One of the last things I did before leaving Melbourne was to take a ride on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. I’m always a sucker for any kind of rail rides and one with an old-time “golden age” theme is bound to be especially appealing.
We got a bit lost (conflicting mobile phone map opinions among the party) trying to find the unprepossessing setting off point in the dark, rainy streets of South Yarra, Melbourne and rushed up as the tramcar was pulling up. We were greeted by name and a “Thank goodness you’ve made it!” enthusiasm.
The fleet of historical tramcars that have become the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant in Melbourne are burgundy-painted, brass-tinged restaurants on wheels. Bright Hollywood trailer lights surround the word Restaurant and as we hop aboard all is soon revealed: Red velvet curtains, fringed lampshades and curved booth dividers.
The food was good, highlights being the Hapuka fish with thinly-sliced curls of courgette, a fat and rare steak, and the sticky date pudding. Many of the wines are from the Australian state of Victoria’s famous wine regions, although we also had an excellent Wild Fig cabernet sauvignon from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
The staff were helpful with choosing food/wine pairings and there is also a range of beers and port to finish. (Inevitably it was time to try the toilet, which is like being on an aeroplane in size, although a little plusher.)
And it is the staff who really make this experience. Head waiter Antoine was the showman, full of larks, while Jess provided a complementary line in warmth. The large and personable British chef Dot has been slaving away in her tiny kitchen preparing five course gourmet meals for 13 years (see above catching some fresh air!) Like Antoine, she clearly loves her job and relishes the opportunity to meet people from all over the world visiting Melbourne.
You can choose from a lunch trip, early dinner or late dinner and the length of meals varies from three to five courses (fully inclusive of all food and drink). The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant operates in Melbourne everyday of the year.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been on a rail or tramcar restaurant?