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FOOD & DRINK

Where to Go When You Can't Get into Restaurant Hubert

With a strict reservation policy, it can be a struggle to snag a table at this French restaurant. Here's where to go when you can't.
By Erina Starkey
September 07, 2018
  shares

Where to Go When You Can't Get into Restaurant Hubert

With a strict reservation policy, it can be a struggle to snag a table at this French restaurant. Here's where to go when you can't.
By Erina Starkey
September 07, 2018
  shares

WHERE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GET INTO RESTAURANT HUBERT

With a strict reservation policy, it can be a struggle to snag a table at this French restaurant. Here's where to go when you can't.

While some of us don't mind waiting around for a really good meal, not everyone wants to spend their evening glaring down diners as they sip and chew in slow motion and take an eternity to leave. With some of Sydney's top restaurants, such as Restaurant Hubert, operating under a strict no-reservations policy (for less than six), the question remains, how much do you really want that charred bavette steak, slathered in melty café de Paris butter, or that quivering egg custard with bitter caramel sauce? If you're not prepared to put your name on a clipboard and your hunger on hold, check out our list of emergency back-up plans, to help save your night.

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    If it’s classic French fare you’re after, change your rendez-vous point to Bistro Guillaume, which is only a short walk away. Chef-owner Guillaume Brahimi’s bistro menu is stocked with all your fat-laden favourites, from twice-baked soufflé drenched in blue cheese to house-smoked salmon with dill cream and a buttery wedge of brioche. And in true French style, there’s a cheese trolley, carrying precious cargo of La Luna Holy Goat along with homemade fruit bread, candied nuts and quince and apple compote. There may not be a red curtained stage, but the belle époque-styled dining room is nothing to sniff at, with powder blue chairs, bespoke chandeliers and antique bronze fixtures.

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  • 7

    If you’ve made up your mind to have steak frites and nothing else will cut it, Bistro Rex in Potts Point serves up one of the best renditions in town. Alongside the blushing sirloin and crisp, shattering fries, you’ll find a French menu to fall in love with, from chicken liver parfait with a trim of sour jelly to a luscious steak tartare with dark malt crackers for scooping. The superb wine list takes you on a tour through France, starting at Champagne and travelling around through Burgundy, Provence,  Bordeaux then up to the Loire Valley. By the end of the evening you’ll be saying, Hubert who?

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  • 6

    If your dinner plans were all about impressing a date, there’s nothing romantic about waiting for food and arguing with strangers over who was there first. Show your potential love interest that you can be spontaneous by whisking them away to Banksii in Barangaroo. This waterfront diner with alfresco terrace makes the perfect spot for entwining arms and sipping vermouth or seductively slurping oysters. Not only does Banksii have 200 seats available, but it’s also open late with the Vermouth Bar serving until 11pm. There’s also Barangaroo House, 12-Micron and Cirrus Dining nearby if you need a plan C, D and E.

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  • 5

    If the dinner brief is simply delicious food in a well-styled setting, Neil Perry’s Bar Patron makes for a serious contender. Ok, so the cuisine is a little different. Instead of côte de boeuf you’ll get picadillo empanadas, pork and pineapple el pastor tacos and a three-milk cake crowned with glossy meringue kisses. The standard is of a similar level to Hubert’s and the space is just as pretty, with Bar Patron’s studded tan leather chairs, pale handmade tiling and Carrara marble bar channelling hacienda vibes. In place of aperitifs and digestifs, the bar serves tequila and tequila. The list includes the whole Patron family, from silver, roca and platinum to its limited edition offerings.

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  • 4

    While it probably won’t have a window table ready and waiting, Bennelong has a marvellous Cured and Cultured counter, which offers a walk-in experience and a late-night menu that runs until 11pm. You may be seated at the bar, but the food itself is first class, with Peter Gilmore’s version of “casual” dining, ranging from raw ocean trout tart with golden roe, smoked flathead with yoghurt and finger lime, and our personal favourite, the buckwheat pikelet with red claw yabby, tart lemon jam and a pot of cultured cream. It puts Nan’s version to shame. You’ll also have access to one of the country’s most famous desserts, the cherry jam lamington covered in a snowstorm of frozen coconut shavings.  

    Image: Brett Stevens

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    If you can’t do French, Italian makes for a mighty fine substitute. While admittedly this no-reservations restaurant can get busy as well, it’s also close by, and there’s no harm popping your head in to check. Specialising in Tuscany’s top chop, bistecca alla Fiorentina, steak dominates the menu, with Flintstones-sized T-bones cooked over smouldering olive branches to order. Francophiles will be satisfied with the sides, which include Mediterranean classics, from the pear and blue cheese salad to crisp golden potatoes, and beetroot with wobbly ricotta and a dousing of burnt butter. If you end up at the bar first, keep your appetite in check with the cicchetti menu.  

    Images: Dominic Loneragan

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    If you’re more interested in the wining aspect than the dining, Bentley’s Restaurant and Bar is just around the corner, and trust us, you won’t be disappointed with the offerings. Just like at Hubert’s, you’ll find dark and smouldering interiors, where brass-topped tables mingle with gemstone drop lighting and slate grey leather banquettes. The award-winning wine list has over 1000 bottles to choose from, with many of the natural, biodynamic and preservative-free drops available by the glass. If you feel like adding some nibbles to your tipples — and you can’t get a table in the restaurant — the bar menu is loaded with tasty creations, from the glazed wagyu beef bun to the sweet and sticky kingfish collar with charred cucumber batons and smoked yoghurt.

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    If the situation is you’re hungry and you need to eat right now, then we suggest making the short pilgrimage (two minutes) to Spice Temple down the road. Prepare your palate for a completely different kind of feast, where buttery nourishing is traded up for fiery excitement. The menu focuses on regional specialities from Yunnan, Jiangxi, Hunan, Sichuan, Guangxi and Xinjiang, as opposed to the more common Cantonese fare. Expect live seafood bathed in salty black beans and four kinds of chilli, rice paper purses stuffed with minced pork or northern-style lamb, and blistering stir-fries, including a spicy, crunchy quail with peanuts and steamed egg custard. The drinks list has 100 bottles to choose from, as well as cocktails inspired by the Chinese zodiac.

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Top image: Bistecca, Dominic Loneragan

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