When? - 30th of July, 2015
Where? - 271 Victoria St. Abbotsford
Price? - $25, $1 extra to add jalapenos
Website? - http://www.aviaryhotel.com.au/
Reviewers – Fridge, Kylie, Lee, Nikki, Shanan, Stefo, Tony
I have racked my brain trying to remember how the Aviary Hotel landed on our list of parmas to try - I have checked my "suggested parmas" email folder but there is no mention, nor is their on any of the social media sites I frequent - It just sort of ... appeared.
Looking at the website earlier in the week I had a feeling this was gonna be a good parma. The vibe of the place seemed very similar to the Wolf & I, winners of our Parma of the Year award for 2014, and I did find one Instagram photo of the parma, in the background, behind a steak - and even then it looked good.
So we loaded up the parma bus and headed up Victoria Street, just beyond the bridge at North Richmond Station. Luckily I called ahead and booked a table as the pub was packed when we arrived at 7 on a Thursday. As predicted, the pub had a good vibe - It's not overly spacious, but there's enough room to move. A cosy fireplace crackled away beside the dining area and out the back was a very impressive beer garden, packed with both heaters and patrons on this chilly Melbourne evening.
We took our seats and checked the menu, there were a bunch of enticing options, but we knew why we were there...
After last week's Mexi-parma at Lost & Found I wasn't going to double up with jalapenos two weeks in a row, so I opted for the standard parma, as did reviewer Nikki - the other 5 did get the jalapenos, and reviewer Fridge went completely hardcore and got double jalapenos, a brave man.
The tap beer list won't blow your socks off, but its decent. Stone and Wood on tap is all I really need to see when I walk into a pub, other than that there was White Rabbit Dark Ale, Little Creatures Bright, Kirin and Boags, with a bunch of other stuff available in bottles - You'd have to be damn picky not to find something to wet your whistle at Aviary.
There was a bit of a wait for the parmas, I wouldn't say it was a bad wait, but there were definitely some worried glances towards the kitchen door, I'd say about 30-35 minutes all up.
The schnitzel was bigger than it looks in the photo. It was thick, the purest chicken breast, juicy as hell and served piping hot. It was conservatively crumbed (the crumbs were slightly soggy) however it was beautifully spiced. I don't know if it was lemongrass or straight up lemon juice, but the schnitzel had a very strong lemon tang that worked fantastically with the dish. There was a slight bit of schnitzel nudity but I completely didn't care as the schnitzel was so flavoursome on its own. A fantastic foundation for a parma.
The toppings were phenomenal. (yep, I said it, phenomenal) We haven't had a parma as bursting with flavour as this in quite some time - the house smoked ham was an absolute champion - teeming with smokey goodness that worked wonders with the lemon zest of the schnitzel. The cheese blend was great, golden brown and delicious (although I could have used a little more) - the biggest weakness was the napoli, I think the crumbs soaked up a lot of it and left it with a little less napoli sauce than I normally like - but this isn't a big complaint, as there was more than enough flavour to go around without it.
The chips were probably the weakest element on the plate. They weren't bad, but compared to how great everything else on the plate was I felt like they missed an opportunity to really bring this parma to the next level. Standard pub chips were well seasoned and well cooked (and plenty of them served mostly not underneath the parma so they stayed good and crunchy)
The salad was a breath of fresh air. Reviewer Stefo hit the nail on the head when he dubbed in "Sal-slaw", a hybrid of a garden salad and coleslaw. Like the parma it was full of flavour, fresh and delicious. If the parma wasn't so great I'd say the sal-slaw was the best thing on the plate. One of the better side salad's we've had in a good long while.
I'd normally turn my nose up at a $25 price tag ($26 with jalapenos), but the parma at Aviary was good enough to warrant the price tag. Care has gone into this parma, from the lemon zest in the crumbs to the house smoked ham. The ingredients were all top notch and I would have zero qualms shelling out another 25 clams to try this one again.
I feel like if Aviary had've sided the parma with a quality beer battered chip we'd be looking at a new listing in our top ten. It was quite possibly the best parma we've had so far in 2015 and its gonna be a tough one to beat before the awards in December. I was on the fence about getting the extra jalapenos with my parma as, well, jalapenos are delicious - However (although I like that they have the option to add them) I'm glad that I didn't get them - it just didn't need it, this parma is so bursting with flavour that the addition of jalapenos would have confused things. In saying this, they were pretty much universally well received around the table, so go with your heart on that decision. Jalapenos or no, Aviary Hotel is definitely a parma worth checking out. Give it a crack.
- House smoked ham had amazing flavour
- Top quality ingredients all round
- "Sal-slaw" was amazing
- A little light on the napoli
- Chips weren't up to the standard of the other elements on the plate