[info]When? - 5th of June, 2014
Where? The Shaw Davey Slum. 171-175 Elgin St. Carlton
Price? - $19, sides not included.
Website? - http://theshawdaveyslum.com.au/
Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Nikki, Stefo [/info]
**Edit 21/08/15 - We have since revisited the Shaw Davey Slum. Has it improved in the last twelve months? Find out here!
**Edit 8/7/14 - It would appear Shaw Davey has seen some sense and lowered the cost of the parma since this review - $10 now gets you the parma, with the chips and salad still to be ordered separately at about $5 a piece, so you could get away with the meal for around $20. Keep that in mind when reading the following review. Cheers!
The newest brainchild of the pub group behind Father's Office and Asian Beer Cafe, The Shaw Davey Slum is one of the most unique bars I have been into in quite some time.
We have reviewed this venue before, back when it was Pugg Mahones - however walking into the Shaw Davey it is unrecognisable as the Irish pub it once was. Neon, purple, silver, the near assault to the senses is enough to give you diabetes just from walking in the door, in a good way. They definitely have a vision for this bar and its worth a visit for the aesthetic itself. The cocktail list reads like something from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and the staff are all dressed in appropriately 60's garb (think 'Austin Powers' era) - It's a spectacle, and I have to say definitely geared to appeal to those without a Y chromosome (other than the urinals made from halved beer kegs and beer taps shaped like cricket stumps - gotta admit thats pretty cool).
A couple of gripes off the bat, Firstly - Plastic cups? We ordered schooners at the bar (the largest glass size they have, no pints) and they were served in plastic cups. Now I understand that Bang serves drinks in plastic cups at 3am Sunday morning, but its 7pm on a Thursday in the backstreets of Carlton, the place is empty - you can trust me with a glass. I also have to say that, while looking pretty cool, the bar stools at this pub are criminally uncomfortable, steel bucket-seats that have a horrible lip at the front that dig into your thighs, not to mention tip in all directions so you always feel in danger of toppling off. We moved into the dining area where we were trusted with glasses for our water. Our menus were delivered and we spied our meal.
We've never had a menu with so many options for type of schnitzel - nice to have the choice but everyone at the table stuck with the standard chicken. Bacon bolognese definitely caught my eye, that would mean three completely different types of meat on the same plate! Quite a feat.
Now before I continue I have to say - The Shaw Davey Slum is a fantastic looking pub. They have done an amazing job with everything - from the renovations through to the cocktail list. They had a vision, they spared no expense and it really shows - not to mention every member of the staff we dealt with were friendly and warm, fantastic to see and I'd be happy to go back for a drink.
I say all these good things now, because its about to get bad.
The first red flag popped up the moment we ordered our four parmas, the waitress said "now you know when you get the parma its just the parmigiana" A little cryptic, we weren't quite sure what she meant until she walked away and the penny dropped.
We called her back to confirm and yes, the parma on the menu comes with no sides and you have to order them separately. We looked at the menu again and found the sides section -
$7 for shoestring fries. I wasn't bringing myself to order a $7 salad with my parma, so we ordered 2 bowls of fries between the four of us - they arrived minutes before our parmas did - but more on that a bit later.
First up - The parmas themselves...
Size-wise the schnitzel was impressive, each parma was its own unique shape pointing to an unprocessed and hand-hammered chicken breast. These were some big parmas and deserving of the name "Mega-Parma".
There was a great covering of toppings (we will discuss their quality shortly) with almost no visible nudity. The "cornflake" crumbs were pretty much undetectable as such and carried little to no crunch, which was a little disappointing as I love a good crunch to my schnitzel.
So/so foundations, on to the toppings...
Lets start with the biggest problem. The bacon bolognese.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love bacon, and those who have never tried bacon, so the thought of a bacon bolognese sauce on a parma definitely got my motor running, however all that potential was completely squandered with this dish as the sauce was so horribly overcooked and dry that it tasted more like fried mince meat with a tablespoon of tomato paste stirred through - I honestly don't think it falls under the definition of a "sauce" when its this dry. Yes, there was bacon bits mixed through it, but I had to look to find them as they were completely undetectable in the taste of the bolognese.
The bolognese completely killed the dish. It was so dry that the beef bits gave it an almost "gravelly" texture in the mouth, like eating spoonfulls of unseasoned taco meat with cheese. The flavour overtook everything and the parma wound up tasting more like a lasagne than it did a parmigiana.
