115 Hardware Street Melbourne, Victoria 3000
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||03 9078 8119|
"Are you ready?" asks the waiter. "Yes, ready," says the eater. Not to eat, you understand, but to point a phone at a brunch dish that's a social media sensation.
A glass dome, filled with swirling smoke, is upturned on a plate. The waiter lifts the cloche and flicks it back and forth to ensure artful wafting, slowly revealing a pretty dish in whites, pink and black.
A base of set cauliflower puree is topped with potato puffs and stuck with shards of bacon. Dried black pudding is crumbled over the plate, an egg jiggles excitedly, and there's a woody tinge from the smoke bath at the beginning.
The dish's hit status has nothing to do with how it engages fork, mouth or stomach but it's actually nice to eat. Pork, scallops and cauliflower are old friends and the composition is pleasing.
Still, the meal doesn't out-gun the footage of it, and this is what brunch has come to.
Hardware Street, especially on a Sunday morning, is threaded with queues of people choosing their breakfasts from the Instagram feeds of those ahead of them in line. It's Olympic standard FOMO (fear of missing out).
The White Mojo space is bright and clean though, strangely, the light isn't great for photography. Service is well-drilled. Coffee is taken extremely seriously: the owners replaced the building's pipes and water is double-filtered to showcase single origin Sumatran beans.
The #foodporn is showy: it's either "superfood central" or "heart attack parade".
Smoothie bowls stained by matcha (green tea powder) face off against a photogenic croissant burger stuffed with crisp crab, oozy fried egg and smoky, smooth chipotle mayo.
This hulking croissant is the dish a cooking algorithm would come up with if challenged to create the almost-word "nom".
Restaurant dining is also theatre. That's long been so. The fact that showtime is now anytime from 7am is exhausting but I must applaud the democratisation of dining drama.
Happily, clapping also helps dissipate the haze of fragrant smoke.
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)