After a brief intermission during which the corner Victorian terrace continued trading under its founders name, Lynchs has been reborn as The Millswyn, writes Kendall Hill.

Millswyn

15:59:PM 01/12/2010
Kendall Hill

Suckling pig nose-to-tail.
Suckling pig nose-to-tail.
It’s been three years since colourful restaurateur Paul Lynch quit the legendary Lynch’s of South Yarra, closing the door on three decades of fine-dining history. After a brief intermission during which the corner Victorian terrace continued trading under its founder’s name, Lynch’s has been reborn as The Millswyn.

The interiors have had a don’t-scare-the-locals lift by design studio Hecker Guthrie. Expect elegant Shaker Style furnishings, Italian porcelain light fittings, striped linens and a muted Scandinavian colour scheme. It might feel a bit frigid if not for leafy views out the windows and Anne Zahalka’s surrealist wildlife photographs adorning the walls. Echoes of the old Lynch’s linger in the marble fireplaces and, in the men’s toilets, a vintage black-and-white shot of four attractive women kneeling in the sand, utterly naked. The caption reads, “Lynch’s Volleyball Team Resting Between Sets on Elwood Beach”.

The Millswyn’s menu speaks with the same French accent as Lynch’s once did but head chef Nathan Johnson (ex-Maze Grill), offers a much fresher, contemporary take on the cuisine – and dabbles elsewhere in Europe when the mood takes him. The menu’s classic bistro format features two substantial columns of appetising foods, ranging from oysters and charcuterie to a duet of pastas and three salads bound to find favour with slimming socialites.

Johnson’s food is surprisingly good, and superb at times. He can’t lose with a charcuterie plate showcasing the finest Spanish ham in the world, Joselito jamón ibérico de bellota, complemented simply by cubes of Spain’s best cheese, Manchego, and plump Sicilian olives. There’s also some sliced salami, but it’s lost beside the exhilarating, acorn-scented ham. Meanwhile, a starter of potted duck comes with sourdough soldiers and a jar of slightly bullying pear and apple chutney. The rillette’s quite delicious without smothering it in a sweet fruit paste.

We’re thrilled with the food so far, and with a Volnay Sancerre we choose from the book-sized drinks list. The wine selection is refreshingly original and prices are reasonable unless your tastes run to a Burgundy grand cru. If so, good luck to you.

Waiter service is friendly but also hilarious at times. The floor manager apologises nine times to the table of four beside us as he delivers their last main course after the other three have all but finished theirs. A runner appears on the threshold of the dining room gripping two mains that look suspiciously like ours. She is standing there bewildered, scanning the room for a sign to direct her, when a finger appears in the doorway and begins pointing forcefully at us. We can’t tell whose hand it is because the owner is hiding behind the door.

It’s like watching a skit starring Thing from The Addams Family, and it’s just as amusing.

Thanks to Thing, our dishes find their mark, and once they’re on our table all is forgiven. Both look luscious. A glistening slab of hapuka rests beside a nicoise-style salad of sliced tiny potatoes, quail eggs, roasted capsicum, cherry tomatoes and white anchovies. Beneath its dark crust, the fish is fleshy and juicy, but the sprinkle of diced olive on top is unnecessary.

"Suckling pig nose-to-tail" is a fastidious arrangement of pork packages on a white platter. The pig’s head and trotters are shredded, rolled, breadcrumbed and deep fried into golden patties drizzled with a full-bodied jus. Shoulder and leg meat is marinated for 24 hours and then pressed into a rich, loose, confit terrine. There’s also roasted loin, a wonderful scored slab of pork belly slow-cooked in the trendy sous-vide style, and celeriac and fennel to cut through the cardiac richness of it all.

For dessert we relocate to the streetfront terrace with its floral mosaic flooring and cast-iron Corinthians. South Yarra’s smart already seems to have adopted it as their favourite outdoor haunt. While neighbouring tables cavort with fine wines and fags, we try to maintain our decorum over a slice of gooey gouache tart with milk ice-cream and vanilla salt.

If I lived closer to The Millswyn I would plan many repeat visits to work my way through Johnson’s exciting menu. But service standards need to improve quick-smart to match the food and fit-out here, especially now that the legendary chef Cheong Liew is in residence at The Botanical, just a few doors up the road.

Eat this

The Millswyn, Corner Millswyn Street and Domain Road, South Yarra.

Cuisine Modern French

Chef Nathan Johnson

Hip pocket About $75 a head, drinks extra.

Open Daily noon-3pm, 6-10pm.

Highlights Elegant interiors, exciting food.

Lowlights Haphazard service.

Bookings Yes.

Phone 9866 5627

We rate it 7 out of 10.

The Millswyn on Urbanspoon


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