With Sydney’s Hubert drawing three-hour waits and Ôter in Melbourne challenging our perceptions of the cuisine, the idea of French food falling out of fashion seems almost quaint. Very suddenly, French dining is cool again. And while it may seem as if it never went away, this time it’s different.
“Hubert is French, but we are not a pastiche theme restaurant,” says bar manager Brendan Keown. The white-tablecloth formality is gone, and in its place is a more casual experience, although one that still references traditional techniques, dishes, and the sense of occasion in going out for a meal. “Of the latest wave of exciting new places to eat, the operators all share a background in classic service,” says Keown. “Customers value authenticity and simplicity.”
Ôter is much the same. Its name, design and menu are all based on the idea of removing the superfluous. Ôter’s sommelier Jordan Marr says while simplicity hasn’t always been associated with French dining, its adoption here mirrors a trend in Paris. “The dining scene there has moved away from the more traditional style of French cuisine towards a simpler approach,” he says.
The other noticeable break from tradition are the bar offerings at both restaurants. Ôter and Hubert are distinctly modern. Beyond wine, they both serve high-quality spirits (like Tanqueray No. TEN gin and Ketel One vodka) and cocktails. “We have no problem with offering a wide range of good drinks while nodding to the heritage. Beside about a hundred Scotches sits a well-curated selection of Cognacs, Armagnacs, pastis and mistelles,” says Keown.
Both Keown and Marr have worked on cocktail lists (not traditionally popular in French dining) that honour and augment the style of food served at each restaurant. “I think the most important thing is that the products offered at the bar need to be as well considered as those used in the kitchen,” says Marr. “It seems counterintuitive to match quality food with substandard beverages.”
At Hubert, Keown runs half-a-dozen cocktails with a mix of old- and new-world classics. “These are excellent aperitif or dinner cocktails that have stood the test of time in matching with food,” says Keown.
He shares with us the recipe for his La Vicomte de Mauduit cocktail, which he says would pair excellently with a fresh dessert, like Hubert’s Melon en Surprise. “Sorrel, finger lime and Santa Claus melon are all complementary flavours,” he says. “At home, you would sip this cocktail in the evening sun, nibbling on a macaron or a bowl of fruit sorbet.”
La Vicomte de Mauduit
Makes one. Approximately 1.6 standard drinks.
The Vicomte de Mauduit, a French soldier, engineer and author, wrote a cookbook in 1933. The Vicomte in the Kitchen was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “original and valuable”. It contained many original recipes, including this one.
20ml Tanqueray No. TEN gin
20ml French dry vermouth
20ml rose brandy (this was made to the Vicomte’s own recipe. For this recipe, simply add ¼ tsp of rose water to regular brandy).
Mix ingredients with block ice until very cold. Strain into a delicate-stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a single rose petal.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.