Where - 101 Flinders Lane. Melbourne
Price - $20
Website - http://gardenstatehotel.com.au/
Reviewers – Lee & Matt
Readers that have been with us a while (and have a ridiculously good memory) will remember that we tried to visit the Garden State Hotel once before, back in August of 2016 - However the gods weren't on our side that night, we couldn't get a table at the absolutely packed pub, and we wound up doing an impromptu redo of Transport instead.
Well it's been over a year since that night, surely the hype around the Garden State has died down a little by now - Right?
Having been burned before we took no chances. Rather than our usual 7:00pm Thursday catch up time I snuck out of work just after 4 in the afternoon and was cosied up in a booth by 4:30. Good thing too, as Garden State was filling fast.
If you've yet to visit Garden State, do yourself a favour and make it a priority. The guys at Sand Hill Road know how to make a stunningly unique pub experience with design work that is unparalleled in the Melbourne pub scene.
We had our booth, some pre-game chips and pork buns, and were ready for the main event. We checked the menu and located our target for the evening -
The tap list at Garden State is impressive. I won't bother listing them all here as whatever I write will probably have rotated out by the time you read this, but take a gander at their Now Tapped listing to get an idea of what I mean. What more could you want?
Before we get to the parma, I need to lay my first criticism of the Garden State. The floor staff need to calm down with the removal of empty glasses and plates from the table. As we were finishing our pre-parma bucket of chips we were asked no less than four times in the space of 2 minutes if we were done with them yet. Here's a rule of thumb Garden State - If there are still chips in my bucket of chips, then I'm not done with my bucket of chips - I understand that we were three people in a booth that you probably wanted us to clear out of to make room for a bigger party, but take a breath. Let us finish our food in peace.
Okay. This is interesting. I wish I had've put a fork or something in the frame for a size reference, but both the plate and the schnitzel it lay upon was quite small. It was a compact little dish - The schnitzel was thick enough that it didn't feel like a rip off or anything, yet I think that the parma pictured above is not quite indicative of reality, even though it was presented quite well, and looked great (albeit miniature) on the plate.
Okay. The schnitzel. Hand crumbed (crunchy crumbs - on point), hammered minimally to be served quite thick (how we like it at ParmaDaze), and juicy throughout.
However I don't know if they used thigh meat, or left the skin on the parma before crumbing - But my chicken had a lot of fatty gristle through it, a massive turn off, and to be honest, for me, pretty much ruined what could have been an outstanding little parma.
Despite the let down in chicken quality the toppings were mostly solid. Plenty of fresh, flavoursome ham and chunky homemade napoli were probably the highlight.
Not a huge fan of the cheese, I find mozzarella on its own to be quite flavourless and bland - would have much preferred a blend.
The chips were fine. The same as we had as an entree. Nothing to write home about, but they did the job. Hot, fresh and well salted.
I didn't think I would enjoy the salad as, to be honest, it looked quite bland - However the strong citrus dressing that was used elevated this basic greenery to the next level. I was enjoying it immensely ... Then a member of the floor staff came past and snatched my plate before I was done. They really wanted us out of that booth.
Would I pay $20 for the parma at the Garden State again? Probably not. The pork buns and other entrees we had before the parma were great, and I can't see myself opting for the parma over something like that again.
With a couple of tweaks the Garden State parma could be fantastic, with the quality of ingredients they put into the toppings this dish could really shine with a top tier schnitzel underneath - It pains me to say, however, that in it's current state I can't recommend it.
Go to the pub, definitely go to the pub. The Garden State like all of the Sand Hill Road pubs are an experience unto themselves, and are a must-visit to all pub lovers in Melbourne.