No, in fact, imo, HDR would have made it worse. The more I see of HDR the less I like it. I understand that what you did was a stylistic decision and not the result of ineptitude, it's just that it wouldn't have been my approach. But I still think it's a very nice image.
I totally agree and think that HDR of the cartoonesque variety is dreadful, even though it appears to be just as popular on the net - why is that do you think?
I would have perhaps shot it in different light, so that the low values would have some subtle detail.
I have even been known to setup and take a shot in the better light, then wait until the sun is low enough to take a second shot and blend them later, but this takes nerve, because invariably there needs to be quite some time between the two shots and I am always looking for a better composition and find it so difficult to stop myself from re-framing the shot and blowing the whole setup. So having realised my own limitations, I now make the best of what is in front of me as it happens.
But again, it's a stylistic decision. You got the effect you were looking for, so you obviously knew what you were doing.
Thank you - much appreciated