The US chef and his wife Naomi Hart have rebooted the Newtown restaurant much to the horror of fried chicken lovers. But there’s much more to Hartsyard than a fried bird — the venue has come full circle and now revolves around seafood and vegetables.

We had been talking about revamping Hartsyard for a while, but for various reasons, it wasn’t the right time. I wanted to cook new things and our previous head chef Nikki Waples had given a long notice period. Our incoming head chef Jarrod Walsh was on his way and the space needed some TLC, so it made sense to act on it all at once. It was slightly stressful over the Christmas break with three kids at the beach and no tradies working, but with the help of Reso and Co, we got there.

The new menu is lighter, brighter and ever-changing along with being vegetable and seafood-driven. It will change all the time — we’ve already changed one dish. I am constantly chatting with suppliers to ensure I know the origins and care given to the produce. All the seafood is Australian, and we use lots of small suppliers who focus on doing a few things well.

We still want to be warm, welcoming and comfortable while offering different and approachable food. We want diners to snack before a show at the Enmore or stay longer and work through the whole menu. It’s still designed to share as we believe that’s the best way to eat. Our service style and approachability haven’t changed — I’m just cooking lighter and brighter food.

We did get one amazing piece of hate mail about the fried chicken that we’re going to frame. Many of our regulars who have been dining with us for six years ate the fried chicken for the first time last December because they thought they’d better try it before it goes. It wasn’t ideal that re-runs of dated TV shows featuring the old menu were played on our opening week, and we had a couple of tables expecting the old menu, but the rest embraced and loved the new concept.

This article originally appeared in Hospitality’s March issue. Subscribe here

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