All aboard! Experience a dining event like no other as you glide through the bustling streets of Melbourne on the historic Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Since its inception in 1983, the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant has become a star attraction in Melbourne in its own right. But don’t think the experience is just for tourists. The first traveling tram restaurant in the world, also makes a memorable experience for a special occasion like a romantic anniversary or birthday.
On a chilly winter’s day, tourists and locals alike gathered eagerly on Normandy Road, South Melbourne (the official meeting point) ready to board the tramcar’s weekend lunch service. Within minutes we were politely ushered inside by a charismatic