Outwardly, not much has changed at Hotel Lincoln. MoVida Aqui's former manager, Iain Ling, took over with wife Stella back in October and started minor renovations. The handsome tiled facade is untouched, and the public bar looks much as it ever did.

Stay a while, though, and the details start to jump out. First is the new food menu, which is categorised into four sections named: “7 ounce”, “pot”, “schooner” and “pint”. It’s just a different way of saying entree, main, and so on, but it’s a first indication of the new Lincoln’s disinterest in doing things the same way as everyone else.

Chef Lachlan Cameron (ex-MoVida Aqui, Supernormal) puts this into practice through neat flavour combinations. Once you’ve moved past snacks such as edamame and kelp salt, or Korean fried quail, it’s on to more substantial dishes. Coffee-cured trout with watercress and nashi pear, perhaps, or Wagyu rump with mushrooms and Chinese black olives. The menu is seasonal and changes often.

This isn’t your average pub food. It’s something much more serious, though thankfully without the uptight “clinkiness” of a fine-dining restaurant, as described by Ling. "You know when you sit in a room and all you can hear is the clink of knives and forks on plates?” He lived around the corner for years, and had no desire to change his old, well-loved local into anything less than approachable.

Drinks stick to the not-quite-ordinary angle, though the headings are more practical here. Forget trawling through Lachlan Barber’s (previously of The Town Mouse, MoVida Aqui) 30-strong wine list by variety. Instead, each heading actually tells you something about the wines below it – that they’re lean, deep or aromatic, for example. And there’s some good ones, including German riesling, lesser-known Spanish varieties such as trenzado and mencia, and plenty of local bottles.

Likewise, though everyone is serving craft beer these days, The Lincoln’s selection is that bit more exciting. It has La Sirène's brand-new Belle-French Ale on tap, for instance, alongside other unusual drops. It may not have a fancy new fit-out, but the Lincoln is proof that beauty is only facade-deep.

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Hotel Lincoln
91 Cardigan Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 4666

Mon to Thu 12pm‒11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm‒12pm
Sun 12pm‒11pm