When? – 9/06/2012
Where? – The Commercial Hotel. 65 Grant St. Alexandra
Price? - $23 (unless stated otherwise)
Website? - http://www.commhotel.com.au/
Reviewers – Shanan, Grace, Ben, Ahmad, Pat, Nikki, Lee, Tony, Stefo, Adam, Janet, Ness, Kylie, Cale[/info]
**EDIT** After closing for a few weeks the Commercial has re-opened with new owners and has re-instated the famous menu of parmas. However word on the grape-vine is that they are not the same as they used to be - Reserving judgement until we can get back up there and give them another go!
**EDIT** As of the 28/11/2013 The Commercial Hotel has closed its doors and its menu of over 40 parmas is no longer available. You will be missed guys!
Before I begin with the review, I’ll get the initial stuff out of the way.
100 parmas! Holy shit!
The night before the review I was bored and did some calculations - I went through each Parma Daze review and counted how many attendees were at each then added them all together to get the grand total number of chicken parmigiana’s that have been ordered on behalf of Parma Daze. 709. Add the fourteen that were consumed on our hundredth attempt and it brings the total to 723 parmas. Good lord.
Now if you can assume that each parma is one chicken breast, and there are two breasts on a chicken, then that means 361 and a half chickens have given their lives in search for the perfect parma.
Now, A moment of silence to commemorate the fallen…
We have had an amazing time searching for Melbourne’s best parma, and it wouldn’t be possible without a few people that I want to say a quick thanks to -
To the Parma Daze review team! I know it can be a pain in the arse to get to the pubs some weeks, but I couldn’t do it without you guys!
To you! If you are reading this review, I thank you. It’s knowing that someone other than us weirdos cares enough about parmas to read about it every week that keeps us going.
Okay. So with that out of the way, its on to the review!
If you follow the Victorian parma-scene then you probably know about the Commercial hotel. In the two-and-a-bit years we have been running the site it has been suggested to me hundreds of times as ‘The best parma in Australia’, boasting a menu of over 40 different types of parma, it has been on our ‘to do’ list since day one.
We dragged ourselves out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning and headed to Budget rent-a-car. Now, I have mentioned the “Parma Bus” many times, and the first time that I did, I posted a picture that looked like this…
In reality, the parma bus looked more like this…
But we loved it all the same.
We loaded up the 12 seater Bus with 14 occupants (two of which sat on eskis at the back, shhhh!), Pumped ‘Venga Bus’ and began the two hour-ish drive north to Alexandra.
We were pushed for time as a stop at the bottle-o meant that we didn’t get on the road quite as early as I would’ve liked, which meant we only stopped one other time - for a pee break in King Lake.
At about 12:30 we rolled into a very busy Alexandra. Our original plan for parma #100 was to get accommodation in town, stay the night and have multiple parma’s over the long weekend, however due to unfortunate timing, the Alexandra Truck and Ute Show fell on the same weekend, and had the town completely booked out months in advance.
I had never been to Alexandra before, and it is absolutely gorgeous, the perfect country town where you can’t walk 100 meters without passing a different pub.
Alexandra, A beautiful spot.
We found the Commercial, and as we were running half an hour late for our booking, hurried inside. When I spotted this beside the door on the way past I knew we were in the right place.
If you read Parma Daze often, you will know that I am a sucker for a country pub. On entering the Commercial Hotel, I was in heaven. Open fires, countless hidden nooks for drinking and dining, pool tables and those break-open bingo cards, This is a pub that bleeds character, and if the walls could talk I would love to hear some of the stories it could tell.
The staff that greeted us were warm and friendly, even rocking up with two more than we had booked for was no problem at all (we can be a pain in the arse sometimes!) they did absolutely everything they could to make us feel welcome.
But enough of my jibber-jabber. To the parmas!
We took our seats and opened the menu to find three pages of parmas, I tried to take a photo of all the pages but it didn’t turn out quite well enough to post, so I grabbed the below from the pub’s website, just to give you an idea
if this is too small to read properly, click here for the full version
As usual, when it comes to places with novelty parma options, I went with the Traditional, as did a few others in our group, everyone else mixed it up a little so we got an idea of the full spectrum of what was available.
