One of our friends from Japan is visiting Melbourne for a few days this week, so we have worked on being here at the same time so we can catch up (we didn’t have to try that hard, it’s worked out quite well by itself). She was supposed to arrive 11:30AM, but Jetstar… so she was here a little before 1PM, which isn’t that far off.
We met with her and another friend in Healesville in Yarra Valley. We arrived early and went for a walk around town. Nice place, big beautiful trees lining the streets, lots of thrift shops, house furnishings, boutique grocers and an untold number of cafes/restaurants.
We met up for lunch at the highly regarded winery/restaurant Innocent Bystander. Huge open interior, looking very modern. They pride themselves on their bread and their wine, though their non-yeast products also sounded rather good. I’d been craving pizza for a while now, so when I saw it was one of their specialities, I was a happy, happy man. I ordered the four cheese pizza (not the best choice, sadly – good cheeses, but a little dry). We also ordered a spicy pork sausage (delicious) and a prawn cutlet (I’m not a huge crustacean fan, but I still ate a few slices). Risa decided to buck the pizza trend and get duck confit, which unsurprisingly was also delicious.
The girls (well, Risa and Aika anyway, not the eight-month pregnant Akimi) had a quick sample of their pink moscato, which sounded sickly-sweet like all other moscatos (which depending on how you feel about lolly water is either a good/bad thing). Interestingly, they are the first company (according to them) that sells their moscato in 250mL cans ($6.5/can).
Just across the road from Innocent Bystander is another famous boutique brewery, White Rabbit. It’s a relatively new/small brewery, but it’s quite well known, which is a credit to the brewers. It has links to Little Creatures (the excellent brewery in Fremantle near Perth), and are now using their old brewing equipment. I didn’t realise that they only have the two beers, Dark and White. Their White is very similar to Belgian white beers, like Hoegaarden and Leffe Blonde, which is a good thing as I love those beers (though, can’t afford to drink them usually). I don’t generally like dark beers, but quite enjoyed their dark ale. According to the (really knowledgeable/helpful/enthusiastic) bartender/brewer the original dark ale was produced to change Australian’s opinion on dark ales (that they weren’t just the heavy stout-like drinks, like Guinness or Kilkenny). We had a very thorough explanation of the brewery and brewing process as we sampled their two beers. Their small bar is right in the middle of their brewery, really making it feel fresh (because it is) and made the brewery feel very intimate and full of life (not some sterile factory). The more I learn about beer production, the more I find it interesting.
Sadly, with Ai-chan’s plane being delayed, and our long lunch and even longer conversation/tour of White Rabbit, it was now nearly 5PM. We’d planned to visit some of the wineries in the region (after all, that’s what Yarra Valley is famous for), but like suckers we’d run out of time…
We grabbed two six-packs of White Rabbit and returned to Melbourne where we were treated to a fantastic Thai red curry (duck). It was another day of gastronomic delight, and another night of discomfort in bed due to over indulgence (and I was once again thanking my natural high metabolism).