After a sneaky cider at White Rabbit Brewery next door we entered the gigantic building that is Innocent Bystander in Healesville. Despite all the concrete, the restaurant area feels quite welcoming and warm, especially highlighted by the fact you are greeted by a large rack of freshly baked breads to eat in or take away. We sat down and methodically checked off a broad range of foods and beverages to stuff into our eager mouths.
The complimentary bread was fresh and not sourdough! Huzzah! Noted to self: buy a loaf before leaving…
First up were the Truffle & parmesan frites ($11) which had a lovely crunch; the truffle was very evident but surprisingly not too overpowering. The chips were salted just right with the parmesan and went great with the aioli we ordered too.
As we had decided to live like kings, we ordered the three cheese tasting plate served with apple jelly, walnuts & Parisian style baguette ($28), which was probably the best idea of the day. There were the three styles of cheese: hard, soft and blue. The hard cheese was bitey and quite strong with a very chalky taste, the blue was incredibly good considering the overpowering nature of most blue cheeses, however the soft cheese won the day being deliciously creamy but tastier you’re your regular Brie. The apple gel was very strong and sweet, but together with the cheese and walnuts it definitely brought out the depth of the cheese plate.
I am a very big fan of Moscato and I think the Innocent Bystander Moscato is one of the best on the market. Deliciously sweet and goes down nice and easy, a perfect addition to a brunch or afternoon tea!
BBQ lamb ribs with ouzo, honey & thyme, brown butter couscous ($22) were so tender they fell off the bone, just the way it’s meant to be. The risotto had a lot of flavours as it had absorbed the sauce, so filled out the dish nicely.
The pork belly & chicken liver terrine, zucchini pickles & baguette ($13) had a very meaty taste (luckily didn’t taste like dead pig) and was a lot more dense than I expected. The zucchini was pickled like crazy but gave a nice tang to offset the fatty terrine. This dish wasn’t quite as tasty as others I had tried in the past and had a heavier waxy feel to it.
The first of our pizzas was the smoked speck, roast garlic, radicchio, ricotta salata & balsamic ($24) which had a lot of fresh tastes, namely due to the red radicchio, which was the strongest taste on first bite. The speck and herbs built up with each bite though and it was quite a satisfying dish in the end.
I was pretty keen to try these croquettes after reading them on the menu, salt cod & potato fritters with roast garlic aioli ($13) but although they had the wonderful crispy outer and smooth filling inside, I felt the overall taste was too salty for me (luckily the sauce was a good dampener). The chunky fish bits were a nice change to a normally completely smooth filling, but definitely avoid this if you’re not a fan of fishy-food.
The tomato, eggplant & silver beet rice pilaf ($13) wasn’t great in my books. The rice was quite hard and crunchy, even for al dente standards. Though the eggplant (which I assume was the star of the show) was very tasty and warmed the dish, I feel there wasn’t a lot of cohesion of flavours in this dish so will give it a miss next time.
The spicy pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomato & chilli pizza ($24) was definitely the best dish of the day! The first bite was very spicy and the meat didn’t have a generic taste to it, it was full of flavour and had been marinated well. The buffalo mozzarella cheese was plentiful and stretchy and the base was fantastic – a little on the sweet side but baked just right.
Dessert time called for many-a pastry off the tempting shelves. The tarte tatin had a beautiful crusty caramalised base with the apples on top beautifully soft and very sweet with a hint of burnt caramel mixed in.
The Portuguese tart to me tasted like a Caucasian version of a daan tart (Asian egg tart), except not done as well and squidgy instead of crispy baked pastry. Not my favourite, but they did manage to make the custard very smooth and similar to a light Creme brûlée.
There are two types of lemon tarts in the world, the creamy curd kind or the lighter almost-jelly-like filling. This version was the latter but it didn’t detract from the strong tart lemon flavour. There was a nice crisp thin base, very much like short crust pastry and not enough of it! Lemon tart isn’t my favourite but this one was satisfactory.
A nice hot chocolate to finish the afternoon off; nice and smooth and not too bitter. Just the way I like it.
TL;DR A nice afternoon out from Melbourne but probably not worth the drive to return.