There’s a new kid on the block in Newtown. A warm welcoming space, it has enough rustic wood and homestead touches to make it cozy, enough industrial metal and geometric textured artwork to make it chic, and a menu that will have you planning a return visit just to try all the things you didn’t order first time around.
Hartsyard Seed & Feed is at first impression exactly as described on their site ‘An inner-city homestead built for comfort and conversation‘. Warm and inviting, it’s a space that provides so many things – a wide welcoming bar to belly up to; tall, reclaimed-wood bar-area tables for a casual bite or a pre-dinner drink; and in the dining room that seats more people that it seems it should while not feeling cramped or forced, a corner banquet that will easily be the most contested table in the house.
I heard about Hartsyard months before it opened. I trawled the ‘we’re opening a restaurant’ blog that sat behind the website splash page, catching glimpses of the progress and hints about what was to come. I chatted on Twitter with Naomi, the wife half of the husband and wife owner team, as she and Gregory worked on bringing their dream to life. I made a booking for RJ and I to go on their third official night open.
After a remarkably hectic month at work things finally slowed this past week just long enough to take a breath – and to get out of the office in time for a late afternoon yoga class before dinner on Wednesday evening. As we headed over the bridge for a mid-week date-night, we were both excited about what we would discover. The lovely website and tempting menu had only just gone live a day earlier and what we would order had all but been decided before we even walked in the door.
The cocktail list would fit in perfectly on a Manhattan roof-top terrace and the three beers on offer are all from the local Rock’s Brewing Co. In an attempt to cut down on recycling waste, and in order to make their own sodas with house-made syrups, Hartsyard has filtered and sparkling water on-tap, they are as of yet only the third restaurant in Sydney – after Marque and Momofuku – to do so.
As we settled into a table tucked against the far wall our server, Dan, explained that plates were made to share and as such would not necessarily come out in the order they appear on the menu, or as entrees and mains. This threw a slight spanner into the works as there are very few vegetarian dishes – although I have been assured that more will appear on the menu shortly.
We we ordered drinks – HY filtered water: sparkling [$4 per person] served as an unlimited, continuous pour from the on-tap carbonation system and a Rock’s Brewing Co. The Hangman Pale Ale [$7] – and reviewed our previously discussed selections in light of this new sharing/serving order information.
There was no question about the Oyster Po’ Boy: English muffin, Old Bay mayo, coleslaw [$16] it had to be tried. Two house-made, cornmeal-dusted mini English Muffins with a crisp battered oyster still tasting of the sea, fresh slaw and deliciously spiked mayo brought back memories of North Carolina in autumn.
Good thing there was one each as there may have been a tussle otherwise.
I had previously decided on the Scallop Sausages: Smoked raisin, heirloom cauliflower, chicken jus, brown butter [$25], and was assured that it could be made without the chicken jus.
Visually beautiful and refined, it was completely at odds with the casual, comfortable nature of the Po’Boy we had just eaten but the combination of the scallop, smooth-as-silk cauliflower puree and spiced raisin sauce had my head instantly spinning on how I could re-create the flavours at home.
The rich Salmon Cooked in a Jar: Creme fraiche, sorrel, cornichon [$19] was in contention but appeared a bit small when carried past to another table, so as we had two other seafood definites it was passed over on this occasion.
Next, matching the artful platting seen in the sausages, the Winter Vegetables: Chestnut, porcini, walnut, cookin’ juices [$21] appeared.
A combination of roasted winter roots, meaty mushrooms and rich walnut butter was lightened by lightly charred leek, fresh slices of heirloom purple carrot and a smattering of green leaves. I couldn’t locate chestnut in the mix while we were eating but just realised as I was typing this that it was probably in the walnut butter puree – nice, very nice. Interestingly I have rarely heard RJ rave so much about vegetables.
A mound of Broad Bean Cooked over Charcoal: Romesco, lemon jam [$14] followed, with the Roasted Pork: Vadouvan, sorrel, black-pepper maple bacon [$27] hot on its heels.
RJ was more than thrilled that he did not have to share the juicy pork, the thick slab of sticky maple bacon or the accompanying bed of earthy, aniseed-laced vadouvan spice blend with anyone other than my Nikon.
