Winding underground on curved low-lit staircases lined with glass cabinets bearing orderly rows of alcoholic miniatures (a Merimbula inheritance); you’ll feel like you’ve slipped into post-war Paris.
The check-in desk sees you shunted either into the formal Beatrix Dining Room, complete with shiny, black, baby grand on a tiny scarlet-curtained stage, or in my case with the restaurant being full, into the more intimate, candlelit, wood paneled surrounds of Bar Normandy.
Roussanne, White Grenache, Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache and Pinot Noir… the extensive wine list favours my most loved varietals. It pulls my attention away from Negroni, Bellini, Martini - the classic twenty-buck-apiece cocktail list etched onto signboards behind the bar.
For a flying visit, the by-the-glass list is eclectic and well described on the menu. Tasting notes backed up by knowledgeable floor staff are just the level of service you’d expect from the experienced team behind Shady Pines and Frankie’s Pizza - Anton Forte and Jason Scott from Swillhouse Group. I’m pleased to note they’re also fans of winemaker Gary Mills. His 2014 Jamsheed Roussanne ($14) is indeed a beauty, jazzing up a smooth but straightforward Duck Liver Parfait ($17) with maple syrup jelly.
Moving onto the 2014 Domaine Pichot Vouvray ‘Clos Cartaud’ ($15), we tuck into Oysters ($24/6) presented with classic eschallot and black pepper vinaigrette on a darling retro oyster plate.
For something a little bit naughty, get a gooey, cheesy, mustardy ball of Malakoff ($12) into your gob, punctuated by sharp dill pickles. It’s made on Gruyere and one of the best fried cheese experiences in town.
Chef Dan Pepperell (ex-10 William Street) also produces a lovely hand-cut Prime Beef Tartare ($22). Half-covered by a mountain of cascading French fries, the beef is balanced by egg yolk, capers, chives and cornichons. Overall this dish is slightly salty, encouraging me to reach for a sweeter wine. And, once again, the extensive by-the-glass list obliges, this time with a German 2013 Georg Breuer Auslese Riesling ($15) that balances sweetness with excellent acidity.
The whole Restaurant Hubert experience is so immersive – running all the way to freshly sprayed textured concrete ceilings - it’s hard not to be nauseatingly positive. Birthed in a period when Premier Mike Baird is eroding Sydney’s nightlife hour by hour, street by street, it’s nice to cast our eyes back to sunnier times, as we carve out new ways to commune underground over a bottle of wine. Will it lure me back – this time with a reservation – for dinner? Yes, it certainly will.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney
Ph: No phone