Who’s itching for a parma and pint?
From Fitzroy’s iconic Birmingham Hotel to the classic Mrs Parma’s in the heart of the CBD, Melbourne has earnt itself a reputation as a bold exponent of the chicken parma. So let’s explore what’s good.
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The Birmingham Hotel
An open Birmy means a red-hot kitchen filled with delicious chicken parmigianas slinging out of the kitchen for under $20, and they’re delicious parmas at that with the pub constantly touted as a go-to when it comes to the beloved Australian dish. Time to book a table, I say.
333 Smith Street. More info here.
The Outpost Retreat
Many of us are stringent traditionalists when it comes to the perfect chicken parmigiana. The proudest devotees are often ashamed to see a parma laden with alternative garnishes as it’s perceived to take away from the integrity of the dish. Nonetheless, there are some leftists who squirm for the challenge. Well, The Outpost Retreat has fashioned a menu fit for Richard Di Natale.
There’s the Italian with prosciutto and bocconcini, the Mexican with jalapenos and salsa, but it’s the Toolshed which continues to turn heads; bacon rashers sit atop cheese and ham enveloping a mushroom gravy and chicken behemoth.
38 Loch Valley Rd, Noojee. More info here.
Grace Darling Hotel
The Grace Darling Hotel is the equivalent of that kid in primary school who was smart and attractive, could play sports and an instrument, and still maintained modesty and dignity. Melbourne’s second oldest pub houses two exhilarating bandrooms, a rocking lunch and dinner menu, a cosy indoor-outdoor courtyard and a gorgeous, paradoxically-unwounded stone exterior.
Then there’s the Grace Parma, which is just as eclectic as the pub it finds itself in. The free-range chicken breast is topped with double smoked ham, torched raclette and house sugo… *insert drooling emoji*
114 Smith Street, Collingwood. More info here.
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The Park Hotel
The Park Hotel’s your pub’s pub. Bearing a compact menu you could populate on no more than three hands, The Park packs a delicate punch filled with a range of Eastern and Western inspirations. If braised lamb shoulder ragu doesn’t tickle your fancy, then what do you think about a crispy tofu salad? If either of those aren’t catching your attention then it’s time to give their chicken parmigiana a run. Which is fucking fantastic.
191 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford. More info here.
The Local Taphouse
The menu is a domain for restaurants to vaunt and romanticise about their produce. Often is the case where bookish vocabularies dart across the page as if you’re reading a Masterchef transcript or a Marco Pierre-White recipe. At The Local Taphouse, however, the chicken parmigiana is detailed as, “chicken parma, with chips and dressed leaves”.
Simplicity is bliss at The Local Taphouse and this title encapsulates the meal perfectly. It’s not too big nor small, but impeccably fried and as the seared brown dots rise to the top of your cheese, you know that that’s all it is – a chicken parma.
184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East. More info here.
Many meals are conveniently versatile when it comes to adapting to their vegetarian alter-ego (lentil burgers, tofu stir-fry) but the parmigiana is not as giving in this instance. Lavish cheeses and Italian sauces aren’t great vegetable accomplices if you ask me but Mrs Parmigiana has well and truly championed the now-known chicken substitute – eggplant. The eggplant parmi is now served in pubs and bistros all around Melbourne, but Mrs Parma’s has set the standard. Peruse through 14 different dressings at your pleasure.
19-25 Little Bourke Street, CBD. More info here.
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The Exchange Hotel
I hope you haven’t eaten lunch, breakfast or dinner the night before because the chicken parmigiana at the Exchange Hotel will serve as two or three meals in one. It’s big and is consistently acclaimed as one of Melbourne’s best.
39 Bay Street, Port Melbourne. More info here.
Keen on another fun read? Check out our piece on Preston’s best bars.