Warning: Vegetarians, people with high cholesterol or small appetites may find the following blog post offensive.
Tonight’s dinner is with Miss Universe and Mr Harvey at Hartsyard, a new farm-to-table concept restaurant in Newtown. It’s not just a nose-to-tail eating operation, Hartsyard also farms its produce nearby as well as on premises.
Mr Harvey hails from Melbourne and is always my foodie-on-ground when I’m in town. Having already checked out the menu online, I’m feeling the pressure to repay all the great recommendations with a fab meal in Sydney.
But first a pre-dinner cocktail at Black Sheep – Sugar Plum (Japanese plum wine, soju, apple, smoke); Witch Doctor (Spiced rum, pineapple, passionfruit, lime, caramel); Voodoo Doll (Vodka, passionfruit, vanilla, fire).
Hartsyard is owned and operated by husband/wife team Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart. The kitchen is Gregory’s domain, while Naomi runs Front of House. This is how they worked in New York, Santa Monica and now Sydney (Naomi’s hometown).
You’ll excuse me for lifting the next few paragraphs of their story directly from the website, but it’s just so delightful;
Theirs is a typical New York hospitality story. He was the chef. She was the hostess. He asked her out, they dated in secret, (leaving the restaurant at different times and meeting at various establishments all over the city) then announced their engagement and married shortly thereafter.
Gregory talked of the garden he’d have to grow his food, how he’d allow baseball caps in his kitchen and how a dirty martini was a must on the cocktail list. Naomi talked of how there are never enough deuces in a dining room, why there’s always one table that all the guests want and how she used to earn over $600 a night as coat check in an upper east side restaurant.
Fast forward to November 2011 and Gregory’s dream of Hartsyard – an inner-city homestead built for comfort and conversation – was to become a reality.
Gregory (who counts Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse and Andrew Carmellini as his mentors) has always cooked according to the seasons, made all the more easier now with his own garden and greenhouse. He’s also always been big on nose to tail and leaf to root cooking, finding ways to use all parts of his produce, and is thrilled he can pair it all with house-made breads and pastries by the incredibly talented yet rather kooky pastry chef, Andrew Bowden. Actually, everything is done in-house, down to the in-house carbonation system which we pair with house-made syrups for ginger, apple-mint and blood orange sodas.
Mostly though, Gregory cooks for feeling and taste. Good food makes good memories. It should be shared, savoured and enjoyed in fine company. And that’s exactly what we plan on doing tonight!
In the old Gourmet Viking space on Enmore Road, the new fit out has been designed by friend and New York interior designer, Ashley Couch. It’s warm and inviting, minimal and rustic. Artworks created from Google Earth images hang on the walls – we can see all the way from Iowa to Kansas.
It’s Sunday night and every table is packed. We sit down at our corner booth and I love the cloth napkins that are waiting for us. I think napkins are like shoes – you can tell a lot about someone by their shoes, just like you can tell a lot about a restaurant by their napkins.
To warm up from our brisk walk here, we bypass the bacon infused Jack Daniels (but I’m intrigued…) and choose a light Trapeze Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley.
The menu is split in two with Seed as entrée and Feed as main – although the dishes are much the same size and designed to share. Best to find something that everyone in your party wants to eat as the food won’t all arrive at once but it’s perfect for grazing.
We each decide on a Seed and Feed dish and then ask our friendly waiter to offer up his favourites so we can meet somewhere in the middle. First up is the Salmon Cooked in a Jar: Crème fraiche, sorrel, cornichon ($19). We pop open the jar and the salmon is the most beautiful pale peachy pink.
Next to arrive is the Crispy Pig Tails: Buttermilk dressing, pickles, hot sauce ($18). I was half expecting curly fried tails to appear on the plate, but they’re disguised in the form of a patty, crumbed and golden fried. They’re rich, that’s for sure. And for-lack-of-a-better-word, very ‘piggy’ in flavour. This is when we’re first introduced to the brilliant hot sauce.
