The bridge becomes a casual space for cocktails, aperitif and lighter fare.
The final jewel in the Hubert crown, Bridge Bon Appétit adds a new space and another menu to the Swillhouse Group's sprawling French funhouse in Sydney's CBD. Occupying, you guessed it, the mezzanine bridge above Hubert's main dining room, the new bar and dining space is built for those in-between moments: the after-work drink that turns into dinner or a nightcap when you're not quite ready to call time.
Co-owner Anton Forte says that making full use of the mezzanine was always part of the grand plan. Doing the design and fit-out themselves, refining the food offer, and getting the main restaurant off the ground pushed out the project timeline. But Bridge isn't just an add-on to the restaurant (although that wouldn't be unwelcome). The food isn't straight Gallic, the wine list veers away from tradition, and the vibe is less all-in luxe and more let's-see-where-the-night-takes-us.
Hubert sous-chef James MacDonald is behind the menu menu - with the same graphic Allie Webb illustrations as the main dining room - covering a lot of ground in the space of 11 dishes. The veal tartare is accompanied by saltbush, the petit roe boats are ferrying uni, avruga, and salmon and cod roe, native succulents show up in a vinaigrette with cured fish. But this is still Hubert: there's a veal tongue pot-au-feu, saucisson sec with pickled vegetables and, of course, oysters. The idea is to offer a looser interpretation of the restaurant menu, not divorce from it entirely.
Andy Tyson and James Irvine are taking care of drinks, with a list that includes an extensive range of amari (perfect for all those bar bites) and wines with attitude. Chile and the Czech Republic are represented alongside plenty of French and Italian drops, and a smattering of quality Australian makers from Ochota Barrels to Latta. Beers skew hearty and full-flavoured, while cocktails make some unlikely moves: a Spritz, for instance, is built around mandarin-infused vermouth, while Cognac is teamed with chocolate and truffled duck egg.
"There's always some wacky ingredients but everything's super-balanced and smashable," Forte says.
With 50 seats, Bridge is more intimate than downstairs. Fringed lamps make natural screens between groups seated on bentwood stools at the two bars, every spot offering a bird's eye view of the action in the restaurant proper below.
"You can look down and feel the buzz of the restaurant," says Forte. "It's a whole new experience of the place."
With more choices come tough decisions, but that's what repeat visits are for.
Bridge Bon Appétit, within Restaurant Hubert, Basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney, NSW, restauranthubert.com. Mon-Sat, 6pm-midnight.