Where? - 415 Clarendon St. South Melbourne
Price? - $25 (in Bistro, $15 in bar)
Reviewers – Erin, Fridge, Lee & Nikki
Normally I start a new parma review with a spiel about how we found out about the pub in question, who recommended it to us or just generally how it came to be on our radar.
I have no such story about the Emerald as we didn't actually plan on visiting last night!
Our plan for this week was to visit the new digs of ex-Palmerston Hotel owners The Rising Sun Hotel - Unbeknownst to us the Sun hosts a rocking Jazz night on Thursday night that renders the pub completely booked out. So I whipped my phone out of my pocket, found the closest pub to the Rising Sun that served a parma, and that is where we set our sights... Clarendon Street's Emerald Hotel.
As I didn't have time to do my usual pre-parma research I had no idea what to expect when walking in the doors of the Emerald, and after leaving I'm still a little shocked at the dichotomy of the place.
The front bar of the Emerald feels like a backstreets local. High chairs, long bar propped up with locals, a multitude of TV's running every sport playing at a TAB station in the corner.
We had a table booked in the bistro, so after polishing of a pre-dinner pint in the front bar we moved through to the Bistro.
It was like day and night, I almost checked to see if we had stumbled into a different restaurant. Cloth napkins, soft music, an abundance of pristine glassware - Unlike the front bar the bistro at the Emerald is going for a much more fine dining experience.
We took our seats, placed our cloth napkins on our laps, tucked into the veritable loaf of fresh bread that was delivered to the table, and checked the menu...
Target sighted. We placed our orders (three with chips and salad, Reviewer Nikki had to be difficult and go with the mash & veg).
The beer list at the Emerald leaves a little to be desired. Beyond Draught, Fat Yak & Great Northern there wasn't a whole lot on offer in the way of variety on tap.
After a relatively short 15 minute wait our meals appeared before us -
Looking good! We tucked in without delay.
The schnitzel was of a decent size, real chicken breast and the crumbs packed an almighty crunch. It was big enough that I walked away satisfied, yet had no trouble clearing my plate.
Downsides? The chicken was a little dry and stringy in areas, and the breast was hammered a little on the thinner side than what I prefer. Reviewer Nikki stumbled upon a bit of chicken skin still on her schnitzel which, while a great sign that these are house crumbed, non processed birds, was a little off-putting. Overall though it was a tasty main event I'd be happy to try again.
The toppings were solid. An amazingly flavoursome napoli almost fully compensated for the lack of ham on the dish, and the cheese blend on top packed a sharp tasty punch and grilled to perfection. Overall though it was a tasty main event I'd be happy to try again.
The seperate bowl was appreciated for the chips. While they were a bit of a boring cut they were served hot and well seasoned. Although I regretted not ordering a side of gravy for chip-dippage they were a decent side to the meal.
The salad, like the pub itself, was a split of two different salads. The top half, while fresh, crisp and chock full of flavour (onion, cucumber, tomato) was quite dry and light on the dressing. The bottom half, however, while being light on anything but lettuce, was absolutely swimming in tangy dressing. There was probably one fork full in the exact middle that was perfect while the rest leant too far one way or the other.
Value wise I was happy with this purchase, but not thrilled. $25 is pretty pricey for a parma, but when you factor in the delicious fresh bread that arrived before our meal the cost is a little easier to bear. If the linens and bread are of no interest to you the Emerald front bar offers a $15 parma on their bar menu - I can't speak to if its the same quality as the parma in the bistro, but as there seemed to be only one kitchen producing the meals for both it would have to be pretty close.
I was pleasantly surprised with our visit to The Emerald. It's a quaint, family style pub that has managed to keep it's old world charm despite being up against the massive competition for business that is Clarendon Street and surrounds. Sure the parma wasn't perfect and could use a little improvement, but it was a tasty dish none the less.
The staff were all friendly and seemed happy to be there, and overall I'm glad we ended up there this week. I guess you could say the Emerald hotel is a bit of a hidden gem.
(I'm sorry. I had to.)