Bis Cucina

>Foster Street, Sale, Victoria

There are two restaurants in Sale listed int he Good Food Guide – no, make it one. Marlay’s closed down recently.

We are left with Bis Cucina, in the modern Arts Centre building. From the outside it looks more like a casual cafe, but in the evening the ambience is inviting as you drive past the floor-to-ceiling windows.

I have eaten there twice, once alone and once with a colleague. On both occasions the service was outstanding: friendly, attentive, knowledgeable and discreet. Their home-made ravioli with a carrot, corn and parmesan sauce is to die for, but I bet you’ll never finish a full portion. No matter: the maitre d’ will happily package your leftovers for you to take home.

A lovely wine list full of local options too.

Almost worth a trip to Sale just to visit!

>Moons Espresso Bar Lorne

>We stopped here in Lorne for breakfast at the weekend, having passed by the usual fry-up joints in search of some good granola. We found the granola, but at a price.

After waiting (being ignored?) at the front desk for about five minutes, we finally ordered and sat down. The place was pretty busy I admit, but there were at least six staff members visible to me at the time. Not too sure why the service was so slow in the end.

My weak Earl Grey tea finally arrived. It was strong – too strong to drink, especially as I had specifically ordered weak tea. So was the green tea we ordered: presumably they were prepared and then left sitting for ages to stew. We sent them back. The long black we also ordered was too bitter to finish. I am rarely a fan of Genovese coffee.

It took an inordinately long time for the granola to arrive, but I will say that when it did, it was sublime. The yoghurt was simple and creamy, and the granola was made of the very best ingredients, toasted. Unfortunately the third person in our group had ordered eggs, smoked salmon and bacon, and this did not turn up until we had finished eating. So much for sharing a meal.

All in all, it was not an experience I would repeat. For the price – $54 for three – the service was appalling and it detracted seriously from the food, which was pretty good. Again, given the number of staff on show, I was expecting so much more.

>Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander Winery

> A summer’s evening in Healesville brought me to the new Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander pizzeria-bistro-artisan bakery on the outskirts of town. It is a modern new complex where you can tour the winemaking facility, try any of their wines, have lunch on the terrace or dinner in the airy restaurant.

I sat at the bar and tried a glass of their chilled rose. The wines are stored in temperature-controlled fridges and the beer casks are in full sight behind glass, rather than hidden in the cellar.

The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the restaurant was fully booked for their regular Curry Night that evening.

I am looking forward to coming back to try their Harry’s Monster, a huge cabernet/shiraz/merlot/ petit verdot blend retailing at $49 a bottle.