When? – 22/03/2012
Where? – Mrs. Parma’s, 25 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Price? - $23.50 for Chicken, $25 for Weiner Schnitzel, $19 for Eggplant
Website? - http://www.mrsparmas.com.au
Reviewers – Alek, Emma, Lee, Matt, Nikki, Ness, Stefo[/info]
Over two years ago, with the loss of The Prince of Wales Hotel still fresh in our minds, a group of mates headed out for a Wednesday night parma to … well, you all know the story by now.
But in March 2010 we headed to Mrs. Parma’s for our very first attempt, which you can read all about here. Looking back it was a bit of a shemozzle - We had booked a table for at least twenty people and only about fifteen turned up, we didn’t even decide to make a website until after parma beers and to be completely honest the photo of the parma used in the article was stolen from google image search.
Had our tastes changed? had our standards changed? had 87 parmas between then and now made us so sick of chicken and cheese the sight of which would make us want to vomit? Only time would tell. It was time to do Mrs. Parma’s justice - We have had many emails from readers asking to give it another chance, so another chance we gave it. We loaded up the Parma Bus, got her up to 88 miles per hour and headed back in time two years, Back… To Mrs. Parma’s.
To anyone planning on visiting Mrs. Parmas, be aware - it’s a very busy establishment, I only managed to secure our 7pm booking on the proviso that we would be off the table by 9, and even at 7pm the place was already at capacity, both at the tables and a large crowd at the bar scrambling to get a taste of the many microbrews on tap. One thing Mrs. Parma’s gets points for is its constantly rotating beer selection - there’s always something new to try for lovers of a good brew.
We took our seats and perused the menu, as expected we had a big choice ahead of us - go with a novelty parma or stick with the original? Opinion was split around the table, but to get a good idea of what was available at Mrs Parma’s we split it up, Reviewers Stefo, Nikki, Matt & Alek went original, Ness decided on the Roasted Pumpkin, Emma with the Calabrese and I stuck with the parma I had my first time around … The Mexican.
There were plenty of other choices on the menu, including the option to have any of the parmas on either Chicken, Eggplant or Wiener Schnitzel…
It was a decent wait before our parmas came out of the kitchen, nothing major but there was definitely a few questioning glances towards the kitchen door before our food started to file out, possibly due to the extreme business of the place … however for a restaurant that basically exclusively serves parmas, you’d think a pretty speedy construction line would be in place, but I digress. Back to the parmas.
The Original -
The Mexican -
The Calabrese -
Okay I’ve got to break this down, And be aware that I’ll be focussing on the Mexican parma for a majority of this description.
The schnitzel was a decent size, real, quality chicken breast but pounded relatively thin, the crumbing was inoffensive, it was well cooked and there was good cheese coverage - these all sound like positives, however before I get to the mexican topping I will say that so far every ingredient listed just tasted kind of bland - everything was present, but absolultely nothing wow’ed me. So far the Mrs. Parma’s parma was extremely Disney - A perfectly mildly entertaining meal, but carefully designed not to be offensive to anyone.
The mexican toppings saved this parma for me, The guacamole, salsa and sour cream worked great together, and the jalapenos gave it the extra kick that turned it into a rather enjoyable parma, however a good parma shouldn’t need novelty toppings to make it good, it should be able to support itself on its own merits and the novelty toppings be considered a bonus. The opinions of those around the table who ordered the Original parma weren’t as kind as mine, without the novelty toppings their chicken was, while serving its purpose as a foodstuff, devoid of any substance. To throw the worlds most obscure movie reference at you, like in “The Langoliers” when they eat the food from the past, it carried no flavour, no substance … no life.
And then the guy that played Balki Bartokomous got eaten by a floaty cannonball with teeth.
You’re not running… you’re scampering.
But I digress… To the ParmaCam!
[youtube id="rIL7H-KMJNw" width="580" height="337"]
Next up were the chips -
Now if you remember the last Mrs. Parma’s review, you’ll remember that we were a tad miffed that between the 15 reviewers at the table we only got three bowls of chips and three bowls of salad. Since I made that complaint a lot of the emails I have received from readers have claimed that, although we only got three bowls of chips, that the bowls were in fact bottomless and staff should have swapped them over for fresh bowls for us. I was very interested to put this to the test, so when our two bowls of chips between seven parmas arrived we were sure to dig in quickly and leave an empty bowl, but more on that later.
But were they good? Not too shabby!, well cooked and spiced up with a bit of chicken salt they were perfectly good chips, however the whole act of sharing two bowls of chips between seven people is just awkward. Sure we’re all friends, but putting communal chips brings up all sorts of social questions - are fingers okay? What if I take too many and don’t leave enough for everyone else? who gets the last chip? can I put sauce on them?
To keep the obscure movie references going I felt like I was in a cruel “Cube“-like social experiment where one wrong move could get my face burned off with acid.
With two empty bowls on the table a staff member came around to clean up one of the empty plates left by a particularly hungry member of our group, others were still tucking into their parmas and could quite easily have needed more chips and salad… but no chips or salad came.
If these chips are truly “bottomless” then I shouldn’t have to ask for a refill, they should be on top of it as the last chip leaves the bowl. Chalk it up to either bad service or that the “bottomless chip bowl” was just a legend, but two bowls of chips between seven people is simply not good enough. Especially when I am paying $23.50 for the privilege
Now to the Salad -
Surprisingly, the salad was damn tasty, a simple yet understated garden salad of lettuce, onion and tomato with plenty of delicious dressing. However it was plagued with the exact same issue as the chips, the bowl was empty in minutes yet no refill ever came, sounding like a broken record here, but for $23.50 its just not good enough, especially when I can look over a table and see a party of two enjoying bowls of chips & salad the same size as the one that I have to split with three and a half people for the same price. I simply don’t think thats fair.
After we finished up our meal we kind of all sat around in stunned silence, the parma had both equal good points and bad, it was like flipping a coin and have it land on its side edge.
The schnitzel was great quality chicken, but the toppings were bland. Both the chips and the salad were quite nice, however the awkwardness of having to share left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth, If the stars had aligned I truly wouldn’t have been surprised if the score came out as an even 5.00. However that wasn’t the case, and the total came out to be 5.85, perhaps the fact that the Mrs. Parma’s logo is literally a pair of giant breasts tipped the scales in their favour.
In the end I am glad we revisited Mrs. Parma’s, with 87 parmas in between I think its pretty safe to say our tastes have matured, and it definitely scored better than the first time we visited. I just wish we could’ve ended up with a result that wasn’t so damn neutral. I guess in the end the big question is … is it good?
All I know is my gut says “Maybe”.
Parma - 6.33
Chips - 4.50
Salad - 7.00
Value - 5.08
Total - 5.85
The search continues…