When? - 26th of September, 2013
Where? - The Ascot Vale Hotel, 447 Mount Alexander Rd. Ascot Vale
Price? - $18
Website? - None
Reviewers – Cale, Dale, Fridge, Grace, Lee, Natalie, Tony, Stefo
*Update* This review is no longer valid. Check out our revisit to the Ascot Vale Hotel Here.
If you're unfamiliar with the story of why we do what we do, you'd better familiarise yourself now. Long story short we started the hunt for the perfect parma after our favourite pub meal was ripped away from us by the fire at The Prince of Wales Hotel in Ascot Vale back in 2009.
A stones throw from the Prince of Wales (known to the regulars as "Jimmies") is the Ascot Vale Hotel. Now back in 2009 The Ascot was ... how can I put this delicately?.. A hole. It was dark, sticky floors, basically a dive. I never in my wildest dreams would have considered trying a parma within its walls (it would have been particularly difficult, them not having a kitchen back then)
Jump cut to 2013. Jimmies is gone, we have been searching for a replacement for over 4 years, and now The Ascot is under new management - It's had a paint job, a few lights have gone in, most of the dank has been cleared away and - most importantly - they've put in a kitchen.
I was considering the Ascot for a couple of weeks when I was clued in to something interesting. The newly installed furniture at the Ascot is the same furniture that they had at The Prince of Wales. Now I'm not talking about the same design, I'm saying that The PoW sold their furniture to the Ascot after the fire and it now resides there. It was a sign, we had to try a parma on the very same tables that the best parmas ever to grace Melbourne were served on.
I never thought I'd sit at these tables again
The very first time I visited The Ascot was for a mate's 18th Birthday party, would have been ten years ago now. The one thing I remember more than anything was that behind the bar they had a single, unlabelled tap of "Beer". No brand, no options, just beer or nothing. I was happy to see they have improved their selection - nothing exciting, mind you (Carlton, VB, Blonde, Boags, Bulmers) but at least I know know what brand of beer I'm ordering this time around.
We took our seats, everyone was famished so we opted for an entree of garlic bread and an assorted dip plate ($10 for the dips, $5 for the GB).
The entrees were simple, understated and served their job well. Nothing to write home about but they definitely filled the void while waiting for our parmas to arrive.
Next up - The Main event...
I've seen Veal parmigiana as an option many, many times - Yet I've never seen "beef", not that It matters, we're pretty much exclusively chicken folk here at Parma Daze, we placed the order an awaited our parmas. It was a small kitchen so I excused them for taking a little longer than I normally would expect (got through most of a pint before the meals arrived) but fair enough for an order of 8 parmas out of a tiny cooking space.
Well. This is a new one.
Sure bolognaise parmas are pretty commonplace, yet I'm racking my brain and I don't think we've ever actually reviewed one for the site. Something clicked, on the Menu when it said "Chicken/Beef Parmagiana" did that mean its a Chicken and beef parma? (the bolognaise being the "beef"?) I never confirmed my suspicions, but that made a lot of sense. I've got nothing against bolognaise instead of napoli so with an open mind we tucked in.
As you can see a couple of us (myself included) had the "two smaller schnitzels stuck together with cheese" parma, which I don't particularly mind, its all the same in the end. The chicken breast itself was surprisingly thick, over an inch in places... but I'm afraid that's about where the positives end.
The whole thing was so dry. The chicken, while thick, had no moisture and was bordering on stringy. The bolognaise sauce was in the same boat, I don't mind a bit of bol, but you need to have some napoli mixed in with it otherwise all you have is tomato flavoured taco meat.
The crumbs were also a let down. I've referred to this type of crumbing before as "KFC crumbs" where the schnitzel itself resembles a KFC boneless fillet more than it does an actual schnitz - I'm not sure what these crumbs are made of, but they kind've form more of a skin over the chicken than they do individual crumbs. Not a fan.
There wasn't much cheese, and the cheese that was there was a very poor choice - I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but it definitely wasn't mozzarella. It tasted more like straight up melted tasty cheese - which is alright on toast, but on a parma its way too overpowering - If you want that tasty cheese zing on your parma you have to mix it in with mozzarella and make a blend. Straight up tasty cheese just killed it.
There were plenty of chips, and for the most part they were okay - other than needing a bit of salt half of them were fine. Unfortunately the other half were hard, almost raw, I tried to cut one with the edge of my fork and literally couldn't break through it. Not a good sign at all.
The salad was an afterthought, wilted lettuce leaves with a single slice of cucumber and a lone wedge of tomato. It did have plenty of dressing though, I'm a sucker for balsamic (the more the better) which saved this salad a little for me, but overall it was a disappointment.
For $18 you won't walk away hungry - but you wont walk away happy. It filled a hole but it wasn't an enjoyable experience - I definitely wouldn't seek this one out in the future.
The Ascot has done a lot of work to fix their pub up, and they definitely get and A for effort, yet I would avoid this parma at all costs. The entrees were fine, which gives me hope that some of the other items on the menu also have potential, So if you end up there maybe give one of those a go.
I just feel bad for the tables. If they knew what kind of parma was being served on them after once being host to the best parma in Melbourne... They would be screaming.
- Thick chicken breast
- Both chicken and bolognaise were extremely dry
- Cheese had extremely strong, off-putting flavour
- Chips were undercooked & hard
- Salad was an afterthought