Where? - 120 King St. Melbourne
Price? - $21
Reviewers – Erin, Fridge, Lee & Nikki
Here at ParmaDaze we have a little problem with pubs in Melbourne's CBD - Namely that we've done most of them. After 6 years of reviews finding a parma in the heart of Melbourne that we've yet to sink our teeth into is becoming rarer and rarer as the weeks roll on.
I've had "El Coco" scrawled on a post-it note on the wall of my office for the better part of a year, but something about the name of the pub doesn't scream "Aussie pub", and thus it never really grabbed me, but we needed a parma in the city! It had been a while since we ventured into the CBD, so I figured it time to give El Coco a crack. The last time I was at 120 King st. it was known as The Exchange Hotel, and, while we never had a parma there, I remember it being a decent spot.
Imagine my surprise when we arrived at El Coco last night and found it (1) Utterly unrecognisable from when it was The Exchange and (2) Actually a damn cool space.
The place is huge. A massive space with tables dotted around the room and plush leather couches wherever there aren't tables. There's a projector screen for sportsball games, a stage for live music and a massive skylight at one end for a pseudo-beer-garden experience.
We grabbed a booth and checked the menu ... there were some options...
The 3 novelties along with a specials board behind the bar (I think this week it was an Aussie parma) were our options for the evening. Around the table we stuck to the menu. Two Mexicans for myself and Reviewer Fridge, A Traditional for Reviewer Nikki and newcomer Reviewer Erin decided on a Hawaiian for her first foray into parma reviews.
We ordered at the bar, grabbed some beers and returned to our booth. Normally the wait for a parma is boring, but at El Coco you never need to be bored. There are board games, giant Jenga, table tennis, even a Nintendo 64 station with freakin' 4 player Goldeneye (along with a plastic tub of other games) set up to pass the time. Awesome.
There were plenty of beer specials if you don't mind what you drink ($12 jugs!) but also a few crafty options should they tickle your fancy. They don't do pints, however the schooners of Steam Ale went down a treat.
Ten minutes after ordering our parmas arrived at the table...
Looked great! The Mexican especially, so I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back for picking well.
The four of us picked up our cutlery, tucked in, and ... this is where consensus fell apart.
Normally at ParmaDaze we walk away pretty much in agreement about what we just ate - Unfortunately opinions were split, in a very weird way.
Reviewer Nikki and Myself enjoyed the toppings. Nikki claimed that the abundance of ham on top both looked and tasted great. The cheese blend, jalepenos and sour cream worked deliciously together along with the guacamole (which I admit could have been fresher). Yet we both thought that the solid toppings were let down by a lacklustre, store bought schnitzel that tasted a little on the cheap side for an over $20 parma.
Reviewers Fridge and Erin enjoyed the chicken, enjoyed the crunch in the crumbs and thought it a decent quality schnitzel - However they were less than thrilled with the toppings. Reviewer Fridge claiming the guacamole and sour cream tasted like they both came from a squeeze bottle (although he was also happy with the jalapenos)
Oddly enough as we were both equally impressed and unimpressed with our opinions of the parma (even though it was in different ways) our scores pretty much evened out. Even when we disagree the system works!
One thing we all agreed on? The chips were phenomenal. Beer battered, fresh and crispy. So well seasoned I didn't even consider adulterating them with sauce of any kind. The absolute highlight of the dish.
The salad was ... okay. A small garden salad with not a whole lot involved other than some cucumber slices and mustard seeds. The dressing they overused was spicy and off-putting for a salad. As I said it was okay, but not great.
For $21 I think this was a little overpriced, however El Coco's does a $15 lunch parma special which I would definitely recommend. If you're on a budget a $15 parma, a $12 jug and a few games of Goldeneye with some mates sounds like an outstanding way to spend an afternoon without breaking the bank.
I really enjoyed El Coco as a venue. It has a laid back, casual vibe that you would expect to find in Fitzroy or Brunswick - Not in the middle of the city. The parma was okay, but I wouldn't rush back. Some of the $6 pizzas going past, however, looked pretty great, and I'll definitely be back for some of those and a few rounds of Table Tennis.
- Great venue. Friendly & spacious with a heap of entertainment options
- They have friggin' Goldeneye!
- Generously topped
- Amazing chips
- Lackluster salad
- Low quality schnitzel
- Guac on the Mexican wasn't the freshest