Where? - Network Public Bar & Pizzeria. Southern Cross Station
Price? - $23.00
Website? - http://www.networkpublicbar.com.au/
Reviewers – Dale, Lee, Nikki, Matt [/info]
When I heard they had opened up a pub inside
Spencer st station Southern Cross Station, my interest was piqued. Something about the idea of sipping on a beer while watching trains come and go instantly appealed to me, I put it to the poll and it won by a landslide - apparently I'm not the only one who liked the idea of beers with Thomas the Tank Engine.
I called on Thursday afternoon to book a table and was told that they don't take bookings, even though the guy on the phone assured me there'd be free tables alarm bells were ringing - We have been "assured" in the past that there would be a place to sit at pubs that don't take reservations and have walked away disappointed and hungry. Keeping in the spirit of the parma we were going to take the train in but Melbourne's weather was being a bi-polar bitch so we opted for the comfort of the parma bus (although if you're planning on parking at the station be prepared to pay through the ass, try your luck at one of the other nearby parking structures if you don't want to pay $16 an hour).
We arrived at Network, as promised the place was mostly cleared out - The seating area inside is a bit drab, with the train departure board on the wall it gave off a bit of an 'airport departure lounge' vibe - so we opted to pull up a chair in the adjoining beer "garden". Yes the grass floor and greenery is all plastic and you're sitting under the massive roof of the station, but the atmosphere in the beer garden is infinitely better than that inside the building.
We checked the menu, Lots of italian-inspired fare here (not surprising as they bill themselves as a "public bar & pizzeria") out of the choices of pizzas, pastas and a few burger options the chicken parma was the most expensive item on the menu by $4, with nothing else listed going above the $19 mark.
"Fior di Latte" is just a fancy word for cheap mozzarella. I googled it.
We placed our order at the bar and got given one of those buzzer things that beeps and vibrates whenever the meal is ready to be collected from the kitchen. I am in two minds about these buzzer things. On one hand its kinda cool, its a bit of a novelty sitting and waiting for the thing to go off and when it does you feel like you've won Tattslotto a tiny bit. On the other hand collecting your own food is a pain in the ass, unless its bargain basement prices I'd think they could put on some wait staff.
Everything was self serve, after ordering at the bar and getting our buzzer we were directed to the condiment & cutlery station to gather supplies, again this was a mixed bag. There were heaps of condiment caddies (pictured below) with enough sauces to keep most people satisfied, but it would have been nice to have this brought to me, rather than struggling to carry the caddy, salt, pepper, knife, fork, napkin and pint back to the table.
It may be the 12 year old in me, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the beer garden, yes it was a little breezy but the heaters made short work of that, and watching the trains come and go was definitely soothing. Before long at all our buzzer buzzed and we went to the kitchen to pick up our parmas...
Of the four, mine was the only one to suffer from the terrible case of curly ham that afflicted my parma. The schnitzel was quite good, a decent thickness, beautifully crumbed with panko crumbs and cooked to a perfect golden crunch. It was tasty enough to enjoy without the toppings - a mark of a great piece of chicken.
The ham was flavourful, as was the spiced napoli (although it was a bit thick and pasty). The cheese was a bit bland, not really adding anything to the dish. I enjoyed the liberal shower of cracked pepper over the parma, however if you aren't a fan of pepper this is a pretty serious liberty to take - as the flavour of the cracked pepper permeated the entire dish.
I Enjoyed the parma a lot, although it was lacking that certain kick that would take it from a good parma to a great one, I think it needed some more spices through the napoli, or maybe just more napoli in general, either way these are minor complaints to a pretty solid bird.
The chips were a disappointment. When a pub serves shoestring fries (aka "Maccas chips") with their parma they are already off on the wrong foot, on top of that these tasted as if they were cooked half an hour before and left to sit in a bowl. The sauce caddy was used liberally to try and save them, but there's only so much tomato sauce can do.
A question - Can you call a salad a "salad" if it only contains one ingredient? The "house salad" accompanying this parma was nothing but a pile of roquette lettuce doused in dressing. Firstly, I cannot stand roquette salads, if I wanted my salad to taste like grass I'd just go eat the front lawn. Secondly, if you are going to do a roquette salad, put something else in it. On its own it just comes across as a lazy green lump. I will compliment their choice of salad dressing - it was tasty and would have been delicious on a salad with more ingredients.
Network seems to have a plethora of discount food nights on the calendar. Monday is 1/2 price pizza, Tuesday is 1/2 price pasta, Wednesday is 1/2 price Burgers, and Monday - Wednesday they offer a $5 snack happy hour - yet the only thing missing from the menu is a parma night! If this parma had've arrived at our table for $15 with a pot I would be shouting its praises from the rooftops, however for $23 it didn't have quite enough going for it to justify the price.
I liked the pub, I liked the parma. But Network fell short everywhere else, The chips were lacklustre and the salad was a train wreck (train wreck... get it?!) If you're at the station with time to kill then its definitely worth checking out for the quality parma alone - However I wouldn't be going out of my way to visit if I weren't going to the station for other reasons.
- Quality parma, amazing crispy crumbing
- Plethora of sauces and seasonings readily available
- Cold, unseasoned shoestring fries
- Salad is just roquette in dressing
Parma - 8.00
Chips - 4.00
Salad - 3.13
Value - 4.88
Total - 5.60
The search continues...