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Parma, chips and salad
Photograph: Supplied/Imperial Hotel

The best parmas in Melbourne

Meet the pubs upholding the proud Australian tradition of the humble chicken parma

Written by
Fred Siggins
Time Out editors
Rushani Epa

We set out to discover the many variations of Melbourne's most iconic dish and pub staple; the chicken parma.

To judge parma perfection, we arrived at a set of criteria that each winning parma would have to meet. We asked ourselves: is the chook fresh, flavoursome, moist and tender? Is the crumb well-seasoned and crisp throughout? Is the cheese rich and bubbly golden brown? Is the ham thick and rich, lending depth and umami to an otherwise simple dish? Is the sauce made from scratch, with the freshest of ingredients? And of course, are the parma's natural allies – the chips, the salad and the beer – all up to scratch? 

After much deliberation, here, in no particular order, are six of the city's best and the personalities they represent.

Find more of Melbourne's best pubs with our guide, or go back to the dish's roots with the best Italian restaurants in town

Melbourne's best parmas

  • Bars
  • Fitzroy

For a thick and juicy cut of chicken breast coated in a golden crumb, look no further than the Birmy in Fitzroy. The saucy bird's coated in fresh napoli sauce, topped with thick slices of smokey ham and finished off with a generous lathering of melted cheese. It's so succulent that its juices permeate the bottom crumb causing it to go soggy, but you won't have that issue because it will be gone in 60 seconds. It's that good.

  • Bars
  • Melbourne

If you like your parma's crisp and your cheese scorched until it's golden brown, then this one's for you. The Imperial Hotel, or Impy as it's known, serves up a thinner, more simple fillet of chicken (which it owes its crunch to) and receives its very own Fairy Godmother moment with its elaborate toppings. It's dressed from top to bottom with layers of napoli sauce that would make any nonna happy, thin slices of ham and enough cheese to keep turophiles satiated.

  • Restaurants
  • Prahran
  • price 1 of 4

The Relative Newcomer 

While this parma might not have been around as long as some of its competitors, it's still at its flying best. The crumb and sauce here are both packed with fresh herbs, the crust is perfectly cooked to an even golden brown and the ham is thick and flavourful. This one also comes in a half size for the less gluttonous parma fans, or if you want to leave room for another dish.

The Leveson
  • Bars
  • North Melbourne

The Inner City Gem

Head over to North Melbourne to take advantage of this meaty fix. The Leveson's classic chicken parma comes with all the fixings (crumbed chicken breast, shaved ham, napoli sauce and cheese) alongside a roquette salad and some crisp beer battered chips. It's all you'd ever want in a pub meal. 

  • Bars
  • Port Melbourne

The Old Favourite

We included this parma in our last round-up a few years back, and checking in on the old girl proves she’s still got it. This is a stock standard traditional parma done just right, providing a perfect standard by which to judge all others.

The Napier Hotel
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 1 of 4

The True Blue

A perennial Fitzroy favourite, The Napier is known for its epic pub meals like the infamously huge Bogan Burger. Their parma is no dainty morsel either, and comes either with ham or with thick slices of smoked and peppered kangaroo loin alongside shoestring fries and a garden salad. Get that up ya.

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