The mixture of gruyere and mozzarella cheeses was definitely unique, but I can't help but feel it would have benefitted greatly from a bit of tasty or cheddar cheese as well - something to give it a little bite - something to counteract the bolognese a little as both gruyere and mozzarella are known as melting cheeses and can tend to be a little flavourless.
This was a heavy parma. Take a look at the cross section below and you will see that there's much more topping than there is chicken. Completely overpowering and so heavy. I'm not normally one to leave anything on the plate, but I couldn't finish this parma, nobody at the table could and we all left feeling a little ill from what we had just ingested.
Now to the debacle that was the sides.
As I mentioned earlier, the $19 parma included no sides, we consulted the sides menu and ordered two bowls of shoestring fries at $7 a piece - they arrived shortly before the parmas did -
Now I don't know about you, but when I pay $7 for what is essentially potato I want a lot of potato. A $7 bowl of chips should easily feed two people, but this serving was barely enough for one. The aioli served with the fries was pretty good, probably the best part of the dish and during the latter stages of my meal I found myself spreading a little on my chicken as to give my palate some relief from the bolognese onslaught.
If you've been reading Parma Daze for long you'll know we have a "You don't win friends with salad" contingency, explained fully in the glossary it basically means if a parma is served without salad it gets an automatic 5 in the scores, so that the salad score doesn't affect the average too much - however our opinion of lack-of-salad is duly noted in our "Value" score. It works for those pubs who decide that they don't want to waste our time on the green stuff, and for the people who couldn't care less about the salad - This rule will be invoked for this review as we didn't want to shell out another $7 each for what was in all likelihood a lettuce leaf.
But now we reach a conundrum - We have never, in one-hundred-and-eighty-seven parmas, been served a parma that doesn't come with chips (not counting the American style ones served with spaghetti, but even then you got some sort of carb-heavy side with your schnitzel that we can score).
So I don't know what to do. Should a new rule be invented? A "You don't win friends with chips" clause that works the same as the salad one? Otherwise the Shaw Davey will get donuts across the board for their chips and will drag their score down significantly - but at the same time, you do win friends with chips. Everyone loves chips. Should they be rewarded for not providing us with the chippy goodness that everyone wants?
I don't know what to do, so I'm leaving it to you - I'm going to make a poll below that will be active for seven days (from today until the time the next review goes up) and you will have a choice. Do we award the Shaw Davey a "You don't win friends with chips" rule? or do they get zero'es across the board for their chip score. Make your choice.
Voting is now closed, the people have spoken and the fate of the Shaw Davey Slum is sealed -
Thats a landslide decision if I've ever seen one! Looks like "You don't win friends with chips" is not gonna be a rule - chips are pretty popular it would seem!
The score will now be adjusted with a zero for chips.
Enough of my opinion - here is what the others at the table thought -
Interestingly enough The Shaw Davey Slum has an impressive range of lunchtime specials... From 11am to 3pm daily you can get a parma for $10. And guess what - It comes with chips! Well, your choice of chips or salad, but I don't know anybody in their right mind that would take the latter over the former. For $10 with chips? ehhhh, get rid of the bolognese and maybe we'll talk, otherwise I'll give it a miss.
Value-wise this parma is horrible. If I wanted a parma with chips and salad it would cost me $33. Add a schooner to that and I'm down $41. nineteen bucks for what we received is just criminal, and the fact that they offer the parma with chips to the lunchtime crowd makes me think that its nothing more than a scam to rip a few extra bucks out of my pocket. $7 for that tiny bowl of chips was an absolute joke, no matter how good the aioli was.
I stand by everything I said at the start of the review. The Shaw Davey Slum is a sight to behold. The venue itself is a spectacle that is well worth checking out. They have done a fantastic job fitting out the pub and the staff couldn't made us feel more at home. The Shaw Davey is trying very hard to be unique, which works well for the venue, but not for the parma. They need to dial it back, get back to the basics - ditch the bacon bolognese and go for a fresh, well spiced chunky napoli and put a slice of bacon on top - They're trying too hard with this dish and it shows, sometimes the classics are classic for a reason.
Oh, and Reviewer Nikki wanted me to show everyone that her parma looked like a wombat.
- Real, hand pounded chicken breast
- Great aioli with the side serve of chips
- No sides included in price of meal, chips and salad both $7 each extra
- Soggy crumbs
- overcooked, dry and overpowering bolognese sauce
- flavourless cheese
Parma - 2.50
Chips - 0
Salad - 5 - You don't win friends with salad rule invoked
Value - 0.75
Total - 2.15
The search continues...