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Albion’s striking newcomer: Culinary elite launch Hervé’s Restaurant and Bar

The Weekend Edition

While head chefs usually create headlines and draw in the accolades, operational virtuosos like Hervé Dudognon are the straw that stirs the drink.

 

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After stints overseeing some of Australia’s best restaurants, the front-of-house wizard is masterminding his own eatery, Hervé’s Restaurant and Bar – a slick nosh spot perched on the upper level of Craft’d Grounds in Albion.

With esteemed husband-and-wife chef duo Chris and Alex Norman in the kitchen executing a menu of French-inspired treasures, Hervé’s has the blue-ribbon pedigree to rival even the most in-demand fine diners. It opens today – here’s what you can expect …

When someone with Hervé Dudognon’s calibre of hospitality experience decides to open their own restaurant, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about what it will be like. The seasoned sommelier and managerial maestro’s resume is nothing if not impressive – his tenures at Hôtel De Crillon in Paris, Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, Sydney’s Merviale GroupPalazzo Versace and, most recently, as front-of-house director at Howard Smith Wharves and general manager of Stanley testify to his innate skill and highly sought insight into what makes a restaurant tick.

So, when word broke that Hervé was striking out to open an artisanal restaurant (with a French twist) boasting his own signature as the logo, it’s likely that we weren’t alone in envisioning something reminiscent of the high-roller dining spots Hervé previously oversaw.

Hervé’s Restaurant and Bar, which opens to the public this week, sees the budding restaurateur cannily eschew excess and pretension – peeling back layers of unnecessary artifice to hone in on what he believes to be the key ingredients of a successful restaurant. Here, it’s all about delivering a guest-oriented experience, evoking a sense of homely comfort, delivering a menu pays due respect to the produce it draws upon and fostering an ethos that celebrates the romance of experimentation.

Located on the lofted upper level of Albion dining hub Craft’d Grounds (above Brewtide and Seven Miles Coffee Roasters), Hervé’s Restaurant and Bar makes the most of the 100-year-old former timber mill’s stunning architectural bones. Byron Bay-based designer Katie Cameron helped shape the venue’s spatial styling and aesthetic personality, which, though not afraid to lean into the raw and rustic nature of the site in parts, endeavours to soften the timber and steel structure with deft use of texture and lighting.

Find your way through the steel iron gates to the venue’s discrete rear laneway entrance, ascend a flight of stairs and you’ll emerge at the nexus of Hervé’s spacious layout, which sits underneath sloping, steel-beam-supported ceilings. To one side sits the bar area, where a curved terrazzo-topped counter services a clutch of bar, bench and low-set seats. Mood lighting keeps the vibes intimate – a perfectly cosy living-room-inspired setting to enjoy some pate en croute and a glass of wine.

Eyes will naturally be drawn to the kitchen, regarded as the beating heart of Hervé’s Restaurant and Bar. Hervé himself has spared no expense, equipping the open-plan kitchen (one of the largest by volume in Brisbane, he estimates) with a fryergas cooktopcharcoal grill and woodfire oven, as well as a marble-topped fresh seafood display and a pastry pass.

The rest of the space is given over to the 80-seat dining floor, an elegantly dressed portion boasting timber furnishings, curved textured-concrete walls, sky-blue banquettes and custom light fixtures that cast pools of soft illumination across the room.

When pressed about his restaurant’s menu, Hervé offers up the French proverb, “il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué,” which loosely translates to “you mustn’t sell the bearskin before having killed the bear.”

This is to say that Hervé is eager to keep exact details of the menu close to his chest so guests can discover the magic for themselves, but he isn’t shy about heaping praise on those delivering the fare – executive chef Chris Norman and executive pastry chef Alex Norman. The talented duo are taking a back-to-basics approach with dish composition, spotlighting anchor ingredients in a largely unadulterated fashion so as to let the produce do the talking.

Coal-grilled Moreton Bay bugs sourced from the waters of Hervey Bay and Yeppoon are served with Mornay foam and a light sprinkling of Espelette pepper, Fraser Island crab is served with jamon and small crescents of rock melon and pomelo, Mooloolaba tuna loin is dressed in a delicate tomato consommé and jus de cacao, while the pate en croute boasts fois gras imported from Dordogne

Alex Norman, a brand ambassador for Valrhona Chocolate, will utilise luxurious confections such as organic Madagascar single-origin chocolate for her selection of desserts and tarts, meaning that a sweet finish just got a lot harder to turn down. On the drinks front, Hervé and sommelier Thibaud Cregut have curated a wine list of 150 bottles showcasing small environmentally conscious winemakers and vineyards from Australia and abroad – though oenophiles that like to travel via their tastebuds will no doubt be intrigued by a full page of organic Corsican wines.

The bar will also dispense classic cocktails, though expect the beverage program to grow in the coming weeks and months with added signature concoctions and even more wine.

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