Push open the heavy door. The sound of Jazz music comes up the spiral staircase. Descend said stairs past thousands and thousands of mini-bar style bottles. To my right is a queue of people waiting for a spot at a cosy bar with its own bar menu. To my left is the restaurant, full of relaxed, post work chatter. A grand piano sits on a small stage, red curtains behind it. It is waiting for someone to belt out some Gershwin or Piaf. Welcome to Hubert, dripping in atmosphere and conviviality.
Hubert was one of the hottest openings of 2016, it was near impossible to get a spot unless you were willing to get there for a Nursery Hour dinner or, at the other end of the spectrum, at the time you’d usually be lining up at Golden Century for post drinking salt and pepper squid. The website had people cursing in frustration – in the first few months there was no menu to peruse, no bookings except for 6 or more and only allowed within a certain number of days in advance, no phone number if you needed to make a change, dinner only, lunch mas non, and truly suboptimal lighting for ‘Grammers. Other than the booking policy and the lighting, the other things have thankfully changed.
On my first visit I thought that the place was perhaps a wee bit overhyped. On my second visit though, coinciding with their one year anniversary, I bought into the dream. There’s some pretty fine French fare going on here so take a bunch of your friends so you can work your way through it, some of the plates are too big for two to share. There was a wonderful sounding whole duck special that night, but designed for 3-4. No surprise that the place got a two hats debut.
The very long wine menu makes for some entertaining reading, peppered with a staff Q&A. There are several pages just of whisky, so my friend thought that no pinot gris by the glass was a little black cross.
The bread bought to the table is just excellent, and so is the butter; it would be easy to gorge on it. But I’m surprised that it is what goes with the smooth and delicious duck pate, I would have preferred some thin crisps instead.
Love the wagyu tartare (what’s left of it, I forgot to take a photo); unusual combo with the French fries, which are smattered in herbs and finger licking good
The Clams Normande come in a light buttery fish stock, I dip the bread in so as to soak it all up.
The pickled octopus with kipfler is a bit too acidic for me, but that’s my fault for not reading the word pickled on the menu.
I’m also not that big a fan of the much talked about Malakoff, a deep fried gruyere. One mouthful does the job, it is quite rich.
But I love the lobster spaghetti, done in a lobster sauce with cherry tomatoes and chives.
The John Dory provencal is simply done, poached with a topping of tomato, olive oil and basil.
The crew put their own spin on Pommes Anna, taking the potatoes vertical instead of the typical French horizontal. Ah that beurre blanc.
On my second visit though the four dishes my friend and I had ordered were bought to the table all in extremely quick succession and we ran out of room, perching one precariously on a wooden divider. Gotta turn those tables folks. Long and leisurely is not the name of the game if you eat before 8.30pm.
I did love both the desserts I tried. They are very generously sized, and easily shared between two.
The Santa Claus melon with finger lime, sorrel jelly and young coconut sorbet is wonderfully refreshing.
Having had a few enjoyable vacherin desserts in my time – typically layers of meringue and cream – I decide to try theirs. It makes me chuckle, it looks like it should have a barbie doll sticking out of the top of it – remember those barbie toilet roll holders? Lurking behind the cream is the meringue, which when smashed though reveals a delicious combination of sauternes ice cream, honeycomb, lemon and mandarin.
Restaurant Hubert, Basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney
Ph 9232 9881