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Libertine is located on Aberdeen Street, just across from the picturesque former Police Married Headquarters. There is a small alfresco dining area and quiet Aberdeen Street is probably one of the only streets in Central where this is actually enjoyable. The interior is also sweet: classic bistro decor with tiled floors, ceiling fans, a long bar and red banquettes. The tables are not too close together, which combined with the high ceilings, give Libertine an airiness and spaciousness that is hard to find in Hong Kong, let alone Central.
There are few surprises on the menu at Libertine: fresh oysters, pâtés and rillete, quiche Lorraine, moules frites and steak frites are all present. We start with an onion soup and steak tartar. The steak tartar comes with a raw egg yolk on top, which is fine and expected. However, as we only ordered the starter portion, the yolk seemed overly large and did in fact make the tartar rather soggy in texture. While it still tasted decent (a touch more acid would have been better), perhaps a quail’s egg would have been more in proportion. The onion soup is also average, but it is doubtful that you will remember it for long afterwards. For mains, we order a seared salmon and steak frites, medium rare. Both the proteins came overcooked. The fish was dry although well-seasoned, and we did enjoy the side of creamy spinach. It also came with a sour cream mash, which was a bit too tangy for our tastes. We much preferred the skinny and piping hot fries that came with the steak. However, as the steak came out well-done, we asked for a replacement. When it came, we found to our great dismay that not only was the steak still cooked to medium rather than the requested medium rare, but the frites were cold. The kitchen had merely transferred our old fries onto a new plate, rather than making us a fresh batch. Finally for dessert, we opt for the chocolate fondant, which rather predictably at this point, also came out overcooked. Not even the overwhelmingly large amount of cream it came with could save it.
At the time of our visit to Libertine, there was no alcohol license and therefore no wine list.
For a rather large albeit empty restaurant, there were only two members of staff: a waitress and a manager. While this in itself does not have to be a problem, we were a bit confused by them. We had asked our waitress where the steak came from (“France”) and whether the pâtés and rilletes were homemade (“Yes”). However, when the manager ambled over, he told us the steak was from the US and the pâtés and rilletes were brought over from France. This proved to be indicative of the service for the rest of the evening: keen but not particularly knowledgeable or well-trained. On the one hand, we received plenty of apologies plus a ten-percent discount for the overcooked steak; but on the other, our water glasses were left empty and we ate our chocolate fondant while staring at the half-eaten ramekins of ketchup and mayonnaise left over from our mains.
A three-course meal for two with a shared dessert and no wine comes to about HK$900, a fairly standard rate for Soho.