26 Aberdeen Street, Central
Tel: 2858 2022
Open: 8am-11.30am, noon-5pm (Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm), 6pm-1am
Price: about HK$400 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: tr?s French - it's as if they transported a bistro from Paris to Hong Kong. Fans twirl lazily from the high ceilings, the sturdy tables are wooden or marble-topped, and the banquette seating is red leatherette. There's a long bar, counter seating and a small alfresco area.
Pros: we were warmly welcomed by the French manager, who told us to sit where we wanted as the place was practically empty (more customers came in later in the evening). Service was efficient, and the manager and waitress kept topping up our glasses of hot water that we were drinking to ward off the chill of a foggy weeknight. The menu is tempting, with salads, savoury tarts and sandwiches for lighter appetites, Portion sizes are hearty.
Cons: the apple tart (HK$70) had an excellent, delicate crust, but the chef was heavy-handed with the cinnamon. We would have liked peppermills instead of the standard salt and pepper shakers.
Recommended dishes: a starter of pat? de campagne and rillettes (HK$150) was a heaping helping. The pat? was as it should be - dense, roughly textured and porky - while the rillettes had enough fat to make them spreadable, although my guest complained they were too smooth. Both could have used a touch more pepper. Onion soup gratinee (HK$75) was an excellent version of this French classic: the broth was intensely flavoured and topped with just the right amount of molten cheese. House-made pappardelle (HK$138) pleased my guest with its rich sauce of truffle and parmesan cream, with almonds adding a subtle crunch. My main course of pan-fried sole (HK$228) came out piping hot (too often, fish dishes are served lukewarm), due to the plentiful amount of butter it was cooked in. The fish - soft and buttery, with crisp edges - went well with the haricots verts and tender potatoes.
What else? Libertine serves breakfast, with a menu that includes a 'full English', eggs Florentine and huevos rancheros.