And so it was, that on a cold and miserable night J and I ventured out into the rain, braving the elements, buffeted by the wind, but spurred on all the while by the promise of a warm and satisfying meal at the end.
Hartsyard was our Promised Land, described as an ‘inner-city homestead built for comfort and conversation’. Exactly what we needed. A newbie on the restaurant scene, it was opened by American husband and wife team Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart, who carried with them their dreams of cooking fresh, seasonal produce from nose-to-tail and leaf-to-root. Not a sprig wasted.
The whole place is very warm and homey; the multi-coloured cloth napkins (fraying slightly at the edges) make you feel as if you’re being served in someone’s private kitchen.
This trail of delights was called Winter Vegetables, a main dish catering to all the vegos out there who want to eat vegies at a restaurant without going home hungry. And this dish definitely delivered. Warm autumn colours, beautifully arranged, each vegetable cooked to perfection as if ladled with the same dose of TLC.
The vegetables were so chunky and rich in flavour that you could easily forget you weren’t eating meat. The eggplant in particular (see foreground) was chewy and seared steak-style. The chestnuts and porcini mushrooms added greater depth and texture. Altogether a great dish.
This beauty was Honey-glazed duck breast and confit. Easy on the eye, terrific on the tongue. Just the right amount of sweetness to lift it off the plate without leaving the savoury threshold.
The innards of the ball of duck confit. Crispy thin exterior and flaky soft interior, cooked to perfection. The meat just falls apart inside.
Cold-smoked Fried Chicken. I wouldn’t have tried this if J didn’t have the Deep South running through her veins, but I’m glad I did because the buttermilk biscuit that accompanied the chicken was to-die-for. It looked and talked like a scone, but was much softer and chewier and cheesier, and complimented the crustiness of the chicken legs perfectly. The country sausage gravy was pretty special too.
Moving swiftly onto dessert (because there are only so many savoury dishes two girls can eat), and we have a lovingly deconstructed Key Lime Pie.
I must admit that I’m a sucker for edible flowers (I go weak at the knees) so I fell in love with this dish almost as soon as I saw those lovely purple petals, but then tasting the dish – phew! – it was a whirlwind romance in itself. Smooth lime centre, crunchy meringue pieces, grainy crushed graham crackers, silky soft petals, lime jam, double cream, thick satisfying swirls of dulche de leche … Happiness on a plate.
Getting up to stretch our legs, we spied this lovely little greenhouse at the back, brimming with pots, pails, pumkins, herbs, cabbage heads and candles.