Where - 521 Macaulay Rd. Kensington
Price - $23
Website - http://www.hardimans.com.au
Reviewers – Lee & Nikki
As this month or so of reduxes (reducies? I'm not sure of the plural on that) rolls on I have found myself in the middle of a bit of an existential crisis. Redos on ParmaDaze started simply enough - A pub felt like they got a bit of an unfair shake when they were reviewed, pledged to fix the issues we had with it and asked us to check it out again. We'd go and give it another go and adjust the review score accordingly - Yet over time things have gotten a little murky.
Pubs change hands, new owners move in, buildings get gutted and names get changed - All this blurs the line between what should be considered a "redo" and what should be considered a new pub. For example we considered our recent revisit to The Park Hotel a redo as the name and location of the pub remained the same yet an entirely new team was at the helm, but a week later our visit to Celtic at Metropolitan was listed as a new review and not a redo, the only difference being the latter slightly altered the name of the pub by adding "Celtic at..." to its title when the Park kept theirs unaltered.
Following the train of thought leads to some pretty deep philosophical questions. What makes a new pub new? Do only pubs that retain the same management team/ownership qualify for "redo" status? What about a new head chef taking over a kitchen? It's a Ship of Theseus paradox that I haven't had nearly enough beers to think about without giving myself a headache. To be honest I don't even know how we should clarify what is a Redux and what isn't anymore - I'm open to suggestion so feel free to leave a comment below or on our various social media sites with your thoughts.
Which brings us to this week's review - Kensington's Hardimans Hotel. We first visited Hardimans back in June of 2011 and, well, I'm not gonna sugar coat it - it was a dive. You can read the full review here but the TL;DR is that they had no clean glasses, there were mice openly running around the floor of the pub it was dank, dirty and to be honest one of the worst parmas we have had in the over 8 years we've been doing this, sitting at the bottom of our ladder for quite some time.
Then, last year, Hardiman's shut up shop. New owners took over and basically gutted the building. I noticed during our visit to Kensington Food Hall in April this year that work was being done and have been tracking its progress since - Until Friday last week, when the new look Hardimans opened its doors.
I couldn't even wait until our usual Thursday parma night to check it out, so we loaded up the parma bus on Saturday afternoon and headed to Hardimans to see how it all turned out.
Walking into the pub I was floored - The pub is completely unrecognisable inside. Gone is the dank, mouse ridden cesspool and in its place is a bright, spacious and downright gorgeous pub.
We grabbed a table in the front bar, tracked down a menu and spied our target for the afternoon...
Looking good, we placed our order at the bar and waited for our meals to arrive.
Now Hardimans had been open for less than 24 hours at the time of our review, so I was prepared to cut them a bit of slack in terms of service as all pubs have their share of teething problems (I even considered delaying the review while they sorted out any kinks, but I had been looking forward to this one opening for so long I couldn't help it). However no slack was needed the service at Hardimans was pretty hard to fault. The bar staff were bright eyed, friendly and helpful. Happy to have a chat and recommend their favourites from the beer taps on offer.
Speaking of which, the tap list at Hardimans was impressive right out of the gate. Moon Dog, Hop Nation, Mountain Goat, Stone & Wood and the nearby Henry St. Brewhouse to name just a few of the 20 taps on offer, with even more in the fridge below.
As is tradition with revisits (if this counts as a revisit... I don't even know anymore) lets compare the 2011 Hardimans parma to its 2018 counterpart.
Holy crap what an upgrade! For starters Hardimans has one of the more unique platings for a parma we have seen for some time, looking a bit more like an art installation than a pub feed. As you can see from the photos the parma sits alone on a large plate, with the chips and slaw coming in their own dish to the side. My initial thoughts were that it looked a little dry on the plate, but those fears were quickly allayed when I tucked in and found a juicy fresh chicken breast underneath the crispy crumbs.
The chicken quality was exceptional. The schnitzel was huge (possibly two smaller schnitzels plated together) and cooked to perfection.
Now in an unusual move I'm giving the crumbs their own paragraph because I've got a lot to talk about. When the parma first hit the table the aroma hit me. Garlic. Now let me be clear that I love garlic, the more the better, and luckily so because the crumbing of the Hardiman parma is absolutely jam packed with garlic to the point where this parma tastes a lot like a chicken kiev, smooshed flat, with chicken parma toppings on top. It's a love-it or hate-it move that will no doubt divide the parma lovers. I firmly fall onto #teamgarlic, but if you aren't as much of a fan, well, you've been warned.
The other toppings were stellar. Crispy prosciutto added a salty punch, the cheese blend was spot on, with a healthy dusting of parmesan on top and the napoli sauce was rich and strong.
I'm not gonna lie with the garlic in the crumbs, the prosciutto and the parmesan cheese this is a parma of bold flavours. There's a lot going on here and it can get a bit overpowering at times. Luckily the side of slaw works super well as a palate cleanser to balance things out a little.
The thick cut bad boy chips on the side plate were cooked well and nicely seasoned. When they first arrived it looked like it was a rather small serve of chips, but they were super filling and I didn't end up finishing them all. A couple of them were slightly undercooked and a bit hard in the middle, but it's a criticism barely worth mentioning.
As mentioned before the slaw worked amazingly as a palate cleanser from the onslaught of flavours in this parma, It was fresh and crisp (although not quite as fresh as The Park's), if I had any complaint it would be that the serving size was a little small - For such a big parma I just wanted more. Having it served on the side plate it was a little bit awkward to manoeuvre if I wanted a bit of parma and a bit of slaw in one bite, but for the great aesthetic of the parma alone on the plate I'm happy with it as is.
As far as I'm aware there aren't any parma nights on the books at Hardimans just yet (but as I said they've only just opened, I wouldn't be surprised if they add one down the line) It's currently priced at $23, which I think is a more than reasonable price for what we received. The Hardimans parma uses great quality ingredients from top to bottom that I honestly have trouble faulting - A great feed at a perfectly reasonable price.
I'm a little worried that I'm gushing so much over the Hardimans parma when I know that it's not gonna be for everyone. The garlic in the crumbs is super powerful and would absolutely dominate the flavours in any other dish, however with the strong parmesan and prosciutto backing it up I think it balances out well (although I can totally understand that others may not agree). Either way its definitely worth checking out, if only for the outstanding renovations that have transformed this once dive bar in to a beautiful example of a local pub.
And it looks like they got rid of the mice 🐭