Where - 76 Newcombe St. Portarlington
Price - $25
Reviewers – Lee & Nikki
While driving back from filming our video review at The Barwon Heads Pub I thought to myself "This drive sucks. I wonder if there's an easier way to get to this side of town".
I did a bit of googling and came across Port Phillip Ferries, a ferry company offering daily trips across the bay from Melbourne to Portarlington (and sometimes trips to & from Geelong when the footy is on). It looked like a fun idea so I tucked it away for a few months, then last weekend when I saw we finally had a break in our string of horrible weather we made plans to take the ferry down to Portarlington - And what else is there to do in Portarlington other than hit the pub and check out what sort of parma the town has on offer?
Up bright and early the ferry departs from behind Etihad stadium (Marvel Stadium, if you're reading this in the future ... This review is going to age horribly, isn’t it?) at 11am on Saturdays, $29 for a return ticket.
Super spacious and seemingly brand spanking new, the ferry is a super cool way to travel. The trip takes around an hour and a half each way, but praise the lord, there is a bar on board...
Beers, wines, ciders, even rudimentary cheese and crackers are available to tide you over on the trip.
With a lovely view of Port Phillip Bay out the window the ride was smooth as silk and absolutely flew by. We arrived at Portarlington at around 12:30, if you want to take your return trip on the same day the ferry leaves at 4:15, leaving about three and a half hours to explore the town.
We left the ferry behind and wandered up the hill to the biggest building in the town, pretty much the only one you can see from the dock - The Grand Hotel.
To the left of the pub proper is a spacious open air beer garden, with a stage up one end for live music and an ocean view (bay view?) down the other. We grabbed a pint, snagged a seat and checked the menu for our target...
Some of the other items on the menu looked pretty spectacular also, we spied some bowls of Mussels going around (apparently Portarlington is big on Mussels) that were absolutely huge - I've never seen a serve of mussels so big in my life, so if you're bringing a seafood fan along on your parma day trip they won't be disappointed. Oh, and its also worth nothing that there is a 1/2 parma available for kids and seniors.
The tap list at the Grand is pretty much what you'd expect from a country pub. Carlton, Great Northern, Wild Yak Pacific, 4 Pines, Bulmers - Nothing overly crafty, but enough to find something you'd feel like drinking for the day.
A little over half an hour after placing our order (a bit of a wait, but a large group snuck in their order right before us so totally understandable) our parmas arrived at the table...
First up, the schnitzel was quite thick, lightly hammered pure, unprocessed chicken breast. Slightly dry but not noticeably so, the panko crumbing was thin however rather soggy and fell away from the schnitzel while eating - And that's where my criticisms of this parma pretty much end.
The schnitzel was top quality, as were the toppings. Applied liberally, The cheese blend was flavoursome and grilled to a picturesque golden brown. They weren't at all stingy with the ham and the napoli sauce was fresh, chunky and rich (although slightly heavy on the tomato paste for my liking, but thats an immensely minor complaint). A very enjoyable meal
The chips were pretty good, they would have been pretty standard pub chips however I spotted a "sauces" section on the backside of the menu and opted to order a side of gravy purely for chip dipping, which definitely saved them for being a relatively bland affair (they were cooked well and served beside the parma, but were desperate for a bit of seasoning) would definitely recommend getting a side of gravy with your parma order also.
The salad was impressive. Served in a seperate bowl, stacked high with ingredients (I hope you like grated carrot) there was plenty to tuck into and enjoy, with the house made vinigarette
$25 for a parma is a bit pricey, but with quality fresh ingredients such as the ones used here I'm happy to pony up the cash again. If you can make it down mid-week The Grand offers a $20 parma and pot day on Thursdays, featuring some novelty parmas thrown into the mix as well, definitely worth checking out if you're a local.
The Grand serves up an honest, down to earth, no frills country pub feed - an absolutely delightful meal and one I'd happily have again if I were in the area.
After finishing our parma we had a relaxed afternoon in the beer garden. Watched a bit of footy on the TV's out there, downed a few more pints, had a wander around town then headed to the dock at 4 and hopped on the ferry home, grabbed another beer from the on-board bar and arrived back in the CBD just as the sun was setting.
I totally recommend both the parma at the Grand and the trip across the bay on the ferry. If the sun is out and you've got a Saturday free it's definitely a great day out.