The first thing people always say to me is when I tell them I love the Yarra Valley is, “oh, so you must really like wine tasting” or “you must know your wine very well” which is probably the opposite from true. What I love about the region is the green openness, the rolling hills, the beautiful landscapes and the fresh produce. Now you must be wondering, if I don’t like wine, alcohol and have no interest in breweries, why would I visit Innocent Bystander? For those of you who don’t know what Innocent Bystander is, it is a winemaker, with a reputation for delivering some of Yarra Valley‘s most over-performing and versatile wines to high class restaurants and fine wine stores worldwide. Well, I simply went for the food. Simple as that. I am a photographer, foodie and blogger, so of course I had to make the visit to one of Yarra Valley’s most famous Cellar Doors for lunch.
As soon as we walked inside Innocent Bystander, we were greeted by the gift shop, selling an array of wines and other specialty drinks. Behind the store was the cellar door restaurant. There was a strong smell of alcohol lurking in the air. Instantly, I was reminded of a pub. Given it was a bit dim inside, I requested to sit outside on the balcony. One, because taking photos in natural light is always better than taking it in dim light environments, and two, because I didn’t want to smell the strong scent of alcohol.
The menu was exotic. I really didn’t know what half the stuff was, and if I did, I found it hard to picture in my head what it would look like on a plate (eg. Spanish Cured Pork Leg -> I can picture a chunk of pork, but what accompaniments would come with it?)
In the end, we decided on a brined + roasted free range chicken with oregano, lemon & garlic, the puttanesca pizza (white anchovies, tomato, capers, olives, and mozzarella), and a side dish of broccolini with pumpkin seeds, roast garlic and lemon dressing.
The food took quite a while to come out. By the time it did, our coffee and tea had either been consumed or had gone cold. I have to admit, the pizza looked really good, but when I flipped it over, the bottom of it was covered in charcoal black flakes and burnt, so I didn’t eat the base. As for the roast chicken, it was literally just a piece of chicken floating in a very oily sauce. I was a bit let down given we paid $25.00 for just a piece of chicken in oil. It definitely does not work as a stand-alone meal. The broccolini was green and fresh which was good, but the taste of it was a bit odd. It had an unpleasant reused oil taste to it.
Will I go back? Probably not given the price, the timely wait, and the quality of the food. That being said, the staff were friendly, the atmosphere was lively and for those of you who really have a palate for wine, it will be a good place to stop by for upper-class wine stock ups.