Newtown restaurant Hartsyard officially opened their doors on Saturday 26 May, 2012. They’re all about seasonality and cooking nose to tail. Almost everything is housemade, down to the syrups in the cocktails. Even the still and carbonated water served is pumped through a built-in filtration system that flanks the bar.
The seed and feed theme is carried onto the menu with items designed to be shared. With their own garden and greenhouse, they’re seeding and feeding in more ways than one. I’ve been following their blog where they’ve documented the trials and tribulations of setting up their own restaurant. Fascinated, I started a online dialogue with the Hartsyard owners, Greg Llewellyn and Naomi Hart. Doesn’t everyone appreciate a little genuine interest and encouragement?
I invited my friend Spanner to join me for dinner at Hartsyard for their first weekday service. Arriving early, I kicked off the evening with a Pickle Back cocktail, a play on a dirty martini with a muddled dill pickle instead of an olive. This lead to a conversation with Cassie the front of house manager on the seriously uncool band Nickelback. Even more than I like random conversational topics, I love a tight, interesting cocktail list and Hartsyard ticks that box. The cocktails were composed by an outside consultant and in house fruit syrups created specifically for this list. Spanner doesn’t drink alcohol so with the utmost care Cassie created a mocktail featuring smoked pineapple. Both drinks were distinctly savoury in a good way. I also tried the wonderful Gentleman’s Spritz cocktail, made with Gentleman Jack, St Germain, orange bitters and prosecco.
Channeling our inner piggy (aka we ordered enough for a table of four) we asked the waiter Dan for some recommendations. We started the meal with oyster po’boys which were served on cute housemade mini English muffins. This blows sliders completely out of the water. Quickly on the heels of the po’ boys came the scallop sausage which was sweet, fresh and light.
The scallop was followed with the most elegant frying pan filled with poutine; Canadian style chips with cheese and gravy. Harts Yard’s deeply savoury version is pimped out with an oxtail gravy and cheese and beer sauce. Some celery leaves are scattered here and there to give an illusion of health but it’s really a drunken stoner’s fantasy meal.
The poutine was so moreish, I felt compelled to offer a taste to the next table. They politely declined and it wasn’t until the next day that I realised that seated beside us was Lee Tran Lam, professional writer, blogger, radio DJ and zine creater [Suddenly I feel like an underachiever.]. Lee’s vegetarian so turning down my oxtail gravy soaked chips with crispy beef threads probably wasn’t so surprising in hindsight.
Spanner’s favourite of the night was the honey glazed duck which came out pink and buttery soft. It was served with a fried ball of confit duck, a fennel puree and hazelnut crumble. She loved the sweetness of the crumble with the duck. The duck is accompanied by some nasturium leaves which made Spanner wrinkle her nose with disgust. Oh well, more for me! It’s about this point that we start worrying about the number of plates we’ve ordered. Realistically, two people should probably get three to four. Spanner and I ordered six, excluding dessert. If I wasn’t so shameless, I’d be embarrassed. Winter vegetables was a pleasant dish but we were really struggling. Finally the salmon cooked in a jar came out and luckily for us, it was very light and easy to nibble on slowly.
Having texted me earlier that day to announce she was going to order key lime pie for dessert, it was a foregone conclusion. However I was tempted by the peanut butter and banana sundae. I try not to keep peanut butter in my house because I’m so drawn to the stuff. The key lime pie that emerges is so pretty with tiny chewy meringues, lime jam, torched marshmallows, dulce de leche, small mounds of graham cracker crumbs and a train of sharp tasting lime curd that snakes along the plate. The peanut butter and banana sundae includes salted pretzel ice cream which is the highlight for me. I’m just sad the mini banana donuts that come with it are stone cold.
Hartsyard is full of thoughtful touches. From the filtered water (once ordered, it’s $4 for unlimited water, including the sparkling kind) to being offered fresh napkins for the dessert course. Every detail has been considered to give a great end experience. There’s a story behind the napkins but visit their blog if you want to know more.
Over 2 hours, Spanner and I wined and dined and had a fantastic time. Although plated prettily, portions are on the large side so you won’t leave Hartsyard hungry. They plan to introduce brunch soon once they’ve settled in and I’ll return to try it out. But in the meantime, thank you Greg and Naomi. I think I’ve just found a new favourite restaurant.
33 Enmore Road, Newtown
Open Wednesday-Friday 5.30pm till late; Saturday-Sunday 5.30pm till late
Phone: (02) 8068 1473