Before I begin, I must confess that before tonight, I was a parma virgin.
I have however had eggplant (a.k.a. aubergine) 'bake' which is in effect, eggplant parmigiana. That is, my homemade version of Delia Smith's receipe. Except I sometimes substitute the parmesan for cheddar, which some may view as bit of a travesty. Personally, I think I have it down to a 'T'!
My knowledge of 'Parmigiana' comes not from Italy, but from my travels in the US. In the Star-Spangled Bannered country, 'Chicken Parmigiana' pops up everywhere. I believe it is one of America's most popular dishes, and they affectionately call it 'Chicken Parm'. It's Italian inspired rather than Italian descended.
So, I was astonished to find this dish everywhere in Melbourne. Here, it is known as 'Parma'. And tonight at Mrs Parma's, I was to find several different variations of 'Parma'.
Mrs Parma's is located near the Spring Street end of Little Bourke Street. On the outside it doesn't look like a typical pub per se . But as I stepped inside, it reminded me of the family style pub stroke restaurants that are dotted all over the UK. The kind that usually serve early bird meal deals which look better than they actually taste.
The clientele tonight was that of a more mature crowd. It wasn't rowdy and was surprising serene for a pub which made a nice change.
Around the bar area are stools where punters can enjoy their drinks whilst taking in a game on the flat screen hung up high above the entrance doorway. There is a designated dining area set up on a platform in the back corner which has to be reserved. Dotted around are a few other tables lined up against the side wall and also by the front window.
Looking around, it seemed that the other tables were either taken or reserved. Luckily for us though, the friendly waitress sorted us out with a table in no time at all. A couple were just paying up as we were waiting. The last available table in the house!
If you're into beer, this place serves a good selection of local Victorian brews. The list includes Carlton Draught on tap, some very thirst quenching hand-crafted beers and a good selection of beers by the bottle.
The food menu included 'Bistro Classics' such including cheesy garlic & herb bread and of course, good old battered fish and chips. As one would expect at Mrs Parma's, the menu is dominated with their famous 'Parma's' from which you can choose between chicken ($23), Wiener schnitzel ($24.50) and eggplant ($18.50). The toppings include their Original - ham, napoli and cheese, Mexican and so on.
In the lead up to Christmas, Mrs Parma's were offering a Christmas special - a turkey parma with cranberry sauce, ham, cheese and gravy. Hmm, it sounded interesting and rather tasty.
Oh and before I forget, for the gluten intolerant, there is a gluten-free alternative menu. How accommodating is that!
Seeing as I like to get my daily five portions of veggies a day, I was in need of vegetables tonight. So I opted for eggplant with the 'Salami' topping - calabrese salami, roasted peppers and cheese. My dining companion was feeling festive and chose the Christmas turkey parma without the cranberry sauce.
My eggplant with salami topping arrived with sprinkles of chopped basil on top. The cheese had lovingly bubbled and turned golden. The eggplant didn't taste bitter and was lovingly soft. The cheesy topping was delicious as was the salami. All in all, a very good eggplant parma.
The Christmas turkey parma looked equally as good, although we were astounded at how large it was. Again, it had sprinkles of basil and it wasn't smothered in gravy so as to drown the whole thing. I tried a little piece and it was really very good. The turkey wasn't tough, the ham was a good cut of proper ham and the cheesy topping was delicious.
My companion enjoys a good parma. Tonight, she said that her turkey parma was one of the better parma's that she has had in Melbourne. Well done Mrs Parma's!
The parma's came with a side of salad and a side of chips for us to share. The salad was fresh and lightly dressed. The chips were like good old fashioned fat English chip shop style chips, except that they were sprinkled with chicken salt. They both tasted too good to leave anything behind.
We both enjoyed our parma's and seeing as I was never into the idea of them before, I have definitely been converted. The food was fresh and tasty. Service was friendly, polite and attentive. I think one meat parma is definitely enough for two people, leaving just enough room for dessert.
Unfortunately we were both too stuffed to even entertain the idea. If you're after an exceptionally tasty parma dinner with no pretensions, then Mrs Parma's parma is definitely a winner dinner.
25 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9639 2269