Where? - Southgate restaurant & Shopping precinct, Southbank.
Price? - $19.50
Website? - http://www.pjobriens.com.au/southbank/
Reviewers – Lee, Matt, Nikki, Shanan, Stefo, Tony[/info]
Our relationship with Irish pubs can best be described as "turbulent". We've had the good, we've had the bad, and we've had the ugly (and I know Elephant & Wheelbarrow is technically an English pub, but for the sake of argument I'm lumping them in the "faux United Kingdom style pub" category). Yes there have been one or two anomalies but in general the parmas at Irish pubs have been pretty mediocre across the board.
One time I remember being surprised at the quality of a parma at an Irish Pub was when we visited the P.J. O'Brien's at Melbourne Airport. It was a solid bird let down by disappointing sides, and far better than anything I would have expected to come out of a pub within an airport. Since that day part of me has always wondered "If the mini P.J's at the airport can produce something semi decent, surely the actual P.J's would be far better!
With St. Patricks day on Tuesday next week (aka. the most inconvenient day of the week to get drunk) we decided to kick things off a little early last night, so we loaded up the parma bus and headed to P.J. O'Brien's, Southbank.
If you've been into an Irish Pub in Melbourne then you pretty much know the deal at PJ's. Dark wood, dark furniture, random farming equipment strung up to the walls. There is a more sophisticated restaurant off the side of the main bar, but we decided to slum it and took our seats in one of the cosy snug's of the main area.
The beer selection is pretty bleak, if you're after anything fancier than a Fat Yak you're out of luck. Having said that, P.J's pours one of the prettiest pints of Guinness I have seen in my life - absolutely beautiful and a must try if you're a fan of the dark stuff.
Beers in hand we took a look at the menu -
If you're feeling like something a little off the wall there's also an "Irish Schnitzel" available, which is a schnitty with curry sauce - However the 6 of us remained traditional and went with the standard parma.
20 or so minutes later our meals arrived -
The schnitzel itself was probably the weakest part of the dish. Thick crumbs, thin chicken, the usual processed nonsense. It was cooked well, with no burnt or undercooked areas, however around the table it was likened to a giant chicken nugget, not a parma. Unfortunately P.J's was not off to a great start.
The toppings were a mixed bag. They weren't tight with the ham and (although there wasn't 100% coverage) there was plenty of cheese that did its job just fine. The napoli wasn't applied evenly, leaving some areas bone dry and others swimming, but the sauce itself tasted like straight leggo's tomato paste.
Chips were also very "meh". Decent serving but they were completely unseasoned - They were saved from being totally beige by the addition of an unsolicited sauce pot for dipping. Sauce pots are a small, easy touch that is greatly appreciated, especially when you don't even have to ask.
The salad, like the chips, was also not winning any awards. Your standard garden salad of lettuce, onion, cucumber and tomato (although some of us got a lot of tomato, others got none). It was fresh, crisp and didn't taste bad at all - but it was a boring side to accompany a pretty boring meal.
If P.J. O'Brien's ran a special parma night and served up the bird they did with a pot? I could probably forgive a lot of the sins this parma was guilty of - but $19.50 and no parma nights that I can see isn't great for what we received.
I like P.J's, It's got a good vibe, and if I lived anywhere in the area I'd probably be dropping in on Tuesday night for a pint in the name of Saint Patrick. Don't ask me why but it reminds me of a pub you'd find in a Casino in Las Vegas (I think its the lack of windows). Dinner in the snug was a great way to enjoy a meal with mates - I just wish the parma had've been better. Other than the processed schnitzel no element of the dish was bad, it was just bland as hell without any standout elements. If they took a hint from their brothers in Tullamarine and used a real piece of chicken I'd have a lot less to complain about, but as it stands I'd rather visit the airport P.J's for a parma as opposed to the Southbank location.
- Plenty of ham
- They know how to pour a great pint of Guinness
- Unsolicited sauce pots
- Processed chicken
- Mediocre toppings
- Mediocre everything.