To kill time, while we waited the group took turns kicking ass on the claw-grabbing-candy-machine. We won so much chocolate, there is still heaps left over, if anyone wants any email me and I’ll send you some.
Then, the grand moment arrived, and our 100th parma hit the table -
And for the sake of completeness, I got the other reviewers to send me a photo of their parma -
The Obama Parma
The Slightly Nutty (Veggie Parma)
The Fun Guy
The Nacho Parma
For the hundredth time, we picked up our knives and forks, and dug in.
When I first saw the parma my initial thought was that it looked a little small - my initial thought was dead wrong. although small in circumference, the Commercial’s schnitzel is thick pure chicken breast, that hasn’t been pounded flat, and thus retains a heap of moisture, leaving a very juicy breast indeed.
The crumbs are fantastic, home made and not applied too liberally. There was plenty of freshly shaved ham, a heaping of cheese and a very tasty home made napoli that made this a fantastic piece of chicken, however something was missing. looking around the table and hearing the comments from the other reviewers, I couldn’t help but regret ordering the traditional parma and not going for one of the novelty options.
Normally when a pub offers novelty options for their parmas is it to hide the fact that their standalone parma simply doesn’t cut it. This is not the case with the Commercial hotel, the traditional parma is fantastic, one of the best I have ever had, but it fell just short of the mark of perfect. If I had to give a criticism I would say that the ham and cheese, while in abundant supply, were slightly tasteless, and the traditional parma was not the flavour explosion you would expect a number #1 parma to be.
It’s hard to convey tone when criticizing a parma via text, the Commercial hotel’s parma is absolutely fantastic, and if it weren’t a four hour round trip to get one, I would be here on a weekly basis!
The word from the novelty goers on the table varied, but that is usually the case when there is such a wide variety on offer, a few of the people who tried a novelty parma also had a taste of the traditional, and we came to the consensus that, although great, the special toppings are the way to go.
[youtube id="8c8ODbFAEMw" width="580" height="337"]
The chips were a delight- plenty of them, beer battered and cooked to perfection, they were slightly unseasoned, but a tabletop salt shaker made short work of that. A fantastic offering that could’ve only been improved by some table-top tomato sauce!
The garden salad on the table was one of the best examples we have come across, overloaded with lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, lettuce & onion, and topped with a thick dressing that I can best describe as balsamic mixed with barbeque sauce. It was a flavour explosion that even the most devout salad-haters in our group enjoyed.
Lots of quotes this week. I’ve put the type of parma had beside the quoter’s name, to get a better idea of what was had.
Its obvious the Commercial hotel takes great pride in their parma. It’s clearly a labour of love for them and it has paid off in spades, the TV screens in the bistro run a constant slideshow of the different options available, on the way out there is a board devoted to newspaper clippings about their food. Finding out that a portion of the profits for the parmas goes to leukemia research is just icing on the cake
As for specials, they run $15 parma Thursdays, which is a great deal, there is also a Parma Loyalty Card available that offers your 8th and 16th parma half price, and a freebie when you get to 24.
Oh, and if you eat all 40 parmas on the menu, you get a T-shirt. I want that T-shirt!.
We hung around for awhile after eating, played some pool and I picked up my new favourite stubby holder -
We said goodbye to the Commercial Hotel and headed back to Melbourne, doing a pub crawl on the way home through some of the greatest pubs I have been to in quite some time. A shoutout goes to the Shamrock Hotel (Alexandra), The Molesworth Hotel (Molesworth), The Yarck Hotel (Yarck), The Country Club Hotel (Yea) and the Royal Mail Hotel (Whittlesea) for keeping us entertained on the drive home, And yes, we will be back one day to try all your parmas as well.
Does the Commercial Hotel deserve all the hype? For sure.
Is it worth the drive to Alexandra just for a parma? Definitely.
Is the search still on for the perfect parma? Absolutely.
We’ve already downed 361 and a half chickens. Let that be a warning for all the other chooks in Australia…
We’re coming for you.
Parma - 8.01
Chips - 8.07
Salad - 8.04
Value - 8.00
Total - 8.06
The search continues…