We're not in Kansas any more, baby — or at least not in the Healesville of quaint old pubs and shopfronts. Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander is housed in a lofty angular space of steel, glass and smooth mood music.
Everything is open plan, with tables scattered among sofas and pot plants on a pebble-dash concrete floor next to an open kitchen. Through a glass wall, diners can see the winery operation, with the Giant Steps label covering grapes from a single vineyard, while Innocent Bystander drops have more varied origins.
Our waiter, Josh, bears two tapas dishes for entree: piquillo peppers ($16) and the pork rillette ($16). The peppers are excellent. Soft, red, horn shapes filled with goat's curd, they're smooth and creamy but not too rich. The pork rillette is a slow-cooked mass of pork pieces beneath a layer of duck fat. Spread on hot toast, it's delicious.
For mains, I tackle the pizza puttanesca ($24), a combination of white Spanish anchovies, capers, black olives and buffalo mozzarella. It's a perfect balance of fresh, tangy flavours on a sourdough base, though a side of truffle and parmesan frites ($11) is a little too salty for my taste.
My companion, Narrelle, orders the duck and mushroom pie ($38), an attractive pastry-covered dome amid roasted-carrot puree and a salad of cabbage, sherry-soaked raisins and hazelnuts. It's earthy and delicious.
To accompany, we enjoy a bottle of the Harry's Monster cabernet blend ($64) from Giant Steps, named after a vineyard-dwelling monster owner Phil Sexton's young son once worried about.
Next, Josh tempts us with the goat's curd cheesecake ($11.50) but fitting it in would be impossible. We settle instead for four bouncy pieces of Turkish delight ($5.50) — made from the winery's moscato — and coffee.
Reviewed by Tim Richards, who was hosted by Tourism Victoria.
Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander, 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, 5962 6111. Open 10am-10pm, Mon-Fri; 8am-10pm, Sat-Sun. To stay nearby: Vintage House (vintagehouse.com.au); Annabelle of Healesville (annabelleofhealesville.com.au); Healesville Garden Accommodation (healesvillegarden.com.au).