12th December 2018
33 Enmore Rd
Newtown, NSW 2042
I didn’t realise how much I had gotten used to the DINK (that’s Dual-Income-No-Kids) life until I quit work to go back to study at the beginning of the year. All of a sudden, I no longer had the funds to go out for a meal at my favourite wine bar whenever I felt like it, and I have to constantly ask myself if I really need a 3rd bubble tea this week. To be sure, there are plenty of delicious and affordable eats floating around Sydney, but I do find myself getting sick of the same-same routine of casual Asian/Middle-Eastern meals after a while, and crave something a little more refined.
Luckily, my finishing 1st year of med school was a good excuse for us to get out and do something a little special. I have had my eye on Hartsyard for months now, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to finally check it out.
Before its rebranding into Hartsyard 2.0 earlier this year, Hartsyard used to be an unabashedly American affair, serving up their (apparently) very famous fried chicken along with other American classics. Since the change however, Hartsyard has become decidedly more refined, leaning towards the amorphous label of Modern Australian, though there are still copious amounts of smoky flavours on the menu as a throwback to their American roots.
After debating the merits of a la carte vs. the chef’s menu, I decided that I wanted the freedom of being able to customise my meal. And with that, we started off with a piece of the Kimchi ($7ea). This was a bold wake-up call to the tastebuds, the nutty tempura seaweed laden with pungent chopped kimchi, with the only reprieve coming from the crispy, slightly bitter cubes of daikon, and a swathe of delicately sweet pear. The salty, tangy, spicy flavours were invigorating, but one shared between two is definitely enough.
The Cheese Puffs ($4ea) were nothing like I had expected, but I enjoyed them immensely. The uneven, misshapen cracker boasted a crunch equal to that of of pork crackling, and piped into the middle was a sinus-clearing Dijon mustard cream, and it was all dusted with cheese powder whimsically reminiscent of Cheezels flavouring. And although translucent and barely visible, the delicate sweetness of the kohlrabi was exactly what was needed to give the rich, cheesy flavours a much-needed lift.
I had heard good things about the Brewery Bread ($6ea), and this was indeed something a bit different. The dark, nourishing round was surprisingly fluffy, and boasted a prominently yeasty aroma that was complemented by the lactic sweetness of the whipped butter and milk crumb. Would I order it again? For $6… probably not, but it was definitely worth a try.
I’m not usually a fan of raw tuna, preferring instead the richness of a good cut of salmon. Yet I can’t help but admit that the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare ($32) was really something special. The tuna looked like little jewels, almost too pretty to eat, and was so fresh that it just melted in the mouth. Accompanying the tuna were clear jellies made from an umami dashi broth, the jammy sweetness of fermented black garlic, a creamy dressing of chilli and yuzu, the nutty aroma of fried garlic chips, and a grating of smoked egg yolk to finish it off. Yet despite the complexity of the dish, the elements coexisted harmoniously, and made for an unforgettable twist on the classic spicy tuna tartare.
I’ve heard so many good things about the Cauliflower ($22) that it became the dish I was most excited to try for the night. And wow was it stunner. This cauliflower gets the royal treatment at Hartsyard – it is deep-fried then grilled, before being sprayed with anchovy dressing, topped with onions, capers, and walnuts, then placed into a pool of chicken jus.
Even without all the condiments, the nutty smokiness of the cauliflower alone is worth your time. But it becomes downright magical once it has soaked up the umami of the chicken jus, the richness tempered by the brightness of capers and pickled onion. This is good enough to convert even the most avid of meat-eaters; sorry Miznon, your cauliflower has been bested!
Compared to the cauliflower, the Duck ($42) is a lot more pared back. But then again, when you have succulent, perfectly-cooked duck with a crispy skin, what else do you need aside from a sauce of burnt pear and sherry vinegar?
And a side-order of Potatoes ($21), because I can never resist them when I see them on the menu. These have been roasted then fried to a golden crisp, but it’s the cool, creamy dollops of nduja-infused ricotta that really stole the show. And just as a little flourish from the grill, a smoky cabbage leaf was draped over the top.
I had every intention of ordering 2 desserts, but found myself much too full by this point. So after consultation with our waitron, I decided the Mango ($18) – newly added to the summer menu – was my best bet. I had envisioned a lighter, fruity dessert, but this turned out to be as decadent as it gets. The centrepiece was a disc of fragrantly nutty macadamia cream that was so dense that it had the texture of ice cream, except that it didn’t melt. The richness of the cream was juxtaposed by the intensely tangy passionfruit sauce, and the floral sweetness of early summer mangoes. This is pure luxuriousness, and a great ending to the meal.
My meal at Hartsyard was the best I’ve had all year. Admittedly, I haven’t eaten at nearly as many fancy restaurants as I usually do, but even if I had, I’m still confident that Hartsyard would’ve floated to the top. I loved how inventive all the food was, and the way that the simple, good quality ingredients were tweaked and decorated into something unrecognisable and exciting. I also really liked how the meal was structured; after we had ordered, the dishes came out 1-2 at a time, giving a structure to the meal that flowed naturally from one plate to the next. My only gripe? How unbelievably expensive fine dining is in Sydney. But I guess that’s the price I’ll have to pay if I want to be a doctor.
Rating: 16/20 – <3s yard.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.