Chef Francois Mermilliod is keen on offering omakase meals at his restaurant Bar-A-Thym.
Chef Francois Mermilliod is keen on offering omakase meals at his restaurant Bar-A-Thym.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

WHERE: 18 Gemmill Lane

OPENING: Soft opening from Aug 24, fully operational from Sept 1

The name of chef Francois Mermilliod's 45-seat restaurant is a play on the French word baratin, which means sweet talk. The Thym in the name is for thyme, a favourite herb in the south of France, where he is from.

Its name sets the tone for the place, which takes over the premises of Wolf, the defunct nose-to-tail restaurant run by The Prive Group. He wants it to be "not so stiff and traditional".

"It is not fine-dining, it is easy-going. There will be no tablecloths or expensive menus," the 40-year- old chef says.

Still, while his is not a fine-dining establishment, he hopes to woo corporate diners at lunchtime.

Taking pride of place in the 1,400 sq ft restaurant is a $50,000, 1.2m by 70cm plancha, essentially a teppanyaki-like cooking surface.

Seafood will be the focus on the menu and he is looking at cooking whole fish, squid from Hokkaido and other seafood offerings on the plancha. There will also be a la carte selections and daily specials. While prices have not been decided yet, lunch is expected to cost about $40 a person and a three-course dinner will be about $60 a person.

The chef is also keen on offering omakase meals, a Japanese concept where diners let the chef decide what they will have.

With 19 years in the food-andbeverage (F&B) business here and in Australia, he has built up a following of loyal diners.

"They will come here and they know I will take care of them."

He says that after leaving French restaurant Absinthe, he was looking to challenge himself. When he was approached by Mr Yuan Oeij, 46, chairman of The Prive Group, he leapt at the chance to start his own place.

"I think it is a beautiful location," he says.

Mr Oeij, whose group is a minority shareholder in the restaurant, says of the chef: "He's someone who has a very strong following and that we felt comfortable working with.

"We had a choice of giving up the space, but we are in F&B for passion and this is an opportunity to learn with a new partner."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - HYGEM24A'. Print Edition | Subscribe