Where? - 11 The Esplanade, St. Kilda
Price? - $19.50
Website? - http://espy.com.au/
Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Nikki, Stefo[/info]
In any conversation you have about Melbourne's live music scene The Esplanade Hotel is sure to come up. In fact, I bet if I Google "Melbourne's best live music venue's" the first article I find will mention the Espy ... Hold on ... Yes and yes.
It's a pub that I have long considered doing, and last week when I asked around the review team if they would be keen to go, the most popular response by far was "We haven't done the Espy yet?!" It seemed like an obvious one, one we should've done in the first month, let alone on our five year anniversary (Oh, and in case you missed it, this week marks 5 years of ParmaDaze being a thing. Woo!)
So we didn't waste any more time - Last night we loaded up the parma bus and headed to St. Kilda Esplanade and the jewel in her crown - The Esplanade Hotel.
The Espy just screams "live music venue". Gig posters everywhere, black painted walls, torn & mismatched furniture and musical equipment being loaded in and out constantly (either that or someone was just stealing drum sets and we did nothing to stop him).
There's a couple of pool tables and arcade machines out the back of the main bar if you're so inclined, but for our parma we opted to eat downstairs, in the cosy Espy Kitchen. There were menus on the tables upstairs so I assume the food menu is also available up there - but I can't be sure.
We found our table, grabbed the menu and spied our target for the evening -
We ordered our parmas and a beverage. Beer selection is pretty grim in the Kitchen, if you aren't happy with Pure Blonde, Draught, VB, Fat Yak or Cascade you're going to struggle. I ordered a pint of Pure Blonde but was reminded (I've been here before, but always in a much less sober state than I was last night) that they don't serve pints at the Espy, only pots or jugs.
We grabbed our pots and returned to the table. Our very sticky table that was in desperate need of a wipe down. Something about the Espy wasn't filling me with confidence that this was going to be good, I was mentally preparing myself for heart shaped processed crap - Which was why, 10 minutes later when these parmas fell to the table, I was in shock...
Holy crap these parmas looked good! Not to mention damn photogenic, the photos came out great. Which is why you're probably going to have a hard time believing me when I say they were quite a let down.
Cannot fault their use of real chicken breast, not a piece of processed crap in sight, it was real, thick, chicken breast - kudos on them for that. But there was a lot of nude schnitzel around the edges, which I can forgive at times if the schnitzel can hold its own without the toppings - this one didn't. It was as bland as cardboard, and very dry. The crumbs were an odd mixture of both crunchy and soggy and were in desperate need of a bit of seasoning - everyone at the table reached for the salt & pepper shakers straight away.
The toppings weren't much better. I had to check and see if the ham was there as I just couldn't taste it, the napoli wasn't pure tomato paste, but also didn't add much to the dish. The cheese was actually pretty good, kept its consistency well and grilled to perfection.
Don't get me wrong, the parma was edible, but it was like someone had sucked all of the flavour out of the dish, every bite was just more and more nothingness. I will say that the thickness of the chicken definitely helped, I struggled to finish the whole thing - it'd be hard to walk away from this one still hungry.
A bit of a spoiler for the salad section next, but the chips were the best thing on the plate. Beer battered, crunchy on the outside, pillowy potato inside - This is how I like my chips and they nailed it. My only criticism is that I wanted more, that might just be me being greedy but I felt like I could do with at least another half-handful. Other than that a sauce or aioli pot would've taken these boys to the top.
Like the parma, the salad was quite "meh". Garden salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion tossed through some balsamic. It served its purpose and I appreciated the separate bowl, just nothing to write home about.
For $19.50 I wouldn't be rushing out to have this parma again, The price is reasonable but the flavour just isn't there. However the Espy does run a $14 parma night on Mondays with novelty toppings - I think this would be the only way I'd recommend it, because if you took the parma we had, throw some hot salami and jalapenos on top and you'd get the whack of flavour this parma so desperately needed. That'd be my recommendation - Worth a crack on parma night if you get it with novelty toppings.
This parma was a roller coaster of emotions. I was excited, then worried, then excited again, then let down, then there were tasty chips, then there was a bland parma. It was all over the shop.
One thing you can't fault the Espy on though - It's still an amazing live music venue, an icon of Melbourne and its definitely worth checking out just for that, I just wish they'd start stocking bloody pint glasses.
- Great chips
- Thick, unprocessed chicken breast
- Flavourless, bland schnitzel
- Flavourless, bland toppings.