Attempt #118 - 'The Elephant & Wheelbarrow'


When? – 11/10/12

Where? – The Elephant & Wheelbarrow. 94-96 Bourke St. Melbourne

Price? - $22

Website? -

Reviewers – Adam, Cale, Fridge, Lee, Nikki[/info]

You know the feeling when everything is going according to plan, then all of a sudden the arse falls out of it and you’re back to square one?

That was me yesterday. Everything was on track for last night’s attempt - The voting was a success and we were heading to The Carlton on Bourke Street for a parma that we have been recommended to try many times. We had the place sorted, we had the attendees sorted, the last thing I needed to do was make a booking.

Thats when everything went wrong.

The friendly staff member informed me that due to “kitchen maintenance” The pub was on a limited menu - bar snacks only. No mains. No parmas.

It was scramble time, I brought up trusty google maps and scanned for a nearby pub, one of the first places I laid my eyes on was The Elephant & Wheelbarrow.

“Hmmm” I thought to myself. “British pub franchise … We haven’t had a great run with them. But how bad can it be?”. I didn’t have time to ponder, I called and made the booking. A couple of hours later we were walking into the Elephant & Wheelbarrow.

If you’ve been to one British/Irish pub franchise you’ve been to ‘em all, so I wont spend much time on description  but you know the deal. Dark carpet, extremely dark stained wood, farming equipment attached to the wall. They’re All The Same.

We scanned the menu, Found a parma…

And placed our order at the bar. Upon ordering we received one of these -

And it sparked a debate. They’re fairly common in franchise pubs, when your food is ready the digital coaster flashes red lights and vibrates, indicating that its time to go collect your meal.

I like em, they’re fun, and its like a mini game of chance predicting when it’s time to go and collect. And lets be honest, when it goes off you feel like you’re the winner of some awesome free food competition you are in with everyone else eating.

Yet others at the table weren’t as enthusiastic as me, they claim that since they are paying top dollar ($22, not cheap) for a parma, that they should bring the food the extra 3 metres from the collection area to the table themselves. We discussed this for awhile without reaching any real resolution, Our buzzer buzzed and we collected our meals.

Oh dear. Cover your shame, parma!

Plenty of nudity on display, leaving an overcooked (burnt around the edges), dry and kind of small prefab schnitz visible.

The napoli was creamy, almost orange in colour, it reminded me of the sauce you put on beef stroganoff. Plenty of it and it didn’t taste too bad, just the colour of it was odd and slightly off-putting. The ham was decent, plenty of it and carried a great smokey flavour.

There just wasn’t enough cheese, it was concentrated entirely on the single slice of ham and didn’t touch much of the parma at all.

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The chips were bland. They were well cooked, crunchy, but a little oily and like I said - Bland. Everyone reached for the salt shaker and when that wasn’t enough it was straight to the cutlery station to stock up on good ol’ tomato sauce, the ambrosia from the gods that can save any chip.

The salad was in a separate bowl, so points there. However the bowl was small and beyond the little drizzle of creamy dressing on the top the rest of it was pretty dry and uninteresting.

I’d be happy to consider this “The McDonalds of parmas” and move on. I didn’t have high hopes to begin with, we were in a franchised pub its natural to expect franchised food. Just don’t charge me $22 for the privilege. If your parma is nasty, you’ve gotta make it cheap & nasty to get away with it.

I wouldn’t travel far for this parma. If it were somewhere in the $10 - $15 dollar mark I might cross the street for it, but it’d have to be a fairly quiet street. Not a lot of traffic, perhaps with a pedestrian crossing.

We haven’t forgotten about the Carlton, I’m gonna give them a couple of weeks to overcome their kitchen issues, then revisit. In the meantime the polls are open on the facebook page - head over, and vote on where to send us next week!

Parma - 4.50
Chips - 3.90
Salad - 3.90
Value - 3.80
Total - 4.12

The search continues…

The Elephant and Wheelbarrow on Urbanspoon