Return to Hartsyard

Did I say I was going to abstain from alcohol for six weeks? I made it six days before I cracked.

I can’t pretend to be anything close to perfect. On reflection, I don’t drink to excess anyway (I’m a homebody who barely drinks at home) so have tossed away that alcohol resolution. So where did I break the ban with a pisco punch? At Hartsyard, of course.

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Of all the restaurants I’ve been to this year, Hartsyard is up there amongst the ones I frequent the most. I first wrote about them in June soon after they opened. The service is friendly and welcoming. The food is American-hearty, gorgeous and memorable. The cocktails, oh the cocktails. I love the drinks menu and I think I’ve sampled every cocktail.

Last Thursday, my friend Kitty celebrated her birthday at Hartsyard. It’s pretty much her favourite restaurant in Sydney. Although we’re both regulars, we’ve never happened to go together. Friends Gibbo and Luce joined in the fun at Hartsyard.

We started with broadbeans cooked whole over charcoal, served with romesco sauce, lemon jam and showered with shaved almonds. We dug straight in with our hands, popping the hot (you need asbestos hands!) and tender broadbeans into the sauces. Gibbo loved them, even claiming that she could happily eat it everyday. High praise from someone who only eats vegetables to avoid scurvy.

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All images were taken by my iPhone so they’re not as sharp as normal. Hartsyard always gives us a relaxed night out and with a menu designed to share, it’s a great restaurant to go to with good friends. Small groups suit the space and accordingly, Hartsyard only take bookings for groups of six or fewer. Having said that, I’ve perched at the Hartsyard bar quite a few times to dine by myself and make spontaneous friends at the communal table.

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Next up was the cold smoked fried chicken with a very light and fluffy American-style ‘biscuit’ and sausage gravy. I cut up the chicken to share and we finished it in record time. Perhaps you can just make out a little photo bombing around the plate. My beloved friends as you’ll notice, are all class.

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Our friendly waiter Dan placed the smoked short-rib with bone marrow and kimchi onto the table and asked who hadn’t eaten this dish before. It’s Kitty’s favourite but everyone else put up their hand. At this, Dan frowned and said to me: ‘Are you sure you haven’t had this?’. Obviously I’ve been to Hartsyard so many times, they expect me to have eaten through the entire menu by now! After tasting the beef, I can tell why Kitty likes it so much. The short rib is tender and the kimchi is tart and lightly spicy. Gibbo wasn’t sure if she wanted to try the bone marrow so Kitty was thrilled there was more for the rest of us.

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We also put in the obligatory order for poutine. This particular dish has gotten so much buzz since the place opened. It’s one of those must-have dishes (as long as you eat meat). Last week Hartsyard chef Greg tweaked the infamous poutine. The dish used to have oxtail gravy, crispy beef shreds and a cheese and ale sauce, the combination of which I have described as a drunken stoner’s fantasy meal. The new incarnation has a Tex-Mex twist with handcut beef chilli, cheddar and ranch sauce. The potatoes are a Dutch variety and are now cut skinnier. I think the fries have gotten thinner over time as first time I tried the poutine, they were fat and chunky.

A green hot pepper vinegar is served on the side of the new look poutine. Hartsyard have a red pepper sauce that’s provided with the oyster po’ boy and the crispy pigs’ tails but the green one is new and spicier. The hot sauces are so popular, they have plans to start selling them in the new year. Lucy and I were picking at the poutine and I think we ate more than our fair share. The verdict? The new poutine is just as good as the old version.

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After that alcoholic introduction, you might be surprised to hear that Kitty and I each had a housemade creaming soda along with dinner. No raspberry flavour here, just real vanilla seeds, sweetened cream and soda with a maraschino cherry for that retro touch. Mildly sweet, it’s fun to drink and you won’t get it anywhere else. Lucy and Gibbo had wine and cocktails respectively but I didn’t manage to catch what they ordered. I’d sneakily ordered my pisco punch at the bar earlier before everyone else arrived.

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The peanut butter and banana sundae for dessert is a foregone conclusion if Kitty’s around. She likes it so much, she carries that magical sundae around with her everywhere as her phone background. With pretzel ice cream and salted fudge involved, how could anyone resist? Chef Greg kindly sent one out on the house for Kitty’s birthday. Did the birthday girl share it? Yes she did and that’s why we love her. One day I’d like to try the deep fried cheesecake that comes with popcorn ice cream, yuzu, blueberries and honeycomb.

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When Hartsyard first opened in May, they initially had plans to introduce brunch on the weekends. When we were chatting with Greg, I mentioned how glad he must be that they’re not doing that since they’re so busy, only to hear it’s still on the cards. Coming soon at some point in the future will be Sunday brunch from 11am onwards; just walk ins and no bookings needed. The Hartyard breakfasts won’t be your usual run-of-the-mill stuff so eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes won’t particularly feature. Gibbo high-fived Greg as all of those foods are on her new forbidden list (as ordered by her health practitioner. Not voluntary! The girl loves her eggs on toast for breakfast).

One thing’s for sure; you know I’ll be returning to Hartsyard again. But maybe next time, it’ll be for brunch. I can only wonder if they’ll make a hair of the dog style cocktail…

[5 April 2013. Update! The hot sauces for sale and the planned brunch have been put on hold for the time being. Just enjoy Hartsyard as it is and make sure to leave room for dessert. You won’t regret it.]

[25 September 2013. Another update! Dreaming of breakfast at Hartsyard? You’ll have to sleep a little longer as it’s no longer slated for the near future.]

Hartsyard
33 Enmore Road, Newtown
Open Wednesday-Friday 5.30pm till late; Saturday-Sunday 5.30pm till late
Phone: (02) 8068 1473
Email: hello@hartsyard.com.au

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