When? - 12th of November, 2015
Where? - 252 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
Price? - $23.90
Website? - http://www.unionhotel252.com.au/
Reviewers – Chase, Fridge, Lee, Shanan, Stefo, Tony
Yep, you read right - this is our first re-redo.
The first reason being that the Union has just undergone a massive renovation. The rarely used corner section of the pub has been completely transformed into a new cocktail-focussed space dubbed "The Other Bar"
With a completely different vibe to the other areas of the Union, it has more of a tapas menu than anything else, although the full bistro menu is also still available should you not be able to get a table anywhere else.
The second (and most important) reason why the Union is getting a review trifecta, is that Reviewers Tony and Grace are tying the knot this weekend, and last night, our usual parma night, we had their wedding rehearsal in Ascot Vale - So rather than skip parma night due to our wedding related commitments, we opted for the next best thing - finding the closest possible pub to the church (the Union) and and hightailing it over as soon as we were done... Which is exactly what we did.
We arrived at the Union at around 7:30 to find the Bistro absolutely packed - Thursday is $15 steak night, which is apparently a very popular deal. Unable to get a table in the Bistro we opted to sit in the aforementioned newly renovated "Other Bar", which I preferred, to be honest, I really like what they've done down there.
Now, so you don't have to re-read two completely different reviews (although you should, so I get the 0.001c advertising revenue), a quick recap of our history with the Union's parma.
The first time we had it, it wasn't the best. I remember our table of fourteen reviewers sat in the beer garden out the back and watched the Wednesday (we did parmas on Wednesday back then) poker tournament happen around us. The schnitzel was quality despite being quite soggy, although the napoli had a "funky" taste that I couldn't quite put my finger on, and the garden salad was mostly onion.
When we heard in 2013 that the Union had upped their game, we were excited. Word came round that the Union were trying to replicate the nearby Jimmies parma and offer three types of salad, as well as a vastly improved parma - and it was a disaster. The chicken was almost identical. Same soggy crumbs, same packet ham, same "funky" taste, however this time it was served practically stone cold. The trio of salads were a mixed bag, the potato salad was awesome, the rest were mediocre, and each was delivered in such a small serving that they could barely be enjoyed at all. It was the first case we had ever had of a score going down after a redo.
After some competently served bowls of chips and wedges as an entree that instilled a little hope that we might get an improved parma, we checked the menu -
Looks like the trio of salads has been nixed. A shame, as the potato salad was tasty. We ordered our parmas in the bistro and waited for their arrival.
As for beers the Other Bar has a few taps going, but nothing to blow your socks off.
We went with the Furphy for the night, quite a tasty drop - although the lack of pints (pots and schooners only) was a tad annoying. For those of you who enjoy your beers a little more on the craft side I did spy a few bottles of Two Birds in the fridge behind the bar in the bistro ... just nothing too crafty on tap.
About 15 minutes after placing our order, the parmas appeared from the kitchen. Before we get there, here's a quick recap of our last five years at the Union...
The Union 2010 -
The Union 2013 -
The Union 2015 -
The first thing I noticed - They have definitely solved their cold parma problem. This bird was served piping hot, to the point where I had to let it sit for a moment before sitting in - An improvement right out of the gate (although I did get a couple of ... lets say "extremely well done" spots around the edges).
The parma itself was still quite similar to how it was the last two times. Thick, quality chicken breast with a good crumb-to-chicken ratio. As always the crumbs were a little soggy on the bottom, but not quite as much as they used to be. The napoli seemed fresh and chunky and, for the first time, devoid of the unknown "funky" flavour that had plagued it the last two visits, although it was a tad sweeter than I normally like my nap.
The cheese coverage was solid and the slice of ham, although not adding too much to the flavour profile, was appreciated.
The chips were pretty much as they were last time, although not being served under the parma was appreciated. Unseasoned but well cooked. Not great, not bad.
As predicted the trio of salads has been ditched in favour of a standard garden salad. It was alright, the separate bowl was a nice touch. The ingredients were fresh and tasty - but it was still just a garden salad, although they didn't quite hit the mark with the three salads I would have preferred they try to improve on that rather than ditch the idea entirely.
In the five years since our first review the Union's parma has raised in price from $19.50 to $23.90. Thats a $4.40 raise in five years. Understandable with inflation and all that, although I said in our first review back in '10 that "$19.50 is up there on the parma-price scale, especially without a pot.", and I'd have to agree with my past self. $23.90 is a bit pricey for what we got, ironically enough I probably would have given this parma a lot more leniency had it cost its original price of $19.50.
From what I can gather there is a parma special on Tuesday night's that might be worth checking out.
Well it took three attempts and five years to do it, but the Union has definitely improved. It's still not fantastic, but definitely not as bad as it once was - Worth a crack if you're in the vicinity, if only to check out the very well executed renovations.
Don't worry, give it another two years and we'll be giving it a Re-Re-Redo, I'm sure.
- Quality chicken breast
- Finally sorted the "funky" napoli
- Panko crumbs a great addition
- Boring salad
- Boring chips
- Soggy crumbs