Where? - Terminal 4, Melbourne Airport.
Price? - $20
Reviewers – Lee & Nikki
A few months ago I was at Melbourne Airport on the way to Sydney (The trip where we tried The Grand Hotel). While waiting for our flight at 8:30am, fuelling up on a sausage McMuffin and some hash browns, I noticed a pub across the food court that looked rather cool. We had already reviewed the airport's P.J. O'Brien's back in 2011, and the notion of a pre-flight parma has always piqued my interest.
I checked the menu, confirmed they had a parma available, locked it away in my little mental "Parmas to do list" and whisked away to a lovely few days in Sydney, intending to try Two Johns Taphouse the next time I was passing through Terminal 4.
Well, it's three months later, I don't have any travel plans until later in the year (PD goes to PD #3 coming in October), but damnit ... I've gotta know if it's any good! Screw it. Without any intent to board a plane, last night we visited Melbourne Airport's Two Johns Taphouse.
The first difference between our trip to P.J's and Two Johns is that P.J's didn't require a trip through the airport security scanners to visit - But as the food court at T4 is located past the ticketing and security and stuff, we had to strip down and take a trip through the metal detectors before we could get to our parmas. Once on the other side we managed to grab a seat amongst the many hungry travellers (I don't know if a flight was delayed or what, but it was bloody packed), and checked the menu.
We didn't have to check far, as the "mighty" chicken parma at Two Johns has top billing on the new menu -
We ordered at the bar and took in the view out the large glass windows of planes taking off and landing - This would actually be a relaxing spot to sit, unwind and take in the view, if parking didn't cost a ridiculous amount per minute of relaxation.
Two Johns website mentions a beer garden, which struck me as odd, being in the middle of the airport food court. I had a look for what they meant by "beer garden" and found it ... in the gap between the "pub" area of the food court and the seating area for Brunetti's next door is an area with tables amongst a few fake trees and plastic shrubs. Not a beer "garden" in the strictest sense, but it'd have to do.
The beer list at Two Johns is pretty tame, despite touting themselves as a "Taphouse". Carlton Draught, Fat Yak, Furphy ... I think I saw a McCracken ... If this were a "taphouse" out in the real world I'd be much less forgiving, but I'll give them a pass, considering they are a pub in a food court in an airport waiting lounge.
After a short enough wait, our parmas arrived from the kitchen...
It looked impressive on the large plate. A healthy serve of sides served to the side and not sandwiched underneath, with a parma that still looked rather sizeable.
We hurriedly picked up our cutlery and tucked in. Unfortunately, this is when things went downhill.
Getting the worst out of the way up front - the Schnitzel used in the Two Johns parma was pretty horrible. First up - it was lukewarm, bordering on cold. The toppings were hot, but the schnitzel itself barely had any heat in it, almost as if it were pre-cooked (not that I'm accusing them of that as I don't know for sure ... But I have my suspicions).
As well as the lack of heat the chicken was dry and flavourless. The crumbs, while crunchy on the surface, were horribly thick, and the bottom layer flaked away and remained on the plate every time I cut off a fork-full.
The toppings did their best to save this dish. The cheese and napoli were plentiful (although the napoli tasted like it came straight from a tin). The ham, while not "torn" as the menu touts, was thickly cut and flavoursome.
However as much good as the toppings tried to do, they struggled to make up for the foundation on which they were built.
When the plate fell in front of me my first thought was that the chips looked like they were in desperate need of a minute or so more in the fryer, showing a colour more golden-white than golden-brown.
Imagine my surprise when they turned out to be the best thing on the plate. Generously seasoned, hot, fresh and plenty of them.
Back in 2015, at our review of the excellent parma at Abbotsford's Aviary Hotel, Reviewer Stefo coined the term "Sal-Slaw" to describe a salad that was a hybrid of a garden salad and a coleslaw. The salad on the parma at Two Johns definitely falls into the Sal-Slaw category.
Which isn't a bad thing - the sal-slaw was crisp and fresh and generously dressed (much like the chips were liberally seasoned). It was a huge serving that, after my parma and chips, I struggled to get through. A fine side to the dish.
I try to define the value score in these reviews with the rule of thumb "Would I be happy to pay the price I paid for this parma to eat this parma again", and by that rule, my answer would be a resounding No. $20 is a fine price for this parma, but the schnitzel that we received was one step away from being inedible, and as the most important part of any parma dish, I wasn't at all happy paying the $20 I paid for the parma that I received.
For a pub in a food court in an airport Two Johns is pretty good. I'd recommend it as a great spot to stop into for a pre-flight pint and maybe a bowl of wedges - But unless there are some major changes I wouldn't touch the parma again. Every element of the dish was good bordering on great, with the exception of the schnitzel which, unfortunately for Two Johns, is the element of the parma you have to nail if you want customers to make a return flight.