Since 1983, the colonial tramcar restaurant has been an iconic feature of Melbourne tourism.
Anyone who has spent time in the bustling city of Melbourne would most likely be familiar with the site of three burgundy trams, cruising around the city. These three tramcars, fitted with colonial furnishings, make up the first tramcar restaurant in the world.
Operating for lunch, early and late dinner services seven days a week, along with extra services for special occasions – there’s a time for everyone to step on-board and enjoy a scenic cruise around the picturesque city.
We booked in for a late dinner service on a Thursday evening. Getting quite hungry at our usual dining time of 6pm, we managed to hold out until the departure time of 8:35.
The tramcars picked up guests from the south side of the city right on schedule. Being directed to our car, we stepped on board and immediately felt transported back to the period the trams represent. Ambient music was playing just loud enough to add to the atmosphere; plush velvet lined the cushioned seats, burgundy and gold drapes outlined the windows; and oak panels, mirrors and brass fitting lined the walls.
Taking our seats, a very friendly crew member dressed in a black waistcoat came and welcomed us personally aboard, placing white napkins over our laps and asking about whether we were visiting Melbourne or if we were locals. She offered a glass of bubbles to get the night started whilst other guests were taking their seats before heading over to them.
Once all seated, the crew members all introduced themselves, as well as explained the menu options for the night, and gave us a run-down of the night’s schedule and where the tram would be taking us before finishing back at the departure point.
We had three crew members on our car; Marianne, who was waiting on us and making sure all the food was okay; Tim, who was making sure our glasses were always full; and the Chef, busy working away in the kitchen.
All drinks are inclusive in the cost. The drink menu consists of a Cuvee sparkling, Aussie red and white wines, along with Crown Lager or Cascade Light beer options. Basic spirits are also available as well as a few liqueurs – Baileys, Cointreau, Frangelico, Port, Cognac – which are offered at the end of the night along with tea and coffee.
The late dinner is five courses. On the table as we boarded was a selection of crackers and homemade dips.
Following this was a selection of either a duck terrine or smoked salmon dish on avocado mousse. Marcus and I both selected the salmon which was absolutely delicious.
For mains the meat options were either chicken of eye fillet. Vegetarians are also catered for with a marinated vegetable stack.
We both chose the eye fillet which came with broccolini and scalloped potato. The meat came out a little over-cooked for my request of rare, however considering the kitchen space the chef was working with I thought the quality of the food was overall very impressive.
Once dinner was finished a cheese board was brought out with two Australian cheeses, quince paste, nuts, dried apricots and fruit loaf. Getting quite full, we enjoyed a quick taste of a few bits and pieces on the plate but didn’t have room for the whole board as we were keeping room for dessert which we knew was to follow.
After the cheese platter, we stopped at Albert Park, south of the city, and were let off for photo opportunities, some fresh air and to stretch our legs.
Once back on board, the cheese boards were cleared and the dessert tasting plates were brought out. This dish was definitely my favourite. It featured a miniature sticky date pudding and vanilla panna cotta. Both were delicious – with my sweet tooth I was glad I’d skipped the cheeses.
We finished our drinks and were returned back to the departure point at 11:30. The crew bid us farewell and helped us down from the tram. All passengers appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed the night, as had we. There seemed to be a good combination of people visiting Melbourne and locals celebrating a romantic dinner or a celebratory evening with friends.
In either case, it is definitely a whole new way to experience the city, and there is no other dining experience quite like it.
First image credited to the Tramcar restaurant’s Facebook Page