Crumbed chicken breast or veal hammered out flat might sound like an incredibly simple dish, but there is an art to getting schnitzel right. The shell needs to be well-seasoned and to stick to the meat instead of falling off like an ill-fitting jacket. The meat needs to be cooked through but remain tender and juicy. And the quality of your sauce is a linchpin to the whole enterprise - good gravy is everything. We ate a lot of schnitzel to bring you this list – may our stomachs and waistbands have mercy on us.
It’s such a simple detail, but the fact that your golden-crumbed chicken breast comes with the wing attached is an immediate sign that this schnitzel is not like the other ones. They source their chicken from a small, family-run farm in Taralga NSW that raises their chickens free range and hormone free. Not only do you get the sweet taste of ethical eating, but because the team from Mary’s is behind the resurrection of this Paddo pub the silky smooth mash and top-shelf gravy that are propping up your schnitty are truly excellent.
We know there were a few tears shed for the old White Cockatoo. Not because it was a particularly outstanding establishment, but because it did cheap drinks and schnitzels that were so big they came on a platter. Now it’s the West Village, and the good news is there’s still a schnitzel on the menu – it’s a Vienna schnitzel, not chicken, but it’s big. Not platter big, but still a sizeable, tender fillet of veal hammered flat, thinly crumbed and fried until golden brown and properly crunchy. The burnt butter with capers, parsley and lemon ladled over the top is a punchy, zesty foil to what is essentially a deep-fried steak.
As far as we know, this is the only place you can get a Southern fried chicken schnitzel. Imagine the crisp, crunchy, spiced shell of regular fried chicken, just flatter, and with a side of coleslaw instead of biscuits and gravy. Of course if you time your visit for a Wednesday night, not only do you get to play a super-chill game of trivia, but you can also branch out and order the Bavarian-style schnitzel, which translates to a juicy, tenderised chicken breast, crumbed and fried and then topped with a layer of melted gruyère cheese with mustard underneath. It’s savoury, piquant and really delicious. Try it.
The Eastern European café in Double Bay has been feeding generations of Sydneysiders. You don't come here for the up to date decor - you come for the schnitzels, matzo ball soup and the light-as-air cheesecake. They're famous for their half'n'half veal and chicken schnitzel platter with a side of creamed spinach. We like to add an order of lecso salad (a Hungarian capsicum dish like a ratatouille) or the super creamy mushroom sauce.
When it comes to rock-solid counter meals the Erko never lets you down. These guys have gotten seriously into smoking over the last little while, which means that ribs, wings, brisket and veggies are all on the menu, but they also do a line in straight-up counter meals. The house schnitzel for an even $20 ticks all the right boxes; tender, juicy chicken; properly crisp, golden shell; plus coleslaw and shoestring fries on the side. sauce, and the picture isn’t complete without a local brew to accompany your meal. We reckon it’s worth shelling out the two bucks for a side of mushroom.
At this pared back Glebe bar and restaurant there's the crisp Bernard lager, not to mention the heftier Budvar by the very large glassful. And make sure to order a big-ass pretzel with butter to gnaw on the side. If you're feeling particularly ravenous, there's the Vienna schnitzel. Just want some window dressing for your beer? Give the utopenec a whirl – it's a Czech dish of soft pork sausage that's been pickled with onions. Eat slices of it with a side of pickled carrots and onions washed down with a big old European beer.
On any day of the week the fat, juicy schnitzels at the Oxford Tavern can be yours for 20 bucks, but for four sweet hours on a Tuesday evening, not only can you play a raucous game of trivia with a whole lot of interactive and video based segments, but you can also demolish a $12 schnitty in four flavours. The parma comes with a tomato sauce and cheese; the animal adds special sauce, fried onions and paprika to the mix; the Hawaiian number is exactly what it sounds like and you can throw your heart health to the wind with a schnitzel BLT where the chicken is the bread. Traditional they are not, but tasty trumps tradition in this case.
It's incredible what a difference a change of ownership, a slap of paint and a decent pub menu makes to a place. Hands to our hearts, you no longer need approach the Tudor with caution. They’ve cosied up the place, but there’s no serious refurb to get accustomed to. The parmagiana and the burger are solid counter meals and there’s not a slider to be seen, praise be.
The schnitzels here are the stuff of dreams. Forget about dainty fillets you nibble at with knife and fork. These behemoths are sumo-sized. And only $22. Head down to the basement level beneath Marrickville Tavern and you’ll find schnitzel city. There are fifteen schnitzel variations on the menu, starting with the classic parmigiana, mushroom and green peppercorn sauce. But there’s nothing sacred when it comes to the stuff they’ll put on schnitzels here.
More tasty treats this way
As the line between restaurant and bar becomes increasingly blurry, it's now possible to make a whole meal out of the excellent bar snacks flying over the counter at our favourite haunts. These are the places we head when we're not sure if drinks is going to turn into dinner, but we want to keep our options open.