Giant Steps / Innocent BystanderOctober 16, 2011
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
One sunny Sunday afternoon my family and I were driving through Healesville, and decided on lunch at Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander. Having heard much about their in-house breads and the White Rabbit brewery next door, we had been meaning to go for a while but hadn’t had the chance.
Anyone who’s driven through Healesville in the past five years or so would recognise the Innocent Bystander building: a very large, very modern warehouse with wooden slates and a small triangular balcony at the front door. Across the car park is the similarly imposing warehouse of the White Rabbit micro-brewery, which I believe is owned by the same company that owns Little Creatures.
I was pleased to see that the place was very busy – I suppose the locals were out and about, and Melbournians had taken advantage of the good weather and driven up for Sunday lunch. I instantly liked the space, very light and airy, lots of busily placed tables dotted with the occasional potted plant feature or set of leather couches. There were notices and facebook/twitter updates written onto the glass walls in funky bright colours, and I think it’s this sort of engagement with customers that has this place so successful.
As you walk in, there’s the cellar door on your left, and on your right the barista area and cheese section.
Initially separating you from the dining area is a shelf of wines from the Innocent Bystander and Giant Steps labels, as well as beers from White Rabbit.
We hadn’t booked, but were lucky enough to grab a table that had just opened up. Across from us, a small group had sat themselves on couches and were eating off some small red coffee-tables – such is the compulsion to have lunch here, it seems.
We laughed at this sign:
Before I get to the meals, more on their produce. On offer from the baked goods section were about ten different loaves of bread (we bought an olive, a turkish and a sourdough, all excellent), a selection of lemon and chocolate tarts, doughnuts filled with jam, savoury muffins, portuguese custard tarts, flakey croissants and pear danishes, fruit flans and canelees. We also purchased a selection of pastries to eat the next day, and some canelees for dessert.
From a business point of view, I bet this place is a gold mine. And kudos to them; they have a sweet system in place. Tasty, modern, affordable food, an in-house bakery, gourmet cheeses and wines, all very appealing to Melbournians who want to feel like they’re buying organic, locally made produce. Plus it’s a cool space to be in, the staff are friendly (if a little clumsy with their electronic notepads), and you instantly feel relaxed.
Mmmm, breakfast the next day was delicious!
To begin our meal, Mum and Dad had mineral water, but A got an iced chocolate and myself a latte. The iced chocolate received a nod and a raised eyebrow, and my latte was also very good with a pleasantly strong taste.
The menu at GS/IB is quite long but centred on lunch (breakfast has minimal offerings), and is divided into “Pizza” and “Not Pizza”. We all went for the not-pizza section, but the boys returned another day and tried the pizza with spicy pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomato and chilli, which they said was delicious and had a thin base.
They also had another pizza on offer that I almost ordered: roast mushrooms, asiago, black truffle oil, garlic and parsley. But then again, who doesn’t like the sound of the classic combination of pink eye potato, taleggio and rosemary with the crunchy addition of walnuts?
Here is A’s duck and mushroom pie with carrot mash. I thought the presentation was particularly elegant, and I had a severe case of dish envy. The pastry was wonderfully buttery and A said the filling was well seasoned and contained large pieces of duck meat.
I chose the middle eastern braised lamb shoulder with roasted beetroot, toasted quinoa and labne. I really enjoyed this dish, it was surprisingly light, and I enjoyed the freshness of the labne and the beetroot. However I would have killed for a slice of sourdough to mop up all the sauce left over.
Mum had the red duck curry with snake beans, baby corn, and a serve of jasmine rice on the side. I had a taste, and the curry was deliciously complex, not too spicy but very flavoursome nonetheless. I’m actually on the look out for a good duck curry, if anyone has a recipe please let me know!
Dad went with the rather healthy option of pan seared snapper with cloudy bay clams and a pil pil sauce. He said it was nicely cooked, and liked the pil pil sauce which was basically a white sauce made with fish stock.
All in all, a very pleasant stop over in Healesville, and one which I would gladly make again, if only to try that truffle pizza!
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