In Hong Kong, where apparently French people make up the largest proportion of the expat community, you are never too far from a French bistro. However, more emphasis is often put on trying to replicate the ambience of a typical French café with overly stereotypical décor, meaning that the quality of food is substandard. So when I heard about brand new French bistro Libertine opening on Aberdeen Street, I was eager to see how it fared.
Despite the uncomfortable uphill trek in heels (especially if you go the wrong way and start walking down from Hollywood Road only to discover that it is in fact up!), Libertine has bagged the perfect spot. It’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Soho to be able to enjoy a leisurely meal without being tempted by the lure of nearby bars, but close enough for it not to be a hassle. The space is amazing: high ceilings dotted with old-school wooden fans, tiled flooring, a melange of wood and white bricks; exactly the classic casual look typical of a Parisian French bistro. I walked in and immediately loved it.
Libertine has not had the best start in its short life when it comes to food reviews, so naturally I was a little apprehensive. However, whether it is that previous critics have been overly harsh or that Libertine has now learned from its mistakes, I actually thought the food was delicious.
We started by sharing two starters, the first of which was a warm fig and goat’s cheese salad. I love cheese… but I adore goat’s cheese, and this one was just perfect: warm, creamy and slightly gooey. Paired with sharp, juicy cherry tomatoes and delicious figs, sitting on a bed of lightly dressed leaves, this was definitely my kind of salad.
The pate de campagne and pork rillettes may have been even better; the baked pate de campagne chunky, rustic and comforting, whilst the braised rillettes was deliciously smooth and dangerously moreish. A note on the starters is that they aren’t small…but when they’re this good, who cares?!
Libertine prides itself on its moules and quite rightly too, for the Boston blue mussels are enormous and delicious, soaked in a fragrant white wine mariniere that doubles up as a tasty dip for the perfect frites.
The herb-crusted lamb cutlets with rosemary and tomate farcies were ever so slightly over-cooked and didn’t have the pink centre I was hoping for, but they were still beautifully tender and the herb crust gave an added incredible flavour to the already delicious New Zealand lamb. The tomato stuffed with soft chunks of aubergine was just a bonus.
Onto desserts…. And chocolate fondant is one of my favourites. Put a gorgeous chocolate pudding oozing with molten chocolate in front of me and you’ve won my heart. On this occasion, however, I was a mere five days away from completing my no-chocolate Lent challenge, so I had to resist. Nevertheless, when it came down to the break-test, when fork was inserted into pudding, there was nothing oozing out of this fondant, so I wasn’t too upset to be unable to eat it. Apparently despite the lack of ooze, it still had a delicious flavour… but a chocolate fondant is all about the ooze!
The cheesecake, however, was wonderful, made the more so by a sweet almondy base, giving it something a little different to the norm. My one suggestion is that it could have perhaps been a touch colder.
Libertine undoubtedly still has a couple of kinks to iron out, but I still think it’s a great spot, perfect for a leisurely meal whilst enjoying the chilled-out music and some almost perfect food. It’s also got a pretty amazing happy hour from 5pm to 8pm every evening so take a seat in the relatively quiet alfresco seating area, order a carafe of wine and help yourself to a plate of complimentary charcuterie. Who doesn’t love free meat?! (Apart from strange vegetarians, of course!)
Libertine G/F, 26 Aberdeen Street, Central
2858 2022 www.libertine.com.hk
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!