Where? - 333 Smith St. Fitzroy (corner Johnston & Smith St)
Price? - $21. Tuesday Parma Night available
Website? - http://birminghamhotel.com.au/
Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Nikki, Stefo
And we're back! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday break brimming with quality parmas.
2016 is upon us, and while we discovered some outstanding birds last year I was a little perturbed that there wasn't a single shake-up to our top ten. 2015 was the first year since the inception of this website that the ten highest rating parmas didn't change at all - So I resolved that '16 was the year of the big guns.
No more picking locations based on how far I have to travel because its been a long day at work, no more picking pubs because there's a comic shop around the corner I want to check out ... None of that nonsense any more. Only the highest recommended parmas on the cards this year - We're gonna kick the search for the perfect parma into high gear... First on the list? The Birmingham.
A couple of years back I looked into trying the Birmingham, but the word on the grape vine was that it was mediocre at best, it was on the list for sure - but not a priority.
Then the recommendations started rolling in.
Towards the end of last year it seemed like every week we were getting an email asking us to try the Birmy, as our schedule was quite packed with pubs to try I kept putting it off, but after another five recommendations over the off season I knew it had to be first cab off the rank in the new year.
So last night we loaded up the parma bus for the first time in 2016 and headed to the Birmy.
Walking in I was blown away at the contrast between outside the pub and inside. Outside looks like your standard Fitzroy dive bar - Inside is a whole new story. Polished wood everywhere, plush leather stools - it's a bright and vibrant pub with a rustic feel that you'd never imagine looking at it from the street.
The Birmy is a pub of many rooms. To the left of the main bar was a large open space (currently hosting a function) that I imagine to be a dining room. To the right of the bar is a walk through to the "Workshop", a high roofed space that was brimming with tables already booked out for the Thursday trivia night. Past that is a small outdoor ground-level courtyard featuring a large TV for those keen on watching the game - and above that is a quaint rooftop beer garden.
We would've snapped up a table on the rooftop had Melbourne's weather, the harsh bi-polar mistress that she is, not been so unpleasant - So instead we grabbed a stool at one of the solid wood tables by the bar.
Grabbed a menu and spied our prize...
Easy done. Ordered at the bar.
The Birmy has a great range of beers on tap, running the full gamut from Draught to Craft - enough to keep anyone happy. The "beer of the month" was $8 pints of 4 Pines, so that was the beer du jour for the day.
After a 20 minute wait, the parmas arrived from the kitchen and ... Holy crap....
As soon as the birds hit the table I knew we were in for something special, and slicing through the schnitzel my suspicions were confirmed.
The chicken breast was plump, thick and unfathomably juicy. Pure white and cooked to perfection. When it comes to foundations for a quality parma this is how you do it. My only (very minor) criticism for the entire dish would be that the bottom of the parma got quite soggy towards the end - I think as a result of the sheer juiciness of the chicken.
On the subject of crumbs they were well cooked, crunchy (before the aforementioned sogg got to them) and had a fantastic flavour.
The toppings? Also stellar. Lets start with the ham - Straddling the line between sliced and shredded, it was in absolute abundance and carried a brilliant smokiness that permeated the dish and complimented the chicken perfectly. The napoli was fresh and light - Making its presence known without overpowering the other elements. The cheese was applied super liberally, there wasn't a single scrap of schnitzel nudity - Melted to golden brown perfection.
I literally cannot find fault with the toppings of this parma
The chips? Another victory. Beer battered, golden brown beauties - and plenty of them. The sauce pot you can see on the plate above comes standard with the parma for chip-dippage (no need to ask) and when the parmas hit the table we were asked if we also would like some garlic aioli to go with it. Hell yes we would like some garlic aioli! You can never have too many options for chip dip. Phenomenal.
The salad was (you guessed it) another win. It didn't seem like much looking at it - Just a simple garden salad, yet the dressing which was thoroughly worked through carried a fantastic flavour. The ingredients were crisp, fresh and flavoursome without being overpowering - Everything you want out of a salad.
I'd pay the menu price of $21 for this parma any day of the week. This is easily a $25 parma - for $21 its an absolute steal. The menu and website mentions that the Birmy has a $10 Parma Tuesday, with some novelty options available at an extra charge -
If the Tuesday version is anywhere near the quality of the full priced version? I'd have no qualms calling this the best parma night in Melbourne. If you have the Tuesday version and its the same quality as the full priced be sure to let me know.
**UPDATE** The Birmy just got in touch to let me know that it is the same quality parma on $10 Tuesday as pictured above. Hot Diggity.
For the first parma of 2016 I wanted to come out swinging. Never did I expect this. You're going to see the scores in a moment so I think I'm okay to spoil the surprise - The Birmingham Hotel is the best parma we have had so far. I'm sitting here trying to pick anything I didn't like about it but I'm coming up empty. Even the things we don't score on were perfect (the service was absolutely outstanding, the range of beers was awesome and the general vibe of the pub was salubrious) - The constant recommendations I received last year actually make sense now.
It's also worth noting that there is an eggplant parma available for $19 for the vego's ... Although I'm guessing not many vegetarians would read this far into a review about a chicken parma, good to know its there.
The rest of 2016 has its work cut out for it if this is where we set the bar. The Birmingham's parma is nigh on perfection. I can't describe in words how well this bird hit the mark - If you haven't tried it yet get down there now - I can't recommend it enough.
Parma - 9.38
Chips - 9.13
Salad - 8.88
Value - 8.75
Total - 9.10
The search continues...