Duck Rillettes: Duck fat toast, cherry jam, foie gras ($24). The duck has been hand shredded and packed in to the jar with olive, herbs and spices while the cherry jam is hidden under and snow storm of shaved foie gras. Amazing.
We ask for more bread and it arrives, still bubbling with duck fat from the frying pan it’s just left. I can feel my arteries seizing just looking at it.
We take a slight breather and chat to Naomi between entrée and mains. A delightful lady, that’s not surprisingly utterly exhausted after the first month of opening a new restaurant. Mr Harvey is loving the low tumbler style wine glasses and thinks perhaps they are of Swedish design, but Naomi says the inspiration came from Spain* where they’re frequently used – oh and they stack together well. (*available at Chef’s Warehouse).
We’re giving the Wagyu Beef Tartare: NYC bagel, pickle chips, fried egg ($26) a go upon recommendation. The bagel is homemade and the Wagyu hails from Brisbane. So tasty – yes even the fried pickles, but it’s rather difficult to divide in to three and we make a right mess of things.
The Cold-smoked Fried Chicken: Buttermilk biscuit, low country sausage gravy ($26) was one of my picks and while I’m busy being an annoying amateur food blogger taking photos, Mr Harvey says “If a meteor hit right now, you would be on your iPhone and not tasting the most glorious KFC!”. Yes, it looks like the dirty bird, but tastes nothing like it. Succulent chicken with a light-as-air buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy… Mmmm, Sausage gravy.
Upon reflection, it was at this point that we came unstuck (or maybe that was just the buttons on our jeans). When the Smoked beef short-rib: Sunga’s Kimchi, bone marrow ($32) arrived. It looks impressive, maybe even a little neolithic. Mr Harvey does the best impression of Sylvia Fine – as if it’s a chore to force down another spoonful of delicious food.
In an unladylike attempt to slide out of my banquette, I do believe I managed to shift the table slightly with my stomach. Oh dear. Out the back, past the kitchen I spy some of the fresh produce growing.
Our waiter comes to tell us he’s finished his shift, shakes our hands and asks if he can help with anything else. He’s still at the bar when we leave and we take it as a good sign that if the staff don’t want to leave, neither will the customers.
Mr Harvey has already pre-selected the Peanut Butter & Banana Sundae: Pretzel ice cream, banana doughnut, salted fudge ($16) and I want the Rhubarb Crumble: Malted milk, parsnip chips, strawberry, pomegranate ($16).
Fresh rhubarb, dehydrated rhubarb, malt milk powder, parsnip crisp and we all try to decipher what that oh-so-familiar taste is in the crumble base… Ovaltine and chocolate. If I was a food writer, perhaps I’d quip something like “the chef harnesses the fond memories of our childhood”. It’s amazing. And what’s even more amazing is that I’m still managing spoonful after spoonful of it – dessert is a separate stomach after all.
Have you ever seen a more perfect looking sundae?? Mr Harvey says it’s hands down the best dessert ever and although I’m not a peanut butter fan (at all really), it’s pretty amazing. But the rhubarb crumble gets my vote. I just know I’m going to have cravings for it.
Really, it would have been enough to just order two Seeds and two Feeds between three but no one’s complaining. We’re hoping the Fresh Hartsyard chocolate mint tea ($3.70) will help digest things. But clearly, we’ve been oblivious to it as we finally surface from the dessert trance to discover sweet remains that have been dropped between plate and mouth. Ha.
We say goodbye to one-eyed-George, the little stuffed duck who takes watch over the front door and Miss Universe and I don’t know if the groans of pain are from stomach over exertion or just laughing too much. On the walk home we try to recount every type of food we’ve ingested. It reads like the tale of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Great food, great people, great space, great value (and you can book!). I can’t think of anything better.
Hartsyard – 33 Enmore Road, Newtown NSW 2042 – 02 8068 1473