wanted to cry. I wanted to befriend the chef and move into her basement. Do her chores in exchange for meals. Give her a sticker that says Salmon Whisperer. Xiaoqi and I couldnt understand why the baked eggs overshadowed the salmon dish – i literally have heard no one mention the salmon millefeuille dish in any foursquare/yelp review (yes, i am the type of person to obsessively foursquare/yelp a place to figure out what best to order). This dish was the real MVP. After our meal as we walked down the alley I started hissing at random people in the queue ORDER THE SALMON. ORDER THE SALMON. I would have shouted it but i was too full and too shy. But there is no shyness on the internet, so. ORDER THE SALMON.

Finally – for drinks, we ordered the Matcha Maiden green tea latte and the signature hot chocolate mocha (aha! there you have the mocha monday in this mocha monday post) with 54% callebaut. They were individually good, but nothing mind-blowing, which kind of meant they paled in comparison to our food. The matcha is apparently the most popular drink on the menu, and it’s of the non-sweet variety which often means it’s legit matcha, so that’s good, but we didn’t finish it. The chocolate is extremely thick and comprises hot chocolate that you manually pour from a pot into a cup where a dollop of actual chocolate sits, and just based on that you can imagine how thick and rich it is. Pretty good, but again, it’s a heavy drink which doesn’t exactly complement a heavy brunch. No regrets ordering those, but we would have been ok with (free!) plain water too, methinks.

2017-10-15 01.21.09 22017-10-15 01.21.10 2

Overall – a fantastic place. I can’t decide if I would come back because the memory of this is so perfect that I’m almost afraid that I will come back, have it again, and not have it live up to the vignette of my experience. In some ways this meal was like that bukowski poem i love – i loved it like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of. Straight up, I loved it. Poetry in my mouth, on my tongue. I recommend this so hard.

Hardware Societe Cafe
120 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000

x
Jem

#2039 | Stunning Starbucks Showoff: Thong Lor, Bangkok

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

imagesBangkok, Thailand

Some people collect stamps and postcards, I collect pictures of beautiful starbucks outlets around the world. Sound about right? Perhaps this is my starbucks addiction taken to a new level, but when I passed the Starbucks outlet in The 49 Terrace, Bangkok, I just had to pop in for a quick coffee stop…

Make that tea. Starbucks Singapore just launched it’s Teavana menu, which I adore for the matcha espresso creation, but I wanted to try the offerings in bangkok as well. Also – they were having a 1-for-1 when we were there! I got the Iced Shaken Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit & Honey, which is also available in Singapore but which for some reason I hadnt tried back home. It was the drink i never knew i needed on a sweltering bangkok day. What can i say? Not all heroes wear capes..

PS. I also really, really, really wanted to take a picture where the lady is sitting in the picture above. But she just WOULDNT MOVE! I waited for about half an hour then gave up, and when i walked away i saw that she was watching some korean drama on her phone…….. ok, i cant blame her. If i’d settled in a spot like that I’d never give it up.

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

The architecture of Starbucks outlets have never failed to intrigue me. It’s the biggest coffee chain in the world. Arguably the most successful. All their stores need to have a certain recognisable aesthetic – but they’re never exactly the same. How do you get twenty three thousand stores in the world to look the same yet different, and have them all be beautiful at the same time? That is – how does the most common coffee chain in the world differentiate itself as a unique product? I dont have an answer, but somehow they’ve done it. I’ve always made it a point to pop by different starbucks outlets whenever I travel, and they’ve always remained both staunchly recognisable yet subtly varying in terms of interior decor. The outlets in Shibuya, Tokyo, and Taipei’s 101 benefit from incredibly iconic city views, and the outlets in Singapore play with location as well – the outlet in One Rochester, for example, sits in a colonial-style black and white house, and the one in Fullerton Waterboat House offers a gorgeous panorama of our landscape. This one in Thong Lor reacts to its surroundings in a very different way, by making use of the most consistent thing thailand has to offer by way of weather – the sun.

Floor to ceiling glass windows? It’s hard to say if this is a coffee chain or my dream home. The same concept might not have worked as well in a different location, but Sukhumvit Soi 49 blooms with lush greenery that’s both zen-like and deliberately pruned to casual perfection. As a result, the open feel of the store creates a cool, air-conditioned bubble that sits you right in the middle of all that smoky sunlight and greenery without being subjected to the unforgiving humidity. Coming from the country that has mastered the art of getting the hell out of the heat, I can tell you that this is a winning formula.

