Finding myself with a shiny new haircut at 5:50pm on a Wednesday night in Newtown, all dressed up with nowhere to go, I suggested Hubby meet me for an early dinner somewhere. Not a hard sell! The only condition was no booze, as Hubby is doing Dry July and I’m being politely sympathetic.
Given it was midweek and so early, and we’d be saving money by not drinking, it dawned on me that a return visit to Hartsyard could be the go. Although it was only a Wednesday, they were fully booked, and a number of tables were already well into their meals by 6:10pm! But there was still ample space at the bar or communal bench. Yay! We went for the latter.
The smaller plates are labelled ‘Seed’, and the larger are ‘Feed’. And as I said in my original post here, everything on the menu is appealing but everything is deceptively rich: ‘Seed’ ain’t birdfood, folks! Before our last visit I’d been nastily ill and not eaten for a week, so I was able to tackle the lion’s share of two Seeds and two Feeds, only meeting my match with the killer poutine. This time we weren’t starving and so were more restrained with our ordering: two Seeds and just the one Feed. It’s the sort of menu where I trust that everything will be good, even dishes I would otherwise be less attracted to, and so I’m happy to take suggestions from the waitstaff. This time we were recommended a Seed special of steak tartare, ground to order and seasoned with house-fermented chilli paste, and served with oyster cream, hot potato chunks, grilled pickled onions, cress, shaved horseradish and a leek crisp. Want that one!
But our other Seed came out first: a pile of whole broadbeans cooked over charcoal, with chipotle romesco sauce and lemon jam. I’d had whole broadbeans once before in Japan – I call them ‘dinosaur edamame’ (pictures here). The chunky, piquant sauce was an excellent accompaniment, but the lemon jam to me seemed odd. I was imagining something more like preserved lemons – something salty and tangy, to go with the spicy capsicum sauce and enliven the waxy, creamy beans. No – this was very definitely lemon jam. As in sweet. As in, would be a lovely filling for a sponge roll. Totally didn’t do it for us with this dish. So we ignored the jam and instead applied the house-made hotsauce (bottle provided on each table) for extra oomph. And although given an extra plate for their disposal, we found the pods were cooked so well they were perfectly edible and tasted like (massive) snowpeas with added smoke. Nothing wasted apart from the tops and tails!
Then we got the beef… and practically inhaled it, it was that good. Honestly the nicest steak tartare I’ve ever eaten (and Hubby’s first, so he will now hold all future tartares to a very high standard). The single sheaf of leek was mad - fried or perhaps baked to a crispy shard. More leek crisps in my life, please! The raw beef was beautifully seasoned and spiked with just the right amount of chilli heat, tempered by the mayonnaise (I couldn’t taste oysters but never mind, it was still nice) and balanced by the smoky onions and potatoes. We immediately wanted to order it again, but sensibly didn’t.
They pace the dishes well at Hartsyard, so you have enough time to reflect on the amazing thing you’ve just eaten before being amazed all over again by the next dish, but not so long that you get hungry and antsy. But the one missing thing which would enhance my dining experience at Hartsyard is BREAD. Something to palate cleanse. Not to fill up on – just a plain taste to nibble on, in between the flavour-charged creations, and reset my tastebuds for their next adventure. Maybe next time I’ll bring a dinner roll in my purse ☺
Similarly, the retro soundtrack is great fun, but almost too much fun. It’s totally hits-filled, and you are constantly in a state of alertness with every LOL track and anticipating what hilarity will follow. We got ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’, ‘Rapture’, ‘More Than A Feeling’… literally every song was a karaoke classic and it became almost distracting. They need some less fun, less recognisable, more ambient tunes in the mix, to give your ears a break from the ‘80s disco funtimes. LIKE BREAD: something plain in between the hit dishes.
Our final savoury hit was the whiting from the Feed menu. Two generous pan fried fillets served with an enormous quantity of whipped yuzu mayonnaise and a truckload of furikake or ‘crunchy salty Japanese sprinkly things’. Can’t say much more than YUM, PERFECT. Oh nearly forgot: it came with a little jar of house-made white kim chee. I loathe kim chee, but as I happily suspected (this not being a Korean restaurant) Hartsyard’s kim chee didn’t taste terribly authentic and therefore didn’t offend me! It was just lightly pickled cabbage and radish, barely spicy, not at all stinky.
Having imbibed only sparkling water (bottomless – they have a sodastream) we decided to lash out on pudding. The famous ‘HY Softserve of the Week’ was banoffee pie flavour, which had to be done. It was utterly delightful: the banana icecream tasted like whole pureed frozen bananas, with chunks of fresh ‘nana in there too; plus dulce du leche and bits of crunchy chocolate biscuit. Dipped in chocolate, sat on a mound of whipped cream, surrounded by flaked chocolate. And the softserve went all the way down the cone. Niiice. Needed to be shared – I don’t believe anyone could eat a whole one of them after the super-rich Seeds and Feeds.
All in all, we had the perfect amount of food with a wonderful variety of flavours and creative combinations of ingredients. Thank you Hartsyard for another splendid meal!