Sandwiched in between a line of defunct and run-down shops sits Stray Neighbour: part bar, part dining room, part pool hall. If you weren’t on the look-out, or a local in the know, you’d blink, go straight passed, and never knew it existed.
Inside this old mechanic’s garage turned trendy restaurant, is a voluminous space, scattered with tables and chairs; strewn with skylights, plants, party lights, and a pool table in an adjoining room. Because of its size, it’s hard to get the warm fuzzies here; but the cold atmosphere is quickly offset by the warm smiles of the staff.
Always up for a Feed Me option ($55 per person, with desert), our party of four didn’t have to do any of the thinking – just the eatin’ and drinkin’! To start, a plate of Chicken liver parfait, with pickles and toast was delivered to the carnivores – all of whom said the spread was incredibly tasty. To appease the vegetarian (yours truly!), they also brought out a serve of Leek and gruyere croquettes; the crunchy exterior quickly gave way to the gooey middle – but not quite as strong in flavour as expected, but nice nonetheless.
Amid the barrage of food hitting our table was a trio of Baked scallops sitting on creamed cauliflower and burnt butter, served on a half-shell. Nicely baked and quickly eaten, my partners in crime tonight could’ve probably done with a few more! 😉
The next vegetarian delivery was of Beer Battered Pickles with a smoked paprika aioli dipping sauce. They tasted, as to be expected, like pickles in beer batter – which made them more a novel thought than a home-run dish.
Although none of the meat-eaters could quite recall what our server said when he delivered their next course, they all thought it was probably the Grilled chicken thigh and lemon myrtle salt. Or some variation of it. Sadly, the presentation (as you can see) was a bit sloppy. Three pieces of meat on a plate with the jus trying to escape to one side. But hey, it’s there to eat, not just look at, so ate it they did. My carnivorous cohorts all said it was nice, but too delicate in flavour making it nothing to write home about.
And what a show-stopping difference the next dish was to the previous! Beetroot with goats curd and sesame tuiles. Lovingly presented and brilliantly contrasted. The soft and crunchy textures along with the opposing saltiness and sweetness of its components made this – by far – my favourite dish. So much so, I tried to share as little as possible with the rest of the table! 😛
Then on the other hand, like the Jekyl & Hide of dishes, I was delivered a layered vegetable lasagna ‘thing’. Despite it’s frank appearance, it was actually pretty tasty. But considering the previous dish, this one could’ve done with a bit of make-up! ha!
I have to mention for those who might not be aware, that usually when you get a ‘feed me’ banquet, you’re not often served a similar (or same) meat several times. However, it appears the folk at Stray Neighbour don’t prescribe to this notion; that or they were under extreme pressure and just sent out what they had ready.
So my meat-eating friends and Hubby had chicken liver, chicken thigh, and now for the last savoury dish – more chicken, this time with sautéed mushrooms. Whether they were just getting chickened out or not, I can’t be sure, but this dish didn’t ‘wow’ my meat-eating friends because it (again!) lacked any signifcant flavour. Borderline meh. Oh, and a very small mixed leaf salad with a balsamic & olive oil vinaigrette accompanied this dish, too.
My last course before the desserts was a little bowl of Parmesan risotto with pumpkin and salt bush. This was pretty standard as far as risottos go. Cooked perfectly and okay in flavour, it could have benefited from a little more seasoning.
We had two desserts arrive shortly afterwards, with the first being a Caramel & milk chocolate parfait with peanut brittle. Totally yum and totally not enough for two hungry bears and their two friends! A definite delicious standout and one that we’d all recommend you try!
The second sweet was a plate of Hazelnut macarons with coffee poached pear and gingerbread ice cream. Another extremely tasty dessert, and that’s saying a lot because the Two Bears aren’t sweets-oriented eaters! Suffice to say, the desserts were the best presented and best tasting of all the courses (excepting my beetroot & goats curd dish! <love> ).
So, what’s the verdict? A solid pretty good. Nothing that we’d especially trek back for, but if someone asked, we’d say “Yeah, go try it out!” – that’s if you’re in the neighbourhood. 😉
Address: 463 Plenty Road, Preston Victoria 3072, Australia
Tip! If you want to try a few things, they offer a “Feed Me” banquet which only requires 2 people. It’s $50 or $55 with deserts.