We set out to discover the best of what Melbourne has to offer in the way of the chicken parma; Australia’s most iconic pub meal. 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 five of the city's best and the personalities they represent.
The five best parmas in Melbourne
The newest parma on our list comes from the recently renovated Flying Duck Hotel. 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 Footy Fan
It’s rare to find a pub where the food is as good as the sporting culture, but The Palace – our 2016 Pub of the Year – is just that place. Their parma is thick and flavourful with one of the best sauces we’ve tried full or rich onion sweetness. Come on a Monday to grab one for $12.
A giant among parmas, the huge slab of ultra fresh chook at The Imperial looks like the filet of a small dinosaur. It’s also delicious, ticking all the boxes of parma perfection with plenty of crispy bits around the edges. We love the shaved parmesan in the salad and beer battered chips, too.
The Beer Nerd
Melbourne’s original craft beer pub remains one of our best, and their parma is no disappointment. Huge quantities of cheese ooze from the sides, capturing crispy chips and ensuring the perfect combo of chicken, ham, sauce, cheese and chip in every bite. Paired with one of their amazing beers, you can’t go wrong.