We usually associate the word 'diner' with some kind of hokey themed establishment, probably with singing wait staff, linoleum floors and greasy oversized portions. And though this brand new Windsor eatery may take its name from those other dubious incarnations of the word, Parlour Diner is thankfully nothing like them.
This surely stems from the guiding hand of its owner, former Milky Joe's proprietor Adrian Van Lieshout. Choosing the tiny space next to Windsor station as his new outpost, Van Lieshout and business partner Dorian Padgham wanted to create a 'comfortable little space', and those words are crucial to the experience of Parlour Diner. Though the place is almost full to the brim once its few tables are occupied, there's a sense of camaraderie between the patrons, mostly a local crowd. Whilst cafes on Chapel Street have a tendency to be overpriced and overcrowded, Parlour Diner's tiny size keeps it grounded with a sense of community rather than commodity.
The menu takes its cues from a 1920s rather than 1950s diner sensibility, which makes for heartier, healthier dining options, even on a meat-drenched menu. Carnivores will find their mecca here with options like buttermilk fried chicken chops (4 for $15) or BBQ ribs drenched in a smoky hickory sauce (six for $22.5).
And then there's the burgers. There's a colourful list to choose from, ranging from classic to culturally inspired choices. You could play it safe and choose the simple but excellent Parlour Burger; a rich 8oz beef patty with the usual additions like fresh tomato, lettuce and pickles ($12) or take the road less travelled with options such as the Miss Saigon – which pairs a crunchy handmade fish patty with lemongrass and ginger to pack a spicy punch ($15) – or the Asian Pork Slider, a new take on the former incarnation at Milky Joe's ($12). There's even a tofu Earth Burger ($13) for the vegetarians out there, who could also go for the perfectly indulgent Mascarpone macaroni and cheese ($9).
The generous breakfast options (as many eggs as you like, for $9.50) or the flat top hot dogs that feature adventurous toppings like chipotle and celery salt ($10) are worth a visit too. And then there's the onion rings ($5), lightly battered in Pale Ale and thick enough to satisfy as a snacking option.
By elegantly tying together the popularity of American style dining with a Melbourne café mentality, Van Lieshout and Padgham have managed to combine the best of both worlds, creating an atmosphere that takes the humble diner restaurant well into the contemporary dining experience.