It has been six years since my last visit to the historic town of Millthorpe. The character of the village seems to have changed a lot. Bar for the longstanding village hub, the Millthorpe Corner Store, everything is now trendy and expensive, with fancy providores, cellar doors and high-end homewares stores all vying for weekenders' attention.
Tonic Restaurant has been a village stalwart since 2003. It’s a big airy space that’s air-conditioned and thus nice to dine in on a hot day; offering up a cool colour palette and good table separation across two split levels.
As you’d expect sitting twenty-odd kilometers from Orange, wines from the local region are featured across the wine list, which also ventures as far afield as France and Spain. Against a saccharine amuse bouche of sweet corn soup, the 2015 Bloodwood Riesling ($60) shows a good acid spine, rounding out with more texture and nuance as it warms and the food gets more savoury.
Sunday lunch can be taken as Two Courses ($70/head) or Three Courses ($80/head) and arrives with complimentary extras like bread and butter. It’s popular so I’d suggest booking ahead.
When we arrive, blue plaid shirts abound in the dining room, mostly filled with older, middle-class Caucasian guests. Perhaps this is why the kitchen thought my pretty trio of kimchi scallops needed tempering with honey and crème fraiche. The kimchi itself is quite good, and the scallops, while small, are not overcooked. What I didn’t like, was eating something that tasted like an upmarket version of seafood with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.
Duck tortellini are thick and doughy, leading to their filling getting somewhat lost. While the broth was neither here nor there, the fresh spring presentation with baby carrots, broad beans, pea shoots and sliced bird felt seasonally appropriate to the country locale.
Under rubbery skin, the roasted pork jowl is well rendered and tasty. The rich porky flesh is well cut by stewed spiced apple, a tiny celeriac salsa and an appropriately, lunch-sized dollop of smooth pomme purée.
Pan-fried snapper had a salt-encrusted, crisp golden skin and yielding white flesh. Flavourwise it’s my favourite dish, but with a fennel encrese (this a fancy way of saying crushed fennel) that was super-salty, salted fish skin and an appropriately seasoned bouillabaisse sauce, it had me reaching for my water glass over and over again.
Reconstructing a tomato is a pretty cute idea on the very well-presented Tomato, Bocconcini and Basil Side ($12). With good quality produce and vinegar, it provided welcome palate relief, but proved slightly harder to share than I was anticipating. You basically needed a band saw to cut the garlicky bread disc it was sitting on.
Insert comically loud clanking of knives on crockery in a quiet dining room here.
Corner Pym and Victoria Streets, Millthorpe
Ph: (02) 6366 3811