Rich, romantic and indulgent French food.
MUST ORDER Duck (canard farci); duck parfait
AMBIANCE A lounge room back in time
WOULD I GO BACK? For a romantic French dinner
As your average Sydney foodie out for a good time, I have a profound, tender relationship with the words ‘crispy’ and ‘duck’. Especially when they get married. The first thing I asked the staff at Hubert when I anxiously arrived at exactly 5pm was: “Has the duck sold out yet?” Everyone talks about the duck at Hubert. They only have four ducks per night (apparently due to the difficulty of preparation, but perhaps it’s partly to keep people coming back!) I’d read online that the ducks cost $95 each, but ours cost $110. That price tag might make your eyes pop, but one of my food idols, Matt Preston, had recommended it as one of the top eight dishes in NSW of 2016. From that moment on, money was no object. Besides, what are friends for, if not to financially share the burden of one’s gastronomic weaknesses?
Perhaps it’s my own fault, but I think I’d set myself up for disappointment. Word on the street and critical acclaim had hyped me up so much, that by the time I descended that winding staircase into the dimly lit underground restaurant, I was almost shaking with anticipation and adrenaline. After being reassured we would indeed be able to lay our carnivorous little hands on a duck, my mind turned to the palpable 1950s vibes of the place. The bulk of diners appeared to be a business crowd steadily emigrating from Bligh Street, and the thick carpet, candles, colour-scheme, and lighting really fostered a cheerful atmosphere.The music and boisterous conversation wasn’t so loud that it was disturbing, and only increased my eagerness to assess the flavours awaited us.
The service was mysteriously disappointing. On the one hand, the staff who initially greeted us were very helpful and friendly, and the order and timing of our meal was perfect. The waitress for our table, on the other hand, was not very attentive. There were four of us, and we intended to order the chicken fricassèe, pommes annas, canard farci, malakoff (fried gruyère) and a side of french fries. In an almost panicked tone, this waitress warned us that our selection would be far too much food. I was surprised, after having meticulously studied Hubert’s Instagram and sussed-out the portion sizes; but she seemed adamant. The waitress also mentioned that the chef didn’t like it when people order a side of fries (it’s not offered as an individual item on the menu). Slightly irked, she nonetheless said she’d make an extra effort and see if this could be arranged. Wow. Sorry for being such a difficult customer and ordering french fries at a french restaurant that makes french fries. Which were delectable, by the way. Why was it necessary to make us feel guilty about something that was easily arranged? Additionally, we were still quite hungry after our meal. I think that duck could be shared between two people with reasonable appetites- especially if it’s not the only thing you order.
So. Bonjour, Monsieur Canard. If you, too, are a crispy-skin fan, you will love this dish. I found myself greedily nibbling on the duck’s head in search of more of that perfectly moist flesh. There’s even more to Monsieur than meets the eye. He was chillin’ in this orange sauce that was simply sensational. It was exquisite, I have to say. So much so, that we ended up drinking it (with spoons though. We can at least attempt to be Ladies). The malakoff ($16) was nice, but I was surprised that it didn’t excite me, considering I basically have a shrine dedicated to cheese in my fridge (not just because my family demands I isolate the gorgeous stench of beautiful, aged fromage). Herein lies the issue, perhaps. I just like cheeses that have a more intense flavour. Doesn’t have to be stinky, doesn’t have to be aged. But this cheese was just…average-tasting.
The pommes anna ($12), layers of potato and beurre blanc, were an unsurprising hit.
Now, I am a bit of a dessert queen. I had mentally prepared myself for Hubert’s selection, as the reviews I’d read proffered mediocre evaluations. Although tempted by the crème caramel, we decided to share the vacherin ($21), because it was something more unusual, and we like to pretend we’re not mainstream. Those little spikes of piped meringue were stunning to look at, almost like a bombe alaska. The sauternes ice cream was divine, and spoons were clanging together competitively whilst vying for that teenie centre. More please! This was a very simple and acceptable dessert. It was too sweet for me (even as a dessert queen), but manageable when shared between four.
If we had been a larger party, with deeper pockets, there were certainly other appetising items on the menu that grabbed my attention as they flew past and landed on nearby tables; the clams normande were a popular example.The menu could be improved by having cheaper green options, since a small salade was $12. We just needed something to balance the richness of all the food. Yes, I know this is French cooking and it is rich. But at the end of the day one of my friends jokingly remarked, “did we just have the most expensive KFC ever?” I was initially taken aback by this comment, because the quality of the food could not have been better. But then again, we did just order fried cheese, a giant crispy (but admittedly delicious) bird, potatoes, and fries for just under $200.
Visit date: 1 February 2017
Next time: clams normande
I was discourage to visit for a while, but recently went back. Naturally, arriving at 7pm meant that we had to seat at Bar Pincer as there were no tables. Bar Pincer has a limited menu, but a lot of the Hubert classics are there.
Duck parfait ($22) is a super liver mousse with maple syrup jelly, and a warm, rye baguette. This was my favourite dish of the evening, and I’d go back for it anytime.
Another of Hubert’s most popular dishes is the prime beef tartare of wagyu topside, condiments and French fries ($24) (although ours came with crisps). I was extremely disappointed that the tartare de thon was not on the menu that night, and that a tartare was served with packet potato chips. It was perfectly ordinary.
Normandy burger with dry, aged veg, gruyère cheese, dill pickle and a special Hubert sauce ($24) was a very solid burger, and gives Rockpool’s a run for its money. Unlikely to excite me though–it was the man’s choice.
Rangers Valley flank steak frites was certainly worth it for $38, with Cafe de Paris butter and French fries. I am surprised at Hubert’s style of fries, which are heavily herbed and salted, but quite soft, rather than super crunchy.
The service wasn’t any better on this visit. One waitress dropped a glass twice, and it was a major battle to someone’s attention to pay the bill.
Looks like I’ll need to come back to the restaurant, and not the bar, to make a final verdict.
Visit date: 8 December 2018