Paradise Valley Hotel
249 Belgrave-Gembrook Rd, Clematis
By WENDY HARGREAVES, fiveofthebest.com
Why does a pub meal taste even better when you take a day trip to find it?
On this occasion, our family pointed our car towards the hills seeking a good view of Melbourne for our fresh-off-the-plane-from-Germany exchange student. We ended up on top of Mount Dandenong at SkyHigh, and thoughts turned to German schnitzel, which of course became a craving for a chicken parma.
Rumours of a super-parma have swirled around a revamped pub on the other side of Mt Dandenong in the hamlet of Clematis, wedged between Emerald and Menzies Creek, so we took the windy road to the Paradise Valley Hotel.
Three hospitality pros (Mark Protheroe, Joe Durrant and Steven Nelson) took over the sprawling country pub last year, sprucing up both the art deco rooms and the menu. Food, booze and service are all spot on, and the whole place oozes relaxed style and generosity.
But the real test of a good pub is the chicken parma, and this one was worth the drive (just under an hour from Melbourne’s CBD). Impossibly thick and juicy, it’s packed with flavour, thanks to super smoky ham and a rich, sweet red sauce with a generous layer of molten cheese on top. The salad and chips were excellent too ($28 for the lot… or $20 on Parma Night every Thursday).
Smaller dishes like sweet/sour cauliflower and veal/pistachio sausage rolls are made for beer sessions on the back deck, which overlooks the Puffing Billy Tourist Railway. There’s even a little station at the pub, and the famous old steam engine will stop for 10 passengers or more.
Paradise Valley Hotel is such an idyllic name. Turns out the town used to be called Paradise, changing in 1921 to Clematis (a tough flowering creeper) to avoid confusion with another town by the same name near St Arnaud in Victoria’s north-west.
But the paradise theme lives on through the old pub, especially the back garden on a sunny day.
Have you got a favourite place to eat chicken parma?
Here are five more of Wendy’s favourites… https://www.3aw.com.au/wendy-hargreaves-lists-five-of-the-best-chicken-parmas-in-melbourne/