Bligh Street Welcomes Restaurant Hubert
There is so much more to creating a unique dining experience than just good food. Wine, music, lighting, seating and the right staff can all make or break a restaurant. There are plenty of great restaurants in Sydney ticking all of those boxes but none quite like the new French restaurant located on Bligh Street, Restaurant Hubert. This is the first restaurant venture for bar heavyweights Swillhouse Group who own Shady Pines Saloon, Baxter Inn and Frankie’s. And like all of their venues there’s a sense of theatre to Restaurant Hubert. It’s more than just a bar and restaurant. It’s another world. One you’re transported to the minute you walk through the large wooden doors.
Let your eyes adjust to the dim, warm yellow lighting and make your way down the dark wooden spiral staircase. You’ll notice an unattended wooden desk and enclosed cabinets with tiny, ornate bottles lined up. It feels as though you’re in a 1900s dispensary. Keep going.
When you reach the end of the stairwell you’ll be greeted by a friendly maitre d’ – who will offer to check your coat. Try not to let your jaw hit the ground as you bask in the enormity of this striking, utterly unique venue. You’ve just left Sydney and are now somewhere in the heart of Normandy, in what could be a restaurant institution that’s been home to French diners since the turn of the century. The staff too move like a well oiled machine and make it hard to believe Restaurant Hubert is only a few days old.
To the right of the front desk is a small, intimate bar area with high tables and booths. Guests are welcome to drink here and order from their short bar menu which includes steak frites served with French fries ($28) and the Normandy burger ($24) made with dry aged beef, gruyere cheese, dill pickle and a special Hubert sauce. You can also order some of the dishes that are on the main restaurant menu including the pickled octopus, oysters mignonette, duck parfait, creme caramel and more.
You could easily spend your night at the bar after work eating and drinking with friends but there’s a whole other section to this attractive restaurant that needs exploring. Take your glass of Champagne and be seated in the open space restaurant known as the Beatrix Dining Room. Candlelit tables are positioned around a large grand piano set on a slightly raised stage in front of a dramatic red velvet curtain.
One long, expansive bar covers the entire left wall with a beautifully arranged back bar of spirits, including plenty of whisky. On either side, stairs lead the staff up to a visible walk way where wine is stored above what’s known as Bar Normandy. It’s a stunning use of space. In front of Bar Normandy are small, booths designed for couples romantically lit by pastel vintage lamps with tassels.
We make ourselves comfortable at Bar Normandy where the staff are very attentive and make perfect wine recommendations. The one page food menu has been designed by head chef Dan Pepperell (formerly of 10 William Street) and progresses from lighter, entree style dishes to heavier cassoulets and steaks.
This is a classic French menu with nods to a past era of fine dining. But there’s no pretension here, it’s French bistro cuisine served in a relaxed, approachable way. Most dishes are designed to share and our excited eyes are bigger than our bellies.
We start with a rich serving of oeufs en gelee ($14), a classic French dish, typically served as a first course made with soft egg yolk, bonito jelly, trout roe and avruga. This is a dish with lots of different textures including the tiny bubbles of roe that pop in your mouth. It’s a very rich dish, definitely designed to share. We balance this with some pickled octopus served with kipfler potato and espellete pepper ($16).
The richness continues with boudin noir aux pommes, blood cake and caramelised apple ($19). It’s delicious with a glass of pinot noir and some freshly baked bread. Go on, order the duck parfait with liver mousse, maple syrup jelly ($17) as well. No one is counting calories at this establishment.
For main we order the Bavette steak 350g grilled Rangers Valley flank with Bordelaise butter ($42). Order a classic salad of red butter lettuce, caper vinaigrette and soft herbs ($10) to balance the butter.
Looking around at all of the tables you’d be quite impressed with how busy Restaurant Hubert is on their second day of trading. But there’s even more to this venue than meets the eye. We take a tour before dessert and discover a 120 seater theatre. The venue plan on using this space for a variety of different talks, screenings and events. Soon you could even have dinner in this private space. There’s even whispers of them screening 70s style porn in there. That’s kind of creepy but totally suitable to the retro style of the room.
As the tour continues we discover an entire upstairs level that looks down on diners in the main restaurant. This galley style dining space can be used for additional dining when they reach capacity and with a third bar being added upstairs it can also be where people drink before or after future movie screenings.
Back downstairs we’re told if things go according to plan, we can expect a piano player to play nightly as of this weekend. That calls for celebration! Another glass of wine and dessert.
The dessert list is short with only three sweets, a cheese option and some sweet wines and fortified tipples to choose from. We start with the creme caramel ($18), a heavy dish that’s slightly grainy in texture. It’s a relief really, I was starting to question how a venue of this size and only two days old could be utterly perfect. But we try again regardless and order the religieuse au chocolat ($14) a French pastry made of choux pastry, hazelnut creme and chocolate. It’s a rather phallic looking dessert that after a few too many French vinos gets a giggle out of my friend and I. Who said we need to act like grown ups just because we’re at a fancy grown up restaurant? The pastry crumbles under my spoon, something I wasn’t expecting. No fluffy soft pastry here. It’s not a bad thing and the hazelnut creme holds it all together as we consume every last morsel.
You could easily walk straight past Restaurant Hubert. Just look for the wooden sign hanging above and two large wooden doors. Slip down the rabbit hole and who knows what you’ll find.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney
Mon to Sat 5pm–1am