The end of the year, when it creeps up on you, is always a scary thing as it forces you to reflect and look back on what you have done – or haven’t done – during the year that has passed.
I’ve built more of a camaraderie with my colleagues at work, probably baked and experimented with my cooking a little less, put on a little weight as my body is starting to settle (oh no!) and joined a new gym with the aim of rectifying that point before. I think the biggest highlight was receiving the results of the plebiscite in November – the sudden, unexpected wave of teary emotion that hit me as soon as the news sunk in, and then the partying and joy that eventuated later in the evening. Spirits were high that night when I was out carousing in the inner west and on Oxford Street – it was a school night but my boss had already said that he was allowing me a sleep-in for the next day!
Speaking of the inner-west, as most of you know Night Owl works at The Gretz as a small side job. The Gretz is the sister bar to the American-inspired, nose-to-tail, leaf-to-root, home-cooking restaurant Hartsyard situated on Enmore Road.
Hartsyard is well-known for its iconic dishes of fried chicken and poutine, and these dishes have never come off the menu since the restaurant began. Noone could have predicted the scandalous news released end of November that the fried chicken was going to be booted off the menu in the new year, which in hindsight was an excellent marketing manoeuvre as the restaurant was packed when Night Owl and I attended early December.
Our charming friend Mark is running front of house and breezes by with a sassy greeting as we’re seated. I’ve never really clicked with the somewhat spartan – yet still homely – decor of the restaurant, complete with boards suspended from the ceiling. I’m assuming they are to absorb sound, but with all the hard surfaces the restaurant still gets quite noisy when at capacity. I hear a refurb is on the cards over the new year.
We begin with a drink to whet our appetite, and I select the Modern Royale ($18) with St Germain, vodka, ruby grapefruit and bubbles as it’s a warmer evening and I want something lighter, while Night Owl selects the tasty Enmore Spritz ($16), a combo of Casa Mariol Vermut Negre, bubbles and fresh rosemary. It’s a wonderfully refreshing herbaceous combination that I’ve had before when I’ve come for Sunday brunch.
Sadly, Sunday brunch was only an experimental affair but I did get the opportunity to try some of their signature dishes from the menu, including the Steak Tartare, a cod dish not on the usual dinner menu, and a preconceived-notion-blowing Zucchini Cake.
This is dinner, though. So let’s begin. We start with a small seed dish of Radish Kimchi ($7 each), with smoked butter, oat and chia cracker. Its been lightly pickled, the sourness combining well with the smoked butter. I enjoy the sharp crunchiness of the radish against the crumbly cracker. I could almost trick myself into thinking this was healthy!
I may have forgotten to mention that we had also previously visited last year – 2016 – for my birthday, although I didn’t write a post as unfortunately most of my photos didn’t turn out too well thanks to a couple of pre-drinks prior to heading to dinner. I recognise an item from the menu – the Smoked Trout with onion dip, golden beet, trout roe, and potato crisps ($29) – except it came served with rye crisps last time. I’ve used the photo from last year as I was so very proud of how beautiful the photo is!
It’s crazy that the onion dip reminds me nostalgically of the French onion dip biscuits I used to eat as a child (and which were terrible for you!), and it goes so well with the pops of roe and silky texture of the trout. The beetroot is so delicately thin and so crisp – but not as crisp as the shards of trout skin interspersed throughout the dish. It’s a stunning dish – both in flavour and texture, and presentation.
Is there anything better than cauliflower cheese? Hartsyard have their own version, their Cauliflower ($28) dish served with sunchoke, macadamia, grape, and cave-aged cheddar. I love the intensely pungent, sharp nuggets of cheese with the creamy, almost-sweet roasted cauliflower and nuttiness of the sunchoke and macadamias, lifted by the sweetness of the grapes. We were saving ourselves for chicken and poutine though, so kept this to the side for later. I can confirm that this dish tastes pretty incredible cold the next day as well!
The fried chicken – the last time. Due to popular demand, Hartysard began offering the fried chicken in two pieces and four pieces mid this year. A piece each is more than enough because as phenomenal as it is, it’s a generous hunk of battered protein and you will get full quickly. The batter is lighter than the last time I came here, clinging to the chicken delicately and the chicken is amazingly juicy – mop it up with the house hot sauce and the low country sausage gravy, between mouthfuls of the dense, doughy biscuit.
It’s difficult to order the fried chicken and not order the Poutine as well. It arrives on a piping hot-hot plate, with fried potato, beef shin, spring onion, and beer cheese ($29). I found this dish a little on the heavy side the last time I came here, and I was pleased to discover that like the chicken, it had dramatically improved. It is still an incredibly rich and flavoursome dish, full of chunks of slow-cooked braised beef shin, feather light spring onion and that gloriously oozy cheese sauce.
I’ve started using the My Fitness Pal app again on my phone to monitor my kilojoules for the day, but I think this night is a write-off… don’t you? 😛
We are clutching our stomachs by this stage, but I’ve refused to leave without dessert. Night Owl requests an intermission, during which she orders an Aperol Spritz and myself an Amaro Montenegro with fresh orange.
Of course we go for the Hartyard Soft Serve ($18). The soft serve that day is Pavlova – with guava ice cream, passionfruit curd, raspberry meringues, and fresh blackberries. It’s decadent and light all at once, and a wonderfully refreshing way to end the meal.
While I’m eager and excited to see what Hartsyard will bring for us next year, I do also hope that they keep the changing soft serves as part of the menu!
33 Enmore Road,
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8068 1473