Bistro Hubert – A Dazzling French Restaurant in CBD Sydney
Dear readers, if I say that somewhere in the heart of Sydney’s CBD there is a French restaurant that will transport you to a time in Paris when everything sizzled (including the cuisine) you’re just going to have to believe me. Nothing elevates the fine experience of dining on French cuisine than to be plunged into an atmosphere and aesthetic that is reminiscent of the 1920’s of Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, Cocteau, Josephine Baker and their like-minded friends. Bistro Hubert, the restaurant in question, can be likened to the “caveaus” of Paris – underground cave-like basement jazz clubs where spaces are sublimely decorated and lathered in deep red fabrics, carpet, dark wood furnishings and glistening bars stocked floor to ceiling with spirits and wine and where everything centres around a main dining area with a stage. Proprietors Jason Scott and brothers Anton and Stefan Forte and Head Chef Dan Pepperell (from popular 10 William Street) manage to not only whisk patrons away to a historic Paris but also on a culinary journey of classic French cuisine with a slight Oriental twist that will leave you speechless and wanting for more.
The allure begins at the grand entrance of Bistro Hubert and as you make your way through the oversized mahogany doors and threshold. At once you’ll be dazzled by the hundreds upon hundreds of miniature alcohol bottles on display behind equally dazzling glass cabinets. French inspired framed poster art, arranged elegantly on the deep toned wood panelled walls, contribute to the theme nicely and pretty vintage wall lanterns add to the sense of allure and whimsy of the lobby. A winding staircase that leads into the belly of the restaurant will leave you in an Alice in Wonderland state of mind and as you enter into Hubert’s inspirational scene of ultimate Paris inspiration what then unfolds before your eyes will have you ooing and ahhing uncontrollably.
This was my feeling exactly as mon mari, our freinds and I were escorted to our table in the main dining room and as this incredible scene unfolded before my eyes I felt the need to persuade myself that indeed I was in a restaurant and not in an Old Hollywood movie set dream. The art deco theme of glorious wood panelling, grand archways, elaborate bottle displays, poster art, vintage lighting and deep velvet red curtains continues into the central dining room and into the adjacent smaller dining rooms that evoke the feeling that you’re a guest performing the art of dining on one big theatre stage. A delightful grand piano rests upon a rustic wooden stage heightening the anticipation of a possible live jazz music performance to complete the already perfect ambience of a vibrant full house of diners. Fine tuned waitors rushing about adorned in black and white classic attire and deliver trays of unbearably delicious dishes and cocktails prepared by masterful and acrobatic barmen. Later in the evening, as I took the time to wander around the restaurant it unravelled even more hidden surprises such as a dining room theatre with grand table, stage and cascading seating to accommodate a generous amount of guests not to forget three separate dining rooms decked out with elaborate bars and furnishing.
Dining at Hubert’s is not just a theatrical experience it’s operatic, culinarily speaking. Every dish goes that one taste note higher and leaves you craving for just a little bit more of this dish or that to savour just a bit longer. The cuisine here is undoubtedly French, however, quite a few entrée dishes have that slight Asian twist and Head Chef’s Oriental tweak of a classic recipe surprises and elevates the dish to a whole new level of oo la la as the French like to say. Hubert offers an a la carte and banquet menu option and believe me with the unique and delicious choice of menu items it would be quite difficult to choose only one entrée, main or dessert especially when deciding whether to have the, no your eyes deceive you not, the very special “Caviar Service” number (sterling caviar served with buckwheat blini and cultured cream), Oeufs en Gelee (soft egg yolk in bonito jelly, trout roe, avruga), Escargot XO (snails with Hubert XO/hot Chinese sauce), Duck Parfait or Tartare de Thon (raw yellowfin tuna with buckwheat and preserved citrus) and these are only the entrees I speak of. Deciding on a main would be more painfully difficult when you have items like Gnocci Parisienne, Mushroom au Poivre, Chicken Fricassee and Cote de Boeuf on the menu and many more irresistible numbers waiting to indulge your taste buds.
My friends and I were saved from agonizing indecision on the night as a group of 8 or more on a Saturday are advised to select the set banquet menu which already includes the restaurants more popular dishes including dessert. There are two banquet menu options – an $88 per person and $135 per person option, however, if it’s your first time here the $88 banquet is quite generous and has enough of a selection to give you a wonderful sample of Hubert’s superb cuisine. I have to say we had no idea of what to expect, it being our first time at the restaurant, however, we were blown away by the incredible flavours, presentation, service and also outstanding beverage menu and choice of great wine particularly from France. You only have to notice the multiple bars within the restaurant and stunning bottles on display everywhere to understand that the team here at Hubert is serious about wine, spirits and cocktails.
The banquet menu we enjoyed on the night was delivered in three well timed stages of entrée, main and dessert with the sommelier’s choice of wine – a Bordeaux that perfectly suited our dishes. Our $88 banquet included a magnificent choice and taste of Bresaola (air dried, cured Wagyu beef), Duck Parfait (Liver mousse with maple syrup jelly), Le Grande Aioli (seasonal vegetables with Clarence River prawns & garlic aioli), Escargot XO, Beef Tartare, the succulently divine Chicken Fricassee (whole chicken with bread sauce & green garlic – great for a large group to share), Salade (red velvet lettuce, caper vinaigrette & soft herbs), Pommes Anna (Layered potato with beurre blanc) and a heavenly crème caramel for dessert. It’s not often that I say I could hear Paris’ famous ambulance sirens ringing away in the background coming to rescue me from a night of joyful over indulgence. Now is that the sound of you dialing Hubert’s number I can hear? Well, be sure to reserve way ahead of time as this restaurant seems to always be booked out. It isn’t easy to get a table of six or more at short notice so really do book ahead especially for a special occasion and if it’s just you and a special someone or a small group of three, four or five you will have to wait in a queue for a table as reservations are not made for just two or groups under six.
Being a guest at Bistro Hubert feels almost surreal as it captures Paris of the 1920’s to utmost perfection with its impressive interior design and ambience. Although here at Hubert’s it’s not just the aesthetically pleasing surrounds that makes the restaurant so appetizingly appealing it’s also the imagination and creativity within Hubert’s kitchen. Everything at Hubert’s is like a fine tuned theatrical performance on an elaborate stage set where perfectly timed, delicious faire is served by charismatic staff who will knowledgeably and passionately discuss the ingredients of any dish and notes of any wine like a well rehearsed line of a play. Here, you are not only a dining guest or paying patron you are also part of the act and a necessary component of the incredible drama of eating and having a merry time. As Balzac, the famous French writer, once said and I quote, “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant” but I would change that to, “Whoever does not dine at Bistro Hubert regularly will never really be elegant or well fed and entertained”. Dear readers, are you entranced by Bistro Hubert inspired by Paris, France?
15 Bligh Street, Sydney NSW T: 02 9232 0881