Parmageddon: Taking Pub Cuisine by the Antlers

Illustration by Julia Hammer

The name ‘Mooseheads’ comes from the English word ‘Moose’, meaning a horny animal, and the English word ‘Head’, referring to a mediocre brand of tennis racquet.  

Mooseheads is undeniably one of Canberra’s best cultural attractions, on par with Questacon, Parliament House and the Great Penis Owl of Belconnen. For most of us, it is also the scene of many late nights and early mornings getting down to The Spice Girls and tipping an entire vodka raspberry on yourself as you drunkenly try to remember your primary school dance for ‘Stop’. However, in Canberra’s growing foodie scene, it is an oft-neglected gastronomical sensation. At night only the patrons are cooked, but during the day downstairs Moose transforms into a bistro offering only the choicest parmas, chips and other delights.

A must for history majors, Mooseheads is the only surviving establishment in Canberra to not have smashed avo on their menu. Other relics include the lunchtime patrons who, with the exception of the authors and the bartender, were all over 40 and male. As they step through the door, diners are greeted with a strange sense of deja vu from the familiar Thursday night soundtrack and the smell of spilt beer. Much to the reviewers’ surprise, the floor had lost its characteristic stickiness and we glided toward the bar with ease.

The menu is ambitious, spanning a variety of cultural influences. We hadn’t seen this much global diversity on a menu since the multicultural festival, offering dim sims, spring rolls, Moroccan wedges and Texan fries, all within the few lines of the snack menu. Also drawing comparisons to the multicultural festival, chips feature heavily. While they may not be on sticks, the Moose chips are exotically dubbed ‘13mm beer battered bad boys’. If you like your lunch with a serve of hegemonic masculinity, we can also recommend the ‘Macho Nachos’ or the ‘Man Size bangers and mash’. In a moment of emasculation, these reviewers opted for the chicken parmigiana and the Angus steak burger.

As any patron with experience in Gourmet Roulette would know, when faced with the possibility of a questionable culinary experience, the robust chicken parmigiana is your first port of call. However, Mooseheads has more to offer the conservative diner than just deep fried chicken, tomato and cheese: a wide variety of optional greasy delicacies await.

Ever innovative, Moose keeps things spicy with a number of exciting options to ‘pimp your parma’. This author can highly recommend the pepperoni topping for your avian atrophy. The bittersweet taste of preserved pork makes a meal reminiscent of that year you spent at UniLodge before learning to cook, dining daily on the best that Domino’s has to offer for only $5(!). For those intrepid readers keeping kosher, the Mooseheads kitchen also provides jalapenos, feta or pineapple.

The sides also surpassed predictions, as the parma was served alongside the healthiest decision anyone’s ever made in Mooseheads (a salad). A generous serving of the aforementioned ‘13mm Beer Battered Bad Boys’ also made a welcome-if-slightly-soggy appearance.

The second dish we sampled was the Angus steak burger. The steak was cooked well, and had a distinctly smoky flavour, as though the chef had been gently exhaling wisps of Winnie Blues over the meat out back. This burger certainly delivers on the promise of a good root (vegetable), with juicy slices of beetroot accompanying salad and cheese. Caramelised onions round out the dish, imbuing it with a distinct ‘Bunnings snag’ vibe. To quote a DSM dancefloor favourite, ‘I like big buns and I cannot lie.’ This bun was certainly thicc, nicely toasted, and just seedy enough to remind you of where you are.

Walking back from the bathroom is a sobering experience, passing memorabilia from both the Second World War and ex-John’s College residents, commemorating their heroic efforts and antics. Defeated by our meals, we left the smell of old Bundy & cokes behind us and staggered out into London Circuit, rejoining the real world sober and our clothes mostly sweat-free.

Lunch at Moose was an enlightening affair, and a must-do for any Canberran with a man-sized appetite. Whether you’re trying to piece together your Thursday night while hungover, or yearning for a midday jaeger bomb, Moose goes the extra 13mm to make your meal an experience. An ideal location for catching up with friends, showing your parents how well you’ve adjusted to Canberra or wining and dining that ADFA boy you hooked up with last week.

These reviewers rate the Moose Bistro 4 and a half phalluses.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.