Where - 2 Charles St. Northcote
Price - $17.50
Website - https://www.albioncharles.com.au/
Reviewers – Lee, Nikki & Stefo
Well I didn’t think it was possible, but we actually did it. We found another pub in Melbourne with “Albion” in its name. After the Hotel Albion, The Albion Hotel, The Albion and Albion Pizza you would think we would have exhausted Melbourne’s supply of Albion’s, However a new challenger has entered the ring … The Albion Charles Hotel.
“New” is a bit of a misnomer as the Albion Charles has been around for a while - However for the longest time they had outsourced their kitchen to “Burger Edge” slinging a wide variety of burgers but, sadly, no parmas on the menu.
Until recently - Burger Edge has gotten the arse and a new mob has moved into the Albion Charles’ kitchen space - “Bob’s Diner”. They still do burgers, but they have added a few more treats to the menu, including a parma, so as soon as I found out we headed out to see what’s what at the Albion Charles.
Also, for the curious, the word “Albion” is an ancient name for the island of Great Britain. The more you know.
The first thing that struck me about the Albion Charles is how spacious it is. The main bar/TAB is huge. offering standing room for hundreds on a busy night (there were about 8 people, including us, in the bar on the night we reviewed so that might have added to the feeling of space). Sports are definitely a priority at the Albion, with two large projector screens displaying the action along with a few more large flatscreens showing the races for good measure. Bob’s Diner (pictured above) is attached to the pub through a door at the back, it is very much its own space, however you can still order from the menu at Bob’s direct from the bar at the Albion.
We ordered at the bar, grabbed our little buzzer thing, took a seat and kicked back with a beer. If you feel like killing the time with some arcade games the Albion Charles has got you covered with both Big Buck Hunter and original Daytona USA.
Tap list is nothing special. Draught, VB, Great Northern and it seems that Pirate Life was recently added as there was a lot of advertising floating around encouraging patrons to give it a try … which we did.
About half a pint after ordering our buzzer buzzed and we went through to Bob’s to collect our parmas…
I was actually surprised at the quality of the chicken. The schnitzel was big enough to satisfy most stomachs while remaining plump and juicy. It was served piping hot and I was impressed at how crunchy the crumbs remained throughout the dish. A little inconsistent with thickness - Plump up one end thinning out a little to the other. The plump-side was fantastic but the thinner end got lost a little to the crumbing.
All up a surprisingly solid foundation for a parma.
The toppings for the Albion Charles parma is where things started to fall apart and the true nature of this parma was revealed.
Nothing was bad, however nothing tasted home made. The napoli sauce had zero chunks and felt more like a pasta sauce with a very strong capsicum taste. The ham was present, but flavourless and the cheese was fine, but also didn’t add much. Every element of the toppings tasted like it was pulled straight from a tin or a packet, giving the whole parma a strong “fast food” vibe.
It might just be because I had Hungry Jacks for lunch the day of the review, but the Albion Charles chips really reminded me of the “new and improved” chips that HJ’s have been pumping out lately. Thicker than a McDonalds chips but thinner than a Fish & Chip shop chip (probably closer to a KFC chip in thickness). The chippies at the Albion Charles were well seasoned, but unlike the parma they were served a little colder than I would like, as if they had been sitting in the kitchen for a bit before getting chucked on the parma. Could have been great had they been served hot, but otherwise fine.
The coleslaw was basic and definitely store bought like the toppings, but it complimented the parma well. After 10 years of reviewing parmas I am well and truly over boring garden salads, so I am a little biased - But the coleslaw was creamy, flavoursome and worked well when combined with the schnitzel.
The price of the Albion Charles parma is what really saves it. Parmas under twenty bucks are few and far between these days, so finding a relatively palatable parma for $17.50 is definitely cause for celebration, and if you are still on the fence the AC offers a Wednesday parma night for just ten dollars - Amazing value if it maintains the same size/quality as the regular parma.
The Albion Charles parma reminds me of a Quarter Pounder from McDonalds. Sure there are better, more expensive burgers out there, but there remains a place for a cheap, dirty, no frills feed and that is the niche the Albion Charles parma is filling. If it had’ve been more expensive this would be a much harsher review, but for $17.50 (only ten bucks on Wednesdays) it’s hard to complain too much. Its hot, it was well put together, it filled a hole without breaking the bank.
I wouldn’t travel for it, but good to know it’s there.