Where - 644 Rathdowne St. Carlton
Price - $22
Website - http://www.gnh.net.au
Reviewers – Lee & Nikki
In years past here at ParmaDaze I have been quite regimented in what counts as an “Official” review. Review night was every Thursday night, set in stone, and if I happened sneak in a cheeky extra parma on another day of the week that was counted as an “off the books” parma, not to be considered for official review purposes.
But you know what? I’ve softened in my old age. It’s 2019. “Off the books” parmas are parmas too and deserve their chance to be counted and reviewed (and maybe with the occasional Thursday night off I’ll be able to watch an episode of Survivor on time. Holy crap I am old).
Last Sunday a few of us found ourselves at Carlton’s Great Northern Hotel. If you live anywhere nearby then the GNH needs no introduction, however if you need a bit of a refresher you can take a look at our 2012 review. The Great Northern is the perfect example of a pub that has managed to retain its old world charm while still keeping up with modern sensibilities, The inside is dimly lit with lots of dark wood, exposed brick and coat hooks - Pulling up a pew in here feels like stepping in a time machine back 30 years while still retaining the ability to buy a Rodenbach Grand Cru Flanders Red Ale over the bar.
No description of the GNH would be complete without a mention of their beer garden, which is, in my humble opinion, one of Melbourne’s best. Spacious, bright, plenty of seating, lots of TV’s for live sport, an outdoor bar for the busier times and even an Instagram account dedicated to the various dogs that wander in - As far as beer gardens go they don’t get much better than this.
As nice as the beer garden was, it was bloody hot last Sunday, the thick brick walls of the Great Northern were supplying us with some much needed respite from the heat so we grabbed a table inside instead, checked the menu and eyed off our target for the week…
The parma at the Great Northern has top billing on the menu, but (once you decide you are having the parma) if you let your eyes wander downward you’ll find some other pub classics on the list that don’t see a lot of action on most pub menus. Lasagne, Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips, even a Pie of the Week and a good ol’ fashioned steak.
We placed our orders at the bar, throwing in a couple of sides of gravy for chip dippin’ purposes (I know what you’re thinking - things get wild on Sunday parmas).
At this point in a parma review I would normally talk about the beers available on tap at a particular pub, however when it comes to the Great Northern I feel like their reputation precedes them. When it comes to pubs that serve independently brewed beers in Melbourne the Great Northern is without peer, actively protesting against tap contracts in the past. They have more beers than I could possibly mention here and even trying to do so would be futile as they rotate brews so frequently it would no doubt be inaccurate by the time this review goes live. If you like beer you will like the Great Northern, that’s all I need to say.
About 20 minutes after placing our order, the parmas arrived from the kitchen. Its a good thing we revisited, as on sight alone a lot has changed since 2012…
Lets start with the schnitzel. First up I won’t judge them harshly for putting the parma on the chips - I’d say that was partly my fault as the extra side of gravy did take up a lot of plate real estate that would have otherwise been free.
The schnitzel was great quality. Thick enough to be non-offensive and pure white, juicy chicken. A pleasant light coating of crumbs could have been crunchier, but didn’t detract from the dishes quality too much. At first glance it looked a little small atop the chips but we didn’t walk away from the meal hungry so no complaints when it comes to size.
Toppings were solid all around. The cheese melt was a spectacular golden brown with practically 100% coverage and even some bonus cheese chips from the spots the cheese ran off the parma and hardened up (good n crunchy!). The ham was cut super thick and very flavoursome. The napoli was fine but probably the weakest of the three (not bad, but not particularly memorable). As far as parmas go this one was super enjoyable. It’s a down to earth, honest feed that you’d be hard pressed to find too much to take issue with.
The beer battered chips were very good. Decent sized serving, well cooked, good n’ crunchy - However the side of gravy elevated them to the next level. Gravy can be a bit of a gamble - sometimes lumpy, sometimes watery, sometimes shit overall - However the GNH gravy was on point, and I highly recommend grabbing a pot should you decide to check out this parma.
The salad was an explosion of colour on the plate. I have been talking a lot in recent reviews about my struggles with what I am right now dubbing “garden salad fatigue”, however the salad here at the GNH snapped me out of it. Super fresh, well dressed, plenty of ingredients and the addition of what I’m pretty sure was chopped fresh parsley throughout added a unique texture to the side. If you’re gonna do a garden salad then this is how you do a garden salad.
$22 (plus extra for gravy) for the parma we received is great value in my opinion, it was a well crafted parma using high quality ingredients and I’d have zero problems with paying another 22 bucks for this parma again, if that’s a little too pricey for you on Monday nights the price drops to just $14 - If you live nearby and can be bothered heading out on a Monday night (a struggle for me, as I said I’m an old man now) its definitely one worth checking out at that price.
You’ve probably already gathered from the review you just read, but I really like the Great Northern Hotel. It ticks every box for me when it comes to what I like in a pub, and knowing that the parma has improved since our first visit in 2012 is just icing on the cake. You’d be hard pressed to be disappointed with this one, definitely go check it out if you haven’t already.
Oh, and before we finish up if you haven’t popped in also check out the brand spankin’ new ParmaDaze Discord channel (yes, I’m still talking about it, shut up). Click here to drop in for a chat!