The old Gourmet Viking site in Newtown has been regenerated into Hartsyard, a brilliant new restaurant run by Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart. The couple score "A for effort" on many fronts: for making their own cocktail syrups, coaxing heirloom vegetables and intriguing herbs from their own greenhouse/garden and ingeniously constructing bar shelves from plumbing pipes – even though that required prepping and securing the pieces with 2000 individual flanges.
The food is very good, too. Llewellyn is an American chef with some heavyweights on his CV – Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud – but his approach isn't strictly fine dining. Llewellyn is the kind of chef who is cool with staff wearing baseball caps in his kitchen; this dress code is one reason he wanted to open a restaurant with Australian wife Naomi (who runs front of house in a friendly, inviting fashion). His menu has quite a hold on us – we first went to Hartsyard when Will got back from three months working overseas and Will has already notched up three Hartsyard visits in two weeks. Our hi-rotation dishes include the charcoal-cooked Broad Beans ($14), which are showered with parmesan curls and are eaten like edamame; for a real flavour charge, dip the beans into the lemon jam and romesco sauce – the outbreaks of sweet-and-sour hits and feisty spice are addictive. We also like the dish that plays matchmaker with six different types of Radishes ($14), teaming them up with rye bread crisps, red onion and butter that's all smoky from burning hickory.
And while there is an excellent salad – made with zingy, lemon-dressed mushroom shavings, celery heart, artichoke and hearty Parmesan crackers and cheese ($17) – Hartsyard is on rather friendly terms with fat: there's a bacon-infused cocktail, a full-on Poutine (in Quebec, it's hangover bait that's traditionally made with hot chips, cheese curds and gravy – here, it's served with cheddar and beer sauce, fried taters, crispy beef strips and oxtail gravy); and Cold-smoked Fried Chicken that Will rates as "amazing", especially as it's served with buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy ($26). He also digs the Smoked Beef Short-Rib ($32) which comes with bone marrow and the signature kimchi of sous chef, Sung Yeol.
Wildfire is the restaurant that unites the kitchen staff – it's where Yeol, head chef Gregory Llewellyn and pastry chef Andrew Bowden all met. And Bowden deserves some spotlight and applause for the excellent desserts at Hartsyard. Like many dishes on the menu, the Peanut Butter and Banana Sundae denotes Hartsyard's American influence, although Bowden spells out this particular geographical link with pretzel ice cream, salted fudge and banana donut. There's also a Chocolate Cake ($16) that is in no way a wallflower: it's served with a massive corkscrew ribbon of chocolate – and the plate feels like it was inked by a calligrapher, who just happened to be using deep red swirls of beetroot ganache instead. Mandarin foam and powdered beetroot add textural surprise and contrast.
My utter favourite, though, is the Rhubarb Crumble ($16), which Alex Vitlin (Sydney editor of The Thousands) aptly described as "more flower arrangement than dessert" (you can see my dodgy Twitpic of it here, if you're visually curious). I always think of rhubarb crumble as the granny's cardigan of sweets, but at Hartsyard, it is next-level good and subtracts all traces of its daggy winter dessert past. Rhubarb strips are poached and dehydrated and served with strawberry sorbet, savoury parsnip crisps and a textural lottery of malted milk powder, icing sugar and burnt butter crumbs. It's awesome.
It's one of many favourite things at Hartyard. And I have a feeling more favourites could be added to the list when the place opens for weekend brunch soon.
Hartsyard, 33 Enmore Road, Newtown NSW (02) 8068 1473, hartsyard.com.au