Where - 873 Mt. Alexander Rd, Essendon
Price - $25
Website - https://www.royalhotelessendon.com.au
Reviewers – Lee, Nikki, Shanan & Ivy
Full disclosure - We had not planned to visit the Royal last night.
All week we had intended to visit a nearby restaurant that we had heard was slinging a killer parma, however when I called to book a table yesterday afternoon I found out that the parma had (sadly) been taken off the menu, and we had to switch to a backup location - The next closest spot was the Royal Hotel.
Now I know the Royal doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but it has been over eight years since we first dropped in for a review, so I figured a revisit was definitely due.
Sadly, the “Parma, Pot & Punt” deal of 2011 was no more (and I say “sadly” without a hint of sarcasm, that was one of the most unique parma night specials we have ever come across). We did the public bar the first time so I figured we might as well switch it up this week and grab a table in the bistro.
I was shocked at how busy The Royal was. 7pm on a Thursday night and we were struggling to get a table, as the place was pumping. We found a spot and checked the menu…
Fun fact - When the Royal first reopened back in the late 90’s it was as an AYCES all you can eat smorgasboard. My sister worked there both as wait staff and in the kids play area as a clown painting faces on the kids. I heard some true horror stories about the shit that went on with their food that turned me off buffet restaurants for a very long time…
Anyway, on to the beers!
While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive I had a chance to peruse the tap list in the front bar. All the usual suspects were there - Carlton, Furphy, 150 Lashes etc - I was surprised to find that they also had Stone & Wood on tap. A bit of a sidebar but I was at Skyways Airport West (another ALH pub) recently and they were also celebrating the addition of Stone & Wood to their lineup - Could it be that ALH has struck a deal with Stone & Wood? If true that might make their pubs that little bit more tolerable.
We started the meal with some cheesy garlic bread as an entree that was actually damn delicious, super garlicy and the reason my coworkers are keeping their conversations with me short today - But its hard to fuck up cheesy garlic bread, so the true test would be the parma that arrived 10 minutes later..
The first thing that struck me was the sheer amount of chips of the plate when the parma hit the table. Truly a gargantuan serving, but we’ll get to those in a minute.
The schnitzel was covered in so much cheese that I couldn’t see any chicken. Most of the parmas at the table were browned nicely but mine was the least photogenic of the bunch. We tucked in.
Once I found the schnitzel I discovered it was pretty good - Real chicken breast for a start. It was a little bit over-crumbed but not criminally so, there was so much topping on top that all semblance of crunch was gone from the crumbs. But the chicken was juicy and thick enough… I didn’t have high hopes for the Royal’s parma but this was actually a relatively decent base for the dish.
There were a lot of toppings on this parma. Cheese and napoli in spades. However it all tasted rather pre-made. The napoli tasted like straight up jarred pasta sauce. There was a slice of ham but it didn’t carry a whole lot of flavour. The cheese blend was surprisingly good - I like a cheddar-heavy blend to my parmas, it reminds me of the old Prince of Wales parma cheese blend, and the Royal’s cheese was definitely on that track.
As I mentioned before there were a lot of chips with our parma, and they were actually pretty good! They were your basic beer battered plank chips but they were served hot, well seasoned and there was a metric crapload of them. What more could you want? (actually a dipping sauce would have been lovely).
I didn’t enjoy my salad, purely because they forgot to put any dressing on it. Dry leaves, dry carrot, dry tomato, dry onion (and I found a single olive under my parma that I can only assume was supposed to be part of the salad) The other reviewers around the table however didn’t have their dressing forgotten and reported back pretty positively on it! A mistake no doubt, but still a bit annoying.
I think $25 for the parma we received is a bit on the pricey side to be honest. I’d call this a $20 parma, $22 max. I can’t see any specific “parma nights” advertised anymore, however Wednesday night is “$10 off all main meals” night, so surely the parma falls into that category.
The parma at the Royal is definitely better than I was expecting, but going in my expectations weren’t very high. It’s definitely one of the nicer meals I’ve had from an ALH pub, but its still an ALH pub. It has improved since 2011 and served its purpose as a last minute backup when our other plans fell through, but I won’t be quick to hurry back.