When? - 4th of October, 2014
Where? The Shamrock Hotel, 579 High St, Echuca
Price? - Fluctuates depending on topping choice, Most between $23 and $26
Reviewers – Adam, Al, Cale, Emma, Grace, Janet, Kylie, Lee, Nikki, Ness, Shanan, Stefo, Tony
I'm gonna try and make this intro as quick as possible, just because I know you're probably not interested in it at all and just want to find out how the parma is, but here goes -
Back in 2012 when we hit our hundredth parma review I was in absolute awe. In awe that our little website had been going for one hundred parma reviews. I was filled with appreciation for everyone that helped make my stupid little project possible. The mates who come out every week to support the site and fork over their hard earned cash to parma night, with every possibility it will be an absolute stinker and a waste of money, If it weren't for them even a hundred parmas was a dream.
Secondly was the appreciation for you guys, the readers, I check the analytics for this site quite often and seeing the ticker go up every time a new review is posted just makes my day - Without your support we never would've made it as far as we have.
That was how I felt at 100 parmas, so take those feelings and double them. I'm trying to keep the sappyness of this intro as low as possible, but I honestly can't believe how lucky I am that all you folks keep coming back every week, and I thank you all for it.
Phew! Alright, now that thats out of the way, lets get to some parmas!
Saturday morning we loaded up the parma bus (and by "Parma Bus" I mean 5 separate cars in a convoy, obviously) and hit the road, Champing at the bit to get to Echuca - However at the 1 hour mark I was getting a little hungry - and to be honest a beer or two wouldn't go astray either, so we stopped at a lovely looking pub on the Northern Highway, The Tooborac Hotel
Where has this pub been all my life?
The Tooborac Hotel is one of those pubs that makes you consider buying property in the country just to be closer to it. A down to earth country pub with ample outdoor seating room, an amazing beer garden (complete with live music stage) out the back, solid pub grub and the Pièce de résistance - their own brewery.
How's the serenity...
We pulled up a pew out in the beer garden (the weather for the weekend was turning out to be absolutely stunning) grabbed a beer and checked the menu. Now I knew I was having a parma that very night, and I didn't really want to double up, but one particular item on the menu did grab my eye...
Thats right, you're looking at a Chicken Parma Pizza.
I've heard rumors of a parma pizza going around in the past, but this was my first, and what a place to pop my parma pizza cherry than in this gorgeous location.
How was it? Delicious, and I loved the addition of a side salad to make it that little more parma like - one suggestion? Go the whole hog and serve it with a bowl of chips as well, really sell the idea that you're getting a parma, just on a pizza base.
After seeing how good the food at the Tooborac was I was a little dismayed that I didn't at least get to check out the parma, luckily reviewer Tony had no qualms about doubling up on parmas in a day, so I got to at least get a look at what the Tooborac has to offer -
Topped with shredded ham, bacon and caramelised onions it definitely looked like a tasty treat - I snuck a bite and confirmed, it definitely had potential. I'm looking for excuses to come back to this pub so I'll definitely say we're gonna come back for a proper review, its only an hour out of Melbourne so definitely do-able for a day trip!
The staff at the Tooborac were also fantastic, super friendly service with a smile, the owners were even happy to give us an impromptu behind the scenes tour of the brewery so we could take a peek at where their fantastic beers came from! (while we were there I tried most of the selection, I must say their limited edition porter was damn tasty).
After three or so pints we bid a fond farewell to the Tooborac and hit the road once more (always be responsible and have designated drivers kids, much to the annoyance of those behind the wheel only the passengers indulged in the oh-so-delicious Tooborac beers).
About an hour and a half later we rolled into Echuca and checked into our motel. Our booking wasn't until 7pm but those beers at the halfway point had tickled my drinking bone so we decided to hit the pub a little early.
We arrived at around 4:30 and snagged a table in the massive beer garden out the back. I'll say it from the get go - I loved the Shamrock, it had a fantastic country pub vibe that, despite being called "The Shamrock", wasn't too heavy handed on the "faux Irish" vibe that some pubs can fall victim to *cough*bridieoreilley's*cough*.
As I mentioned, the back of the Shamrock opens up to a very impressive beer garden space with an abundance of tables, projector screen, outdoor bar (that wasn't open at the time, but it was there) and a spot where there should be a pool table, but it was conspicuously missing the weekend we were there. It was around 4:30 when we first pulled up a pew at the Shamrock and our table booking wasn't until 7pm, but to be frank I was glad we had some extra time - as the menu at the Shamrock is a sight to behold...
The double-sided A3 page of options was overwhelming, 101 options to choose from (including several desert options, but we'll get to those later). We got the menus at 4:30 and it honestly took right up until we ordered for everyone to make a decision, just when you think you see one that sounds good another one will catch your eye that looks better.
Now the menu on the Shamrock website seems slightly out of date, the prices are a little higher in real life and the website menu mentions a selection of options for type of schnitzel before picking your topping - which doesn't seem to be an option any more, but to get an idea of the amazing selection of parmas available, take a look at this -
Now, when a range of novelty parmas such as this comes up, as tempting as it is to stray, I try and stay pure and go with the traditional, as if you can't do a traditional right what is the point of piling it with a bunch of other nonsense? I told all the other reviewers they could order whatever they choose, but I stuck with the traditional pub parma. As it had turned out to be such a gorgeous evening we forwent our reserved table outside and (with the permission of the staff, of course) decided to stay outside and enjoy our meals in the beer garden.