The broad beans are a labour of love… hard work but completely worth the effort, like picking swimmer crab perhaps… The charred outer pod gives way easily enough, but you still have to get through the shell to release the bright green inner bean.
I gave it a go with my cutlery first – slicing off a piece of the end to press the meat through – for about 8 beans, until relenting and digging in with bare hands. I am a peel-it-all-now, eat-a-bunch-later kind of person and for my efforts I was rewarded with a hearty pile of sweet and tender broad beans.
The spicy romesco [I would put that stuff on everything, it is so good] was a perfect accompaniment along side the sweet-tart lemon jam, and due to the order of dishes the beans ended up being my main. Luckily, hot towels were provided to assist with the aftermath of the broad bean deconstruction!
Now it must be mentioned that while we did not try the Poutine: Oxtail gravy, fried potatoes, crispy beef threads, cheddar and beer sauce [$19] – which Naomi had confirmed earlier in the week could be comfortably made vegetarian, or the Cold-smoked Fried Chicken: Buttermilk biscuit, low country sausage gravy [$26], both drew longing glances each time they passed our table on the way to other diners. I am surprised RJ didn’t order the chicken to-go…
During dinner we discussed how many decadent meals we’ve had lately [I am still working through what will get posted, it may take months at this rate!] and that we were going to hold off on meals out for a while after this one… so of course we had to have dessert – ha!
At $16 each we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to get two, so the winner was obviously the Soft Chocolate Cake: Beetroot ganache, frozen yogurt, mandarin, olive oil [$16].
A jungle-gym of flavour and texture, the rich dense slab of cake, tangy frozen yogurt and mandarin foam was first divided evenly so all that remained for spoon jousting was the rich ribbon of ganache, silky crimson sauce and chocolate dirt. I don’t care what you say about it, I love chocolate dirt. It’s fun and delicious.
There are no sides of bread or salads to be seen currently and the menu is a bit meat heavy, but as mentioned previously there is a promise of more vegetarian options soon, and it is winter after all.
The dishes, while delicious across the board, struck me as a bit Jekyll and Hyde in presentation. Some – like the po’boys, pork, chicken, broad beans and poutine – are polished but rustic and hearty, befitting of the atmosphere of the space. While others – such as scallop sausages, roasted vegetables and chocolate cake – are refined, delicate and almost white-tablecloth artistic.
It will be very interesting to see where Hartsyard heads over the next few months. Cooking with the seasons, I would imagine that a few dishes will emerge as demanded staples and the rest will be determined by the weather and what is growing in the on-site greenhouse – or in the imagination of the chef.
Opening a restaurant – especially in Sydney with the recent hospitality struggles and spate of final-nights by highly popular eating houses – is a brave venture, Hartsyard appears to be getting off on the right foot.
- Value: Most of the dishes provided generous servings, creative flavour combinations and fun discoveries. For us, as a $140 dinner for two [including 2 waters and 2 beers] it is probably priced more in the every-so-often range rather than an every-week one… but that said, a one or two dish quick-bite before a show at the Enmore would fall into a more regular bracket. I wonder what the per-head would come in at for a group of 4 or 6 sharing some of the larger plates…
- 5 Senses: There is a duck named George standing watch over the hostess stand, napkins made from beautiful fabric sample offcuts and drawer in the old teachers cabinet labeled ‘Answers’. The glassware – somehow rustic and delicate at the same time – is the kind of thing I can picture myself drinking out of while sitting on a veranda overlooking a field of hay somewhere in upstate NY.
- Service: The full house was serviced as smoothly by two people on their third official night open as if there were four who had been working the same floor for years. And Naomi not only manged to smile all evening but both greet and say good-bye to each person who graced the dining room.
- Boomerang Effect: It is only a matter of time before RJ starts asking about that chicken – and the po’boys, two of those with a pale ale sounds perfect about now. In any case, it is most definitely a place I hope sticks around for a while. Oh, and that corner banquette, I call dibs. Next visit, it’s ours.
- Curtain Call: Rumours of weekend brunch are floating around already, and we all know how I feel about brunch…
HARTSYARD SEED & FEED – NEWTOWN, SYDNEY
33 ENMORE ROAD
NEWTOWN, NSW 2042 AUSTRALIA