Ok, so maybe I have an unhealthy obsession with fried chicken but surely I'm not the only one? It's all about the batter, a golden shield that splinters noisily with every bite, but it's also about the flesh, a contrast of juicy tenderness that leaves you torn between deep-seated satisfaction yet still craving more.
It's been just over two years since Hartsyard first opened, and about the same amount of time since my last visit. The menu has a reassuring familiarity to it - they're still offering signature dishes like fried chicken with buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy; oyster po' boys; poutine; and the peanut butter and banana sundae.
Crispy pig tails $21
with buttermilk dressing, pickles and hot sauce
The crisp pig tails are still on the menu too, and it's pleasing to see they've evolved in execution and presentation in the two years gone by. It's the little touches, like more evenly shaped discs of shredded pork, a finer panko-style batter, and more refined plating that show the kitchen is constantly improving their dishes.
The elegance of the dish belies its heartiness - the puck of pig tail flesh is fatty and unctuous. The cute-as-a-button baby radish isn't just there to look pretty. It adds a welcome palate cleanser, along with the streak of buttermilk dressing, thin slices of pickle and a trail of Hartsyard housemade hot sauce.
Fried chicken $35
with buttermilk biscuit and low country sausage gravy
The fried chicken's gotten better too. They don't cold smoke the chicken anymore but it is brined, marinated, floured and deep-fried. The batter is incredible, like a tangle of golden roof tiles that reward each bite with a resounding crunch. The buttermilk biscuit tastes more like a soft scone than the super crisp version at Melbourne's Rockwell & Sons, but there's still plenty of comfort and combining the chicken, biscuit and gravy studded with chunks of sausage.
You can go crazy with the housemade hot sauce too. There's a wicked kick to it, and if you can't get enough of the stuff, you can buy a bottle to take home for $12.
Short rib $35
with cauliflower, Pyengana cheddar and steak sauce
And then there's the melting softness of the beef short rib, glazed with a rich and sticky steak sauce, the meat so soft it falls off the bone.
Beef tendon chip on the short rib
Sheathed over the top is a beef tendon chip, a wondrous deliciousness we'd first encountered at Animal Restaurant in LA. It's like a carnivore's version of a prawn cracker, not overly meaty in flavour but slightly tacky from the collagen. Piled over the top are fine shavings of Pyengana cheddar, made in north east Tasmania by four generations.
Lamb ribs $29
with mustard bbq, cornbread and pickled peppers
Our waitress had looked at our order and suggested we might want to include some vegetables. We heard her mention broccoli but it only took a fleeting glance around the table to confirm what we really wanted. We went with lamb ribs instead.
They're a triumph of succulency, the meat lightly charred and the fat rendered down so the flesh is tender.
Fatty lamb rib
The cornbread was more soft than its traditional textural sandiness, but really we were too busy scraping every last skerrick of flesh from each lamb rib. The pickled chillies worked their magic too.
Fried potato with braised beef shin, beer and cheese sauce
We're glad the poutine comes out last. It's one last hurrah of carbohydrate overload, a pile of deep fried potato chips swathed in a beer and cheese sauce. We can't find any of the fresh cheese curds you'd normally associate with poutine but there's plenty of braised beef shin.
M&M cookie dough soft serve $14
with raw cookie dough chunks, milk chocolate dip, crushed M&Ms and salty chocolate fudge
Each week Hartsyard offers a different soft serve flavour and a pie of the week. On the week we visited, we managed to score the M&M cookie dough soft serve, a spectacular rainbow assembly on a plate. The vanilla soft serve is littered with chunks of raw cookie dough then dipped in milk chocolate and the whole lot is strewn liberally with M&M pieces and lashings of salty chocolate fudge.
It's a huge pile of fun, especially as the flavour combinations change each week. You can find out what's currently on offer by following head pastry chef Andrew Bowden on Instagram.
Peanut butter and banana sundae $18
Pretzel ice cream, banana doughnut and salted fudge
If want to hear more about the team behind Hartyard, you can listen to the lovely Lee Tran Lam's podcast interviews with Naomi Hart and Andrew Bowden on iTunes.
33 Enmore Road, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 1473
Wednesday to Sunday 5.30pm til late
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Newtown - Hartsyard (June 2012)
Newtown - Rising Sun
Newtown - The Stinking Bishops
Los Angeles - Animal Restaurant
Melbourne - Rockwell & Sons
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7/13/2014 02:48:00 pm