We all placed our orders and took our seats. Now if you're planning on visiting the Shamrock I have to say that bookings are essential - I ducked back in to get a pint shortly after 7 and the place was absolutely chock-full, the queue to order a parma was out of the bistro, down the hall and past the front bar ... almost out of the door of the pub! So be prepared to have a booking or get there bloody early.
After about 15 minutes our parmas began to trickle out of the kitchen - There were 13 of us in the group, so completely understandable that they all didn't arrive at the same time.
Now there are gonna be a lot of photos, We didn't get to capture all of the ones ordered, but we got a few. The sun had gone down at this point so apologies for the artificial lighting ... Here we go.
The Traditional pub parma -
Cross section of the Traditional -
The Meat Axe (Ham, bacon, salami, chorizo, bolognaise, sausage, napoli, cheese, & BBQ sauce)
Cross section of the Meat Axe -
The Merry X-Mas (Turkey, ham, cranberry sauce & cheese)
The Sicilian (Hot salami, chilli napoli, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, roasted capsicum, mozzarella)
The Texas T (Bacon, BBQ Sauce, Jack Cheese & onion Rings) -
The Southern Blues (ham, BBQ sauce, yam mash, jack cheese & onion rings) -
Tuna Mornay (Schnitzel topped with tuna mornay & cream sauce) -
Plus a bunch of others I didn't get a photo of, but you get the idea.
Now, as I had the traditional parma, the following comments are going to be about that - for individual opinions check the reviewer quotes further down.
I had massive hopes for this parma, and to be honest I was a little underwhelmed.
My biggest problem was the schnitzel. It was well cooked and decent quality chicken - but the crumbing was far too thick (if you scroll back up past the multitude of other photos and take a look at the cross sections you'll see what I mean) which gave it a bit of a processed feel. The ham was plentiful, but didn't carry a whole lot of flavour, and the cheese was okay - but nothing to write home about, same goes for the napoli also. I found myself looking around the table at everyone else's offering of amazing toppings stacked to the sky and couldn't help but feel short changed.
It wasn't bad, but for a place that touts itself as THE place to go for parmas I was surprised that their standard parma effort was a little lacklustre.
The chips were pretty good, standard pub chips, but they were well cooked and seasoned - served under the parma, but this never really bothered me too much as I'd rather have more chips and more parma as opposed to shrinking everything down to fit it all onto a plate. The serving size of the chips seemed to fluctuate a fair bit from plate to plate, but my serving was quite healthy.
The salad was also pretty standard. It was fresh, all the ingredients were top notch, but it wasn't really memorable - a fine accompaniment to the meal, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
Value-wise? Hmmm, I'd say stick to the novelties as $23 for the basic parma I got seemed a tad pricey, on the other hand if you visit the Shamrock on your birthday and show ID you get a Traditional parma absolutely free of charge - Which is a great deal in anyone's language.
I'm in two minds about the Shamrock parma - One half of my brain is telling me to not be so nitpicky, that I'm missing the point and that the novelty toppings are part of the fun - That the spectacle of seeing one of these 101 off-the-wall amazing parma creations come out of the kitchen is worth the trip on its own, and part of me believes that! I had an amazing time going through the menu with my mates, weighing the options and getting the opinions of "what one are you getting?" It was amazing fun and I'd definitely go back and see what other unbelievable combinations I missed the first time around.
Yet the other half of my brain is saying "If you can't get a basic parma right, whats the point of all the novelty nonsense?"
I guess thats up to you to decide. Like I said I had an amazing time at the Shamrock and would recommend every parma fan reading this to check it out at least once ... but go for the novelty and give the traditional a miss, Its much more fun that way.
We finished up the mains but weren't quite satisfied, I mentioned the desert parmas earlier in the review ... Something about chicken schnitzel topped with sweets just seemed so wrong, yet so right at the same time. I didn't want to commit to an entire desert parma to ourselves, but we ended up ordering a communal one so we could just see what it was like...
The Parmadamia (schnitzel with caramelised macadamia nuts, butterscotch sauce & vanilla ice cream) -
I don't know what I was expecting with this, but I had to give it a try. I took up the cutlery and dug in...
To be honest ... It was actually pretty good.
It was different. Unlike anything I've had before - but it was actually pretty damn tasty. I don't think I could finish a full one as it was extremely rich, but I'm definitely glad I had a taste, just be sure you've got someone to split it with if you want to give it a go.
We got quite comfy in the Shamrock beer garden. Before we knew it it was midnight and the beer garden was being packed up around us ...
We retired to our respective motel rooms, very seedily hit up the Beechworth Bakery the following morning for hangover food and headed back to Melbourne, waving at an extremely busy Tooborac Pub as we passed by. Parma 200 accomplished!
I'd better wrap this up as I've been going on for ... holy crap 2200 words... If you've read this, you're awesome - and thanks again for your support these past 4 and a half years!
Now the question is ... Where the hell are we gonna go for parma 300?!