And of course, it helps that this outlet is situated in the Japanese expat neighbourhood of Bangkok, meaning that it’s clientele often features young families, trendy freelancers working off their laptops, or older japanese people just looking for a place to rest while walking their dogs…

UntitledUntitled

… because who doesn’t want to go to starbucks and make a new friend? Say hi to พาหุรัด, a word i google translated from english. Because that’s what she’s called – a thai word which translates to bracelet. And she is the hugest, laziest dog ever. I have a feeling she and Athena would get along.

Starbucks, The 49 Terrace
20 Soi Sukhumvit 49/1, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

x
♥jem

#2030 | Matcha Mondays: Cha Cha Matcha

UntitledUntitledUntitled

Mocha Mondays is a new and semi-regular feature on cafes and how workable they are, for freelancers or students looking for a place to park themselves at while getting work done. It may or may not actually feature mocha.

Apologies, guys, the Mocha Monday series that I was so enthused about at the start of last year seems to have taken quite the hiatus. The semi-regular in semi-regular feature being taken far too literally, if you will. But here I am again, and all I have to offer you by way of apology is this: a scathing sense of sarcasm, and also a gentle reminder that everything on this blog is free to read, FREE, i say! So, chill, yknw?

Anyway. I hit up Cha Cha Matcha on my last day in New York. It opened my last week there, actually, and immediately instagram was hit with a flood of pictures from the place, which looked like it was built to cater exclusively to hipsters and instagrammers. And indeed, when I stepped in, my first thought was: this is where hipsters go to die.

The first warning sign? Cha Cha Matcha is card-only, which means it doesn’t accept cash, at all. Because cash, ugh, you know? So mainstream. And in this cashless, trendy cafe, walls are decorated solely for the purpose of being backdrops to your perfect instagram photo – pink and green chairs, leaves, coffee cups. You can’t fault them for that: it’s working. People have been snapping this place nonstop since it opened, and it’s not tough to see why. The place is decorated like Malibu barbie’s pad on drugs. Like Katy Perry’s california girls song became a person and threw up all over the walls.

Was it too much to hope that a beautiful place like this would serve good matcha as well? Apparently so.

Came for the Instagram photo #honestinstagramcaptions #doitforthegram

A photo posted by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

Our matcha tasted like nothing. It didn’t taste bad, you understand. It just didn’t taste like anything. Confused? So were we. We ordered both the classic matcha latte and the coconut matcha latte and they tasted exactly the same, which is to say, like an empty drink void of taste, that kind of left a little bubbly feeling on your tongue. The soft serve fared a little bit better, because you could actually tell it was matcha flavoured, if largely because it was half green. But if you’ve actually tried any decent matcha before, this brings nothing new to the table.

It left me wondering: what was it? Why were people raving about this place? Were they all brainwashed by the cute interior? Or had they simply never tried proper matcha? Or – best case scenario – were we the unlucky ones who got a dud batch, and did everyone else get heavenly tasting brews? Our answers were granted a week later, when another girlfriend went to CCM after seeing my snapchat. Jem, she texted me, Cha Cha Matcha sucks. Lol. Fullstop and all.

The real question, I suppose, is: does it matter? In an era where taste is fleeting and photos are forever, it seems that the six bucks you pay for a crap latte is really an entrance fee to the hippest photo prop for instagram right now. I sure paid my dues. Don’t we all? My only hope (and a fervent one), is that this doesn’t become a trend – substandard kitchen fare giving way to the perfect pastel paint job on the wall. Is it too optimistic? Or are we already there? Say it isn’t so!

When all is said and done, will one lonely pessimistic review on the net make a difference? Of course not. People will still flock to the place for it’s pink walls and green decor, and I don’t blame them. Ah, this instagram life! So be it.

Cha Cha Matcha
373 Broome St, New York, NY 10013, United States

x
♥jem

#2013 | Mocha Mondays: Starbucks Fullerton Waterboat House (noch ein mal)

UntitledUntitledUntitled

Mocha Mondays is a new and semi-regular feature on cafes and how workable they are, for freelancers or students looking for a place to park themselves at while getting work done. It may or may not actually feature mocha.

