Where - 914-918 Mount Alexander Road, Essendon
Price - $24, $15 on Tuesdays & Wednesdays
Website - www.theessendonhotel.com
Reviewers - Lee
I had a different plan for this week. Flying solo I was going to head into the city for a second look at the Melbourne Central Lion, however on Monday I caught an article in the Leader spruiking that the old O’Sullivans Irish Pub has been given the once over and will be re-opening on Thursday as The Essendon Hotel.
I looked around online and couldn’t find a menu yet, so my plan was to pop my head into the Essendon Hotel on opening night, maybe grab a pint and check out the new digs, before jumping on a train at Essendon Station and heading into the city.
Thursday rolled around and I did exactly that, however my plans to take the train derailed (hehe) when I got to the Essendon Hotel and checked their menu…
So I was presented with a choice. Either brave the 35 degree heat outside, wait at the train station for who knows how long, squeeze onto a train with a bunch of folks who think deodorant is an optional accessory to find a quick parma only to hop straight back on the train and go through the whole ordeal again, or, I could stay exactly where I was, order another pint and try the parma at the Essendon Hotel.
I’ll give you three guesses what I went with.
When O’Sullivan’s closed and the building became Asian Fusion bar/restaurant “Ginger Annie” they barely took the Irish flags off the wall before re-opening. It was a minimal effort turnaround to get the doors back open and other than a refresh of the menu it was essentially the same pub, Which is why I was happy to see that they have actually put in some effort with the Essendon Hotel. The renovations look amazing, the pub now exuding a strong Garden State vibe. I ordered a second pint and my parma in the bar and took a seat in the bistro seating area out the back.
The vibe on the night was very festive. The Essendon Hotel opened for the first time at 4pm and I arrived just after 5 to find a very busy, salubrious pub. Free finger food was circulating and the whole venue had a great party vibe going that I can hope they can maintain once the hype dies down.
As far as tap lists go the Essendon Hotel didn’t blow me away. There’s an in-house Draught, Furphy, Kirin, Little Creatures Pale, Panhead XPA, Brooklyn Lager, Iron Jack and Little Creatures Cider with a larger selection available in the fridge (check their website for the full list). There is enough, however it would be nice to see one or two more craftier options on tap.
It has been 9 years since we last visited this building, and although they aren’t technically related, let’s take a look at the 2010 O’Sullivan’s parma before moving on to the 2019 Essendon Hotel parma…
Lets start with the schnitzel. First things first it was massive, absolutely engulfing the plate and the chips below. The large size did not give way to a thin schnitzel however, the pure white chicken breast maintaining a uniform thickness throughout. Perfectly cooked and super juicy. The crumbing was thin and well applied, giving the parma a very crispy crunch. A solid foundation to the dish.
The toppings are where things started to falter a little. Heaps of cheese on top (which is good!) however I think they leant a bit heavy on the tasty cheese in the blend as it didn’t brown up very well, lending to a cheese that was more oily than it was gooey.
Napoli sauce was on point, fresh and home made with a couple of bay leaves thrown in for that extra rustic feel. A good sauce that was possibly a little light? With the massive amount of cheese I could have used a little more napoli to balance it out a little.
No ham on this parma, and I think a bit would have helped to be honest, would love to see at least the option for ham in the future.
Chips were quality, once I freed them from underneath the massive parma it was a solid serve, well seasoned and crispy. Not a whole lot to complain about here but a dipping sauce would have been a nice touch.
I am still very pro-coleslaw when it comes to parmas and the offering at the Essendon Hotel is no exception. It was a basic ‘slaw but it did its job well, either pairing perfectly with a bit of the parma or as a palate cleanser as you worked through the massive serve.
$24 is a pretty standard parma price these days and for the size of what I received I’d happily pay it again. I struggled to finish this parma and walked away absolutely stuffed. The front page of the menu advertises a $15 parma night on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so that is definitely the night to head over to the Essendon Hotel if you are on the fence about this one.
It’s hard to be too critical of the Essendon Hotel’s parma as they had literally opened their doors for the first time an hour before I ordered the parma, meaning mine was possibly the first parma ever to come out of their kitchen. The Essendon Hotel’s parma is good quality, maybe a tweak or two away from greatness but they are on the right track. I’ll be dropping in again shortly no doubt, I will keep an eye on the parma to see if it changes at all, and will update with what I find.
As a local I am delighted to see some effort has been put into the renovations, this kind’ve pub is something that the area has sorely needed, and if you live nearby it is definitely worth a crack.