Words | Randy Lai
Truthfully, we owe a great debt of gratitude torestaurants like Hubert. Ergo, those that have insisted - almost to a fault - that Australia’s assembled republic of diners deserves a certain joie de vivre when dining out is on the menu.
Established in 2016 by the Forte Brothers and Jason Scott (the powers that be behind Sydney hospo favourite, Swillhouse) Hubert is the kind of restaurant where every interaction bristles with the promise of mischief. ‘Circus’ is perhaps too garish a definition, but ‘fête’? Certainly.
Down huge double doors on an otherwise innocuous strip of Sydney’s CBD, a portal to Paris in the ‘20s beckons: the restaurant’s winding stairwell - ringed in old A.M. Cassandre posters and a million dusty aperitif bottles - tips you out into a cavernous dining room, full of mullioned drapes and ladder-high wine racks. The subtext is clear: you will have a good time. Probably, to excess.
Shorn of all proximate distractions, Hubert’s main dining area would still have charm to burn - the room plays host to live daily music, with an abundance of Bossa Nova and perennial Jazz standards - yet what’s even more impressive is its terminus status: shuffling thirsty, world-weary patrons into a melange of eating and drinking experiences, every one of which would be the crowning glory at a lesser venue.
The baroque Theatre Royale gets all the attention (as any hideaway where one can drink magnums and watch old talkies should) but there are a multitude of other experiences worthy of any vivant. Our Bale-approved suggestion? Duck in at Bar Pincer for a pre-dinner snifter: where the city’s most ebullient Happy Hour awaits. $6 nabs one a G&T; $12 a Negroni; and if you really want to liberate your appetite, $18 for a gruyere burger so barnstorming, it might as well be crossing the Maginot Line.
In the kitchen, this sense of bellicose generosity flourishes. Head Chef Alexis Besseau has crafted a menu that celebrates the bistrot’s enduring allure in every corner of the globe. In this instance, Besseau’s watchword is ‘liberty’: evident from his effortless freewheeling between plats principaux like chicken fricasée, as well as culinary subversions employing dashi, XO sauce and other Pan-Asian influences.
At its core though, Hubert isn’t a complicated restaurant. Its panoply of charismatic service; big, unapologetically rambunctious wines; cuisine recalling a by-gone era; and, most importantly, fierce disdain for joyless dining have endeared it to stylish diners across the country.
Jordan McDonald, Swillhouse Creative Director, says it's not uncommon for patrons to dress with the restaurant’s subterranean drama firmly in mind. “Naturally, we’re happy for our diners to express themselves however they wish,” says McDonald, “but we do often find that people do take the opportunity to go that extra mile when visiting”.
Small wonder then that it’s also where we chose to stage our AW23 campaign. In Sydney, we can think of few finer places to wear the many constituent layers, inspired by post-war hedonism, that compose this collection. Even if such a restaurant existed - we doubt they’d serve pommes anna this good.
Photo credit: Ethan Smart and Kristoffer Paulsen.
Words: Randy Lai