The fun fact of the day is that noch in mal means one more time in German, drips and drops of the residual German I’ve retained from seven months living there a couple of years ago. And there you have the enrichment portion of today’s post – checked.

I’ve actually featured the Starbucks Fullerton Waterboat House in my Mocha Monday series before, so for those of you who havent seen that, here’s the TL;DR:


TL;DR
Starbucks on Fullerton Waterboat House
Famous for: BEING STARBUCKS
Seats: Plenty
Wifi: YES
Power points: YES!!

I went back recently to try out the new Starbucks lunch menu, which is basically a $9.90 set comprising one of their gourmet sandwiches with a tall-sized iced freshly brewed coffee or tea, running from 11am-3pm. The rest of the new items are available through the day, and what I’m really excited about is the additional food options for those of us who work through the night at one of the many 24hr Starbucks outlets – finally, something else substantial to munch on at 3am!

UntitledUntitled

My favourites from the set include the tuna sandwich, the country chicken pie, and the triple turkey pie, all of which are unreasonably good for a place that is mainly known for coffee and convenience. No complaints, though. Since trying the set I’ve been back several times to get the tuna sandwich, although opinions differ: most people prefer the meatball sandwich which I’m honestly quite half-half on. Team Tuna, you guys!

I also wanted to take the chance to sneakily introduce a new book recommendation: an extraordinary short story collection. Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon. The man makes the short story form look like an art. The ten stories are loosely connected, self aware, and sharp in their humour. For those of you who’d like a preview, here’s one of his short stories from the collection – the titular Love and Obstacles: read here.
(Also, if being featured on the New Yorker isnt a stamp of approval, what is?)

Till next time.

x
♥jem

#1967 | Mocha Mondays: London Grind

DSC_3191DSC_3022DSC_3158DSC_3159DSC_3021

imagesLondon, England.

Grey dress: The Velvet Dolls | Furry cardigan: my sister’s | Floral flats with silver Ankle Strap: El-ska

All photos taken on the Nikon D750 on a 35mm lens.

Mocha Mondays is a new and semi-regular feature on cafes and how workable they are, for freelancers or students looking for a place to park themselves at while getting work done. It may or may not actually feature mocha.

It’s been way too long since my last Mocha Monday, which is a sad reflection of how incredibly crazy life has been… both in terms of time to pen these mocha monday posts and in terms of, well, time to drink the damn mochas. Anyway, in today’s Mocha Monday, we hit the UK for the first time..

London is a bit of a coffee mecca, and a lot of my pre-london hype included squealing over potential cafes to hit. We caffeinated ourselves at a fair number of cafes this time in London, but one of the more memorable ones had to be the London Grind. Located on Number Two, London Bridge, the cafe looks like a hipster exploded in it, but thankfully, unlike other similarly conceptualised cafes, still serves great coffee.

I found London Grind the same way I find most of my cafes while abroad – by lazing in my airbnb apartment and location searching options near me on foursquare. I talk about foursquare so much here that people are going to start thinking I work for them (I don’t). Still, it remains one of my favorite apps to use while abroad, something you guys would already know if you’ve been reading my travel posts (re: Guide to Top five free travel apps). This particular cafe had great reviews and was pretty walkable from our airbnb apartment, so we decided to head over on our last London morning before heading to Bath.

DSC_3034

One of my favourite things about London Grind: the incredible window seats offering a fantastic opportunity to raise your creepy people watching street cred.

The cafe, to general surprise, is located on London Bridge itself. We walked past it several times not realising you could go in – it doesn’t have very clear signage, maybe a deterrent to annoying tourists like us? Anyway. Once you actually identify the place, you’re rewarded with exposed brick walls, great natural lighting, marble top counters, and the incredibly smell of coffee brewing. Mmm. We decided to go all out and brunch there instead of just getting a cuppa. The place was too beautiful not to linger. (Idea: a good marketing strategy, perhaps?)

And what a great idea that turned out to be. If the coffee was swoon-worthy, the food was divine. We (over)ordered three dishes to share – Banana bread with creme fraiche and honeycomb, One-pan eggs, and the Breakfast Focaccia. I’m the type to also foursquare food recommendations, so of the three, two were tried and tested by the 4sq community (banana bread and breakfast focaccia), and one was pure adventure (one-pan eggs). Worked out pretty well. Also, I swear, I dont work for foursquare.

DSC_3077DSC_3105

1. Banana bread with creme fraiche and honeycomb.

I dont usually do item by item breakdowns but i feel like i havent done a mocha monday for so long that i kinda owe it to the series to whack 1 x good one, plus also this is totally worth it. The banana bread was recommended both by online users and by the barista, and it was incredible. I’ve never had banana bread so light and non-chunky. I had to google what creme fraiche meant – and its the atas cousin of sour cream, and about three times yummier. Plus the honeycomb! Ever since a disastrous date with Seoul’s Milk Cow Honeycomb Ice Cream, I’ve had a mild phobia of honeycomb because I feel like it’s just disappointment waiting to happen – the one i had in Seoul had the consistency of cardboard and tasted like dashed dreams. But this one was soft and viscous and all around delicious. This dish made me wish I could bake (one bakes banana bread, right?) and made me feel incompetent and inadequate. I wish I inspired as much desire in other people as this banana bread concoction inspired in me.

10/10 would recommend.

DSC_3110

2. Breakfast Focaccia

Firstly, focaccia is a funny word and I cant say it without putting on an accent, which is probably very offensive to someone somewhere in the world. Secondly, this breakfast focaccia was so highly recommended by nearly every reviewer on 4sq that even though the other items on the menu looked better, I just had to order this one. It would be a crime not to. Because the internet is always correct, right?

Right. This focaccia made me forget my own name when I took a bite of it. Bite two and I wished it would never end. It was like disneyland in my mouth. I looked at Xiaoqi with my mouth full and made a real effort to mumble: “What is going on?!” She did not understand me.

But seriously, your first reaction to this dish will be the same. What is going on?! Are there drugs in this? Is it possible for food to make you feel so good? Why am I getting goosebumps? Can I marry this focaccia? And then before you know it, it’s over and your life is back to the empty meaningless hole it was before.

The Breakfast Focaccia consists sausage, back bacon, asiago, egg, and aioli, which everyone knows is just another name for freaking delicious. No, seriously though. I have thought about this focaccia a lot in an attempt to understand what on earth happened in London Grind that day. My conclusion is that asiago (a type of cheese) and aioli (a Provençal sauce) are the condiment version of soul mates, and when they get together, good things happen. Plus rocket salad. I trust anything with rocket on it. Rocket is life.

22.5/10 would recommend.

DSC_3109

3. One-pan Eggs

Now, I dont mean to be unfair to this pan. In any other cafe, this would have probably been a really great dish. But in this unholy trifecta, it was the ugly stepsister. The dish contains spinach, tomatoes, beans, and pistachio. I don’t like beans, and I don’t like pistachio. From the start, this was pretty doomed to me. Why did I order this? I didn’t. Xiaoqi did. (Blame the woman!)

I don’t have much to say about this because I didn’t eat the bulk of it, given that i do not like beans. I dont understand why people put beans in things. Do you know that beans make you pass gas? I’m pretty sure I learnt that from a campfire cheer somewhere. Legitimacy not guaranteed. But I do admit that for a dish with beans in it, it made a pretty decent bread-spread. The dish comes with lightly toasted bread, and everyone knows that bread across that part of the world is amazing. The idea is to put the pan mix atop the bread and eat it, but I ended up just eating the bread.

Do not want to give recommendation rating because i suspect i am highly biased, make your own decision on this based on whether you like beans or not.

DSC_3073

Sidney Rose Gold Watch c/o Jord Wood Watches

So the food was good and the coffee was good. The one thing I found off about the place, though, was their complete disregard of cappuccino latte art, which is an act I found indicative of curious confidence in a time where the instagrammability of one’s dishes are of paramount importance. Xiaoqi had a latte, which came beautiful, but just look at my cappuccino above! It looked like a place where hearts went to die. Yet another case of What is Going On, except this time in all seriousness. Still, it tasted delicious, which means very little in terms of how postable it is. I’ll leave you guys to debate what this means about the state of our generation yourselves.

DSC_3146

London Grind
2 London Bridge, London SE1 9RA, United Kingdom
+44 20 7378 1928
7:00 am – 11:00 pm

Overall verdict: if you’re in the London Bridge area, there is zero reason why you should not visit this cafe. Start your day here and then wander down the iconic London bridge while singing that song that gets stuck in your head everytime..

x
♥jem