What is it with Melbourne and parmas? As a relatively recent blow-in from the northern states it took some time to get my head around the relationship. Up north parmas are more commonly called parmis, tend to lurk towards the bottom of most menus and are usually seen as just an excuse to eat a lot of melted cheese. In Brisbane steaks the size of your head tend to be favoured and in Sydney it’s whatever is trendy that week, normally something fusion. But in Melbourne the blackboards outside of almost every pub advertise some sort of parma special. Melbourne just loves a bit of crumbed fried veal, or chicken, or eggplant to go with their beer.
But too often the parma in front of you was frozen not so long before it got put on the plate and the only beers available on tap come from the lovely people at CUB. One bar/bistro has taken it on itself to provide a venue that not only elevates the humble parma to culinary heights but also celebrates many of the fantastic microbrews that can now be found in Victoria.
Located in Little Bourke St, Mrs Parma’s was opened in 2006 by Melissa Leaney and Fiona Melbourne. Melissa and Fiona, both chefs with a history of working in fine dining, had the vision of doing something different. They realised that there was a market for a bistro that focussed on parmas made by good chefs who had a commitment to quality ingredients (fresh chicken and veal, Italian tomatoes, quality mozzarella). Pub food but at a restaurant standard. It then seems like a natural progression to realise that if you are going to increase the standard of the parma on the plate then perhaps the standard of the beer in the pot needs to be improved as well.
When All Ale The Big V popped into Mrs Parma’s for a couple of pots and a chat last week, Fiona and Melissa told me that what they do is a passionate obsession for them. They feel that all of their staff shares the same love and passion for what they do.
The beer list is all Victorian and mostly microbrews with Carlton Draught being the only concession for those that aren’t prepared to take the leap to something a bit more adventurous. Brews on tap at the moment include Flying Horse’s Dirty Angel, 2 Brother’s Rusty Pale Ale and Mountain Goat’s Hightail. Fiona and Melissa told me that the beers on offer do change every two to three months with the exception being their favourite Gippsland Gold, Gippy Gold as it’s known in the bar, from Grand Ridge. Two taps are kept for specialty kegs.
A range of stubbies are also stocked and one of the popular events in the bar is “Drink The Esky Dry” where a case of something new is featured on a Friday arvo. Melissa and Fiona are committed to helping out the industry that helped them when they were first setting up the bar. They told me that they had a terrific response from the brewers they initially contacted and that dealing directly with the brewer is one of the best aspects of the job. When pressed on their favourite brewers they nominated Temple, Red Hill and Bridge Rd.
While beers will retain their pride of place at Mrs Parma’s do expect to see the odd cider on tap and the wine list is ever developing to reflect Victoria’s strong boutique wine industry.
I have to admit that I haven’t had a chance to try one of the parmas yet but I intend to rectify that in the next couple of weeks. Anyone care to join me? What better way to while away an arvo. Good food, cooked with passion, washed down by some great beers. Sounds like the good life to me.