Time Out Melbourne

In an effort to end the who-does-Melbourne's-best-chicken-parma war once and for all, Time Out sent raging poultry'n'pub enthusiast Gram Morris to road test this city's ten most popular plates of chicken

Scientific name: chicken parmigiania, aka 'the parma'. Origin: Southern Italy. Importance to Melburnians: impossible to measure. And as such, it is with absolute seriousness that we set about our mission to determine which of Melbourne's highest rated parmas actually live up to their name.

Size 5/5
About the size and shape of a medium sized continent or small child’s torso. Thinner than your usual parma fare.

Taste 10/10
On parma alone, this is the clear winner. You can choose from three different bases (chicken, wiener schnitzel or eggplant) and 11 different toppings (vindaloo, kalamata and roasted pumpkin are just some of the choices) We choose the chicken parmageddon which is essentially the classic parma with a homemade chili sauce made from four different chillies. Naysayers may not be happy with such a thin cut but the chicken is moist and tender from go to whoa.

Cost 3/5
At $24 (for any of the chicken bases) these are definitely south-of-the-river prices but sometimes it’s worth paying a little more.

Sides 8/10
A well dressed and properly cut bowl of salad is delicious if a little on the small side. A happy bowl of medium cut chips, gently dusted in chicken salt compensate admirably – guaranteed not to go soggy when the going gets tough.

Venue 3/5
Punters who don’t object to a bit Classic FM rock will be more than comfortable in Mrs Parma’s spacious surrounds. The early settler décor feels like a combination of Outback Steakhouse and Dale Kerrigan’s pool room. Service is friendly and helpful, but we can't fight the feeling that we're stuck in the memory of someone else’s1980s ski holiday.

Booze 5/5
Not content with being a specialist parma house, Ms Parmas bills itself as the first and only bar devoted to Victorian micro brewery beers. Me likey.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes

Mrs Parma's, 25 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Size 4/5
While relatively small compared to some of the other parmas out there, there is still more than enough chicken on the plate to feed one and half hungry humans.

Taste 7/10
It’s all about the little things such as crisp breadcrumbs, hints of basil and house-made Napoli sauce. A thick cut of chicken runs the risk of being a little dry at times but this isn’t a deal-breaker.

Cost 3/5
$24

Sides 9/10
Fresh cos lettuce served with a house-made vinaigrette, this is not so much a salad as an exercise in Zen simplicity. The chips, coated in crunchy beer batter and served with a pot of aioli, are the best we’ve ever eaten. It looks like they’ve finally found a cure for the Atkins diet.

Venue 4/5
Excellent rooftop beer garden and beer-barn inspired décor inside. The predominant theme seems to be wood. Their website boasts over a hundred events a year, most of them centred around beer.

Booze 5/5
Probably the best beer hall you’re going to visit outside of Berlin. We counted 20 different craft beers on tap and that's just the tip of the beerburg. If you’re a beer lover you might seriously consider moving to St Kilda.

Does the venue show the footy? 
No (only the big games, Anzac Day, the Grand Final etc)

The Local Taphouse, 184 Carlisle St, St Kilda East

Size 5/5
A generous serving in every dimension.

Taste 7/10
Using bacon instead of ham works really well. Sadly the bacon only covers about 30 percent of the chicken, so perhaps another rind or two would been nice.

Cost 4/10
$20

Sides 7/10
The plate comes decorated with a well dressed and tasty garden salad.  The thick fluffy chips have so much promise. If only they weren’t undercooked in the middle on our visit.

Venue 5/5
We really like this pub’s friendly service and atmosphere. On a quiet weeknight we notice some elderly ladies are able to launch into an impromptu book club in one corner while a group of metal heads happily play pool in the other.

Booze 4/5
Six different beers on tap including Coopers and Holgate (from Mount Macedon).

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes, free to air.

The Park Hotel, 191 Nicholson St, Abbotsford

Size 4/5
The parma is smaller in width and length than most, but remarkably thick. Less of a pancake and more like a massive steak.

Taste 7/10
They offer two sauces; the classic Napoli (which we choose) and a bolognaise. The thick bit of chicken is impeccably moist, lightly crumbed and topped with quality thin Virginian ham, rich sauce, mozzarella and garnished with parsley.

Cost 4/5
The classic No 1 parma costs $18, leaving you a few coins for the in-house TAB or half way to pot of beer. The bolognaise parma comes in at a clean $20, helping you avoid the difficult choice of what to do with your remaining change.

Salad 8/10
The thick parma leaves plenty of room on the large plate for the salad, which is one of the best going – a fresh and crisp combination of red onion, capiscum, lettuce and cucumber, with a light dressing. A decent sized serve of chips comes on the plate with the parma. The chips are crisp and delicious and likely to tempt you to order a whole bowl.

Venue 4/5
This is a classic pub, full of footy memorabilia, and boasting two beer gardens –  one in the back and one down the side. It caters to a business crowd during the day, and features a TAB, which doesn't overwhelm or dominate the venue.

Booze 4/5
A good range of nine beers on tap. We have the Fat Yak. And then we have another one.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes

The Palmerston Hotel, 51 Palmerston Cres, Southbank

Size 5/5
The Napier has a reputation for obscenely large servings and their parma is no exception. Best eaten with a knife and fork and three other people.

Taste 6/10
As well as the classic parma, the Napier offer a kangaroo parma. Not surprisingly, the somewhat unholy alliance of thick chicken breast with a kangaroo steak isn’t for everyone. Next time we’ll stick to the tried and true.

Cost 4/5
Good value at $20, especially when you consider the serves contain enough meat to feed a small African village.

Sides 6/10
Garden salad is plentiful but the dressing could be applied a bit more evenly. Cutting a medium sized tomato in half and putting it on a plate is an interesting touch. The shoestring fries are salty and plentiful.

Venue 5/5
The pool table may have gone but little else has changed at the Napier. Acerbic drag queens, aging hipsters and football fans happily share a drink underneath Fitzroy Football club memorabilia in the front bar, while two medium sized dining areas and a fireplace await you out back.

Booze 4/5
11 different beers including Moo Brew, Hightail and and Hargreaves ESB.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes

The Napier Hotel, 210 Napier St, Fitzroy

Size 4/5
Big without being grotesque. Enough to satisfy two moderately hungry feather-weights.

Taste 7/10
Beneath its humble exterior lies a surprisingly good parma. Decent ham with Napoli sauce and cheese that does not look or taste like fake rubber vomit. Result!

Cost 4/5
$18

Sides 7/10
You'll get a generous serving of fresh, well dressed garden salad with medium sized chips on the side. These chaps are a tasty group and we're a little sad to see them go.

Venue 4/5
This is a rock and roll pub where the service is indifferent without being surly. Stick around for the bands later on and you may feel like you’ve experienced a sublime musical moment or walked into somebody else’s rehearsal space.

Booze 3/5
Eight of the usual suspects on tap.

Does the venue show the footy?
Free to air games are shown in the front bar with subtitles.

The Town Hall, 33 Errol St, North Melbourne

Size 5/5
Their triple parma may be a thing of the past, but 300 grams of chicken is still a lot of bird.

Cost 4/5
A fair cop on the chin at $20.

Taste 7/10
Quality ingredients in good proportions. To paraphrase Mo from The Simpsons, it’s like a party in your mouth and everyone’s getting along rather well.

Sides 7/10
This beast comes with a generous bowl of fresh garden salad and well-cooked medium cut potato chips that can easily be inserted into anyone’s mouthhole.

Venue 3/5
Wednesday night is Parmarama, with ten different Parmas to choose from including the Johnny Cash and the drunken kebab. If you like trivia nights that involve knowledge of last week’s issue of Zoo magazine, this may be the pub for you.

Booze 3/5
A modest selection of beers that covers all the bases.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes

Albion Hotel, 146 Evans St, Port Melbourne

Size 4/5
About the size of a small head turned faceways.

Taste 6/10
Here is a parma that ticks all the boxes but doesn’t stand out in any particular category. Good proportions and solid ingredients but nothing flash here. The word ‘fine’ comes to mind.

Cost 4/5
$20

Sides 6/10
A generous serving of garden salad helps keep your insides moving in the right direction. Your affection for the chips will depend on how you feel about crinkle-cut fries. 

Venue 5/5
Northcote Social Club is the only Lady Gaga endorsed pub in the city of Darebin and one of Melbourne’s best live-music venues, booking quality local and international artists all year round. 

Booze 3/5
Six beers on tap including Fat Yak and Cascade Pale. The long tables make this a jug friendly venue.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes.

Northcote Social Club, 301 High St, Northcote

Size 3/5
While still big enough to keep a medium sized Hells Angel happy, this is one of the more modest servings.

Taste 7/10
After hearing that the Exchange had won an award for a parma that boasted two different cheeses, champagne ham and house-made Napoli sauce, we're really looking forward to this. The chicken is cut thick, the crumbs and ham excellent but the famous Napoli sauce is nowhere to be seen on our visit, and by the end of the meal we feel like we've just watched an all-star football team play their worst game for the season. A great ensemble cast, poorly executed.

Cost 3/5
$25.90

Sides 6/10
Without a doubt this is our favorite salad of the tour, but is there anything more disappointing than an undercooked chip?

Venue 3/5
A beautiful building with white walled décor so stylishly minimalist it's practically imperceptible. A great place if you enjoy playing “pick the surgery.” Depending on the night you could catch a top 40 DJ or an acoustic cover act mumbling their way through a set of 90s rock classics.

Booze 4/5
All the usual suspects and then some with 15 beers on tap.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes.

The Exchange Hotel, 39 Bay St, Port Melbourne

Size 5/5
At 500g of chicken per plate this is by far the largest parma we encounter and also explains the existence of double doors throughout the venue.

Taste 5/10
The Skinny Dog parma looks amazing but falls down in the taste department. Not enough Napoli sauce means that after the first few mouthfuls you're left with an enormous amount of chicken and cheese with no happy ending in sight.

Cost 3/5
$25

Sides 6/10
You may not win friends with salad but a parma this size needs a generous bit of green to keep the vital organs intact. Yet unlike the obscene slab of chicken, this salad is too easily demolished and comes with no noticeable dressing. The small bowl of beer battered chips are some of the tastiest we've come across but we're left wanting more.

Venue 2/5
The place may be called skinny dog but big is the theme here. If you arrive on a busy night, try and snag one of the big booths – the dining area might make you feel as if you’ve inadvertently stepped into a family restaurant during school holidays. Parmageddon is every Thursday and for $20 you can choose between 6 different toppings including the Angry Nadahl and the Fat Pom (mashed potatoes and mushy peas) amongst others.

Booze 4/5
With 12 beers and two ciders to choose from, you really do have first world problems if you’re not happy here.

Does the venue show the footy?
Yes

Skinny Dog Hotel, 155 High St, Kew

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First published on . Updated on .

By Gram Morris   |  

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