Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Review: Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander

Last month I finally persuaded myself to venture out of my hermitage, lured by the prospect of the Yarra Valley Farmers' Market at Yering Station, and Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander in Healesville.

My first step was, rather sensibly I thought, to forego breakfast. This is because one cannot help grazing one's way around the market - samples of jams, chutneys, fudge, panforte, bread, fruit cake, grape paste etc etc were, as ever, irresistible.

We left with grape jus, two Cunliffe + Waters chutneys, a christmas pudding. In hindsight, the restraint was admirable.

Undaunted by sugar-induced nausea, we made our way to Healesville. I was in major indecision mode, flummoxed by the possibilities of the GS/IB breakfast menu versus their standard fare. Tempted as I was by the thought of poached eggs, sourdough with Jam Lady jam, bircher museli, or poached seasonal fruit with sheep's yogurt... in the end this was all academic because by 11.45am they seem to have decreed that breakfast was over.

A brief perusal of the menu ensued, and I went for smoked salmon on sourdough.

(Two asides. One, though I call myself vegetarian this is not strictly true as I eat fish. However, as one cannot guarantee when eating outside of the home that a fish dish isn't contaminated by mammalian or avian bits, it's safer to say 'vegetarian'. Two, I am very dull and will usually go for a smoked salmon option if available, because I adore the stuff. Oliver Sacks was asked as a child what his favourite things were - he replied "Smoked salmon and Bach", and these are still apparently his favourites.)

Although it was pretty busy - lots of groups of lunchers already - service was incredibly prompt. We were brought water (without asking - hurrah!), glasses, fresh sourdough, Murray River salt flakes, a peppermill and a bowl of olive oil. The bread, which we've bought before, was fantastic - excellent flavour, good holey crumb, and an amazing silky texture. I mentally noted that they use Laucke organic unbleached flour. The bread and accompaniments are gratis when you order any meal - thumbs up!

We didn't have to wait long for the order to arrive. The sourdough (again, divine) was a 3cm slab, slathered with sour cream, topped with capers, a generous portion of salmon (satiny; melted in the mouth), shaved red onion and artfully arranged fresh herbs (chives, dill, and something else).

Magnificent, and simple. And incredibly reasonable at $9.

We left with a loaf of sourdough and a packet of Beurre d'Isigny butter. Because there is nothing better than French butter with proper bread.

It gets busy and noisy. There are a few properly vegetarian options, but not an abundance. I'd wager anything is good, though, and I did appreciate the jazz.

I didn't try their coffee this time, but I will next. Rather impressively, it's roasted on the premises. Similarly, I'd be interested to try their pizzas, or the smoked trout salad, if I don't make it for breakfast next time. Then there's the story of their cheese room...

I have high standards (hate it when they're not met), especially when it comes to staples like bread and smoked salmon - I was, unusually, not in the least bit disappointed. Hooray!

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