It's a certain kind of restaurant that's both perfect for and worth the effort of getting dressed up and off the sofa for a school night dinner when it's raining cats and dogs.
And, I'm glad to say, Restaurant Hubert is one for that exclusive list.
Tucked away on Bligh Street in the city, it's a five minute walk from Martin Place train station through the quieter, business end of town. The walk is just the right length for you to decompress from a hectic day and commute and the quiet streets lined with trees and a mix of heritage and avant garde buildings set the mood for a dining experience you know will be worlds away from what the George Street end of the city has to offer. Neither is better than the other but it's just nice to have both the 'look at me' and the more bohemian in mood restaurants doing brisk business in our city.
Restaurant Hubert is an underground bistro and bar which serves the most amazing modern takes on French classics that I and quite a few other people (judging from the full house at 6.30pm on a Tuesday) have had the pleasure of savouring here in Sydney. It's all dark paneled wooden walls and dim lights as you sweep down the stair. The silk fringes of the lamp shades glow orange as the endless shelves of miniature liquor bottles glisten from behind the glass doors of their display cabinets. I was wearing a suitably bohemian long, drapey coat and long leather boots which both made me feel 'in character' as I navigated the spiral staircases. Each step taking me further away from the street level reality of life and closer to a whimsical world of French hospitality.
We were seated at the bar for dinner which was quite fitting given the long day that preceded dinner. I couldn't even begin to recognize any of the liqueurs and spirits on display in front of us. Up above, wines were cellared in special shelves in the wall with a clever wooden step ladder allowing easy access from the bar.
Cocktails are $24 each (or $20, I can't quite remember) and the Bellini is 11/10. The wine list is epic and delivered to you bound in a leather binder. There's a couple of pages of wine by the glass, beers and then around thirty pages of all manner of things priced by the bottle.
It's always a cause for celebration when the bread basket is filled with perfectly baked bread as well as a generous pat of butter sprinkled with salt. I've never quite gotten the hang of olive oil and balsamic vinegar nor have I quite warmed to its taste (not that you'd be expecting them at a French restaurant)...
|Pickled octopus with potatoes, $18.|
I admit that I was a bit apprehensive and xenophobic when I first read the menu. With the majority of dishes based on foods I rarely eat and some not so pleasant memories of those that I had tried, I let my friend choose most of the dishes. I needn't have worried because every dish was perfectly constructed and balanced. Which made them all difficult to resist. Even the delicately textured octopus whose pickling juices are a world away from the strongly acidic versions I've eaten elsewhere.
|Duck rilletes, $18.|
|Haven't got the dessert on me, sorry but this is the half melon..|
If you're on the lookout for a fabulous little place for dinner in the city, Restaurant Hubert is just the ticket. They do not take bookings for parties of less than six so I'd suggest you'd walk on over there the moment they open for dinner which is around 5pm. Even if you're not hungry to begin with, start with a cocktail. Because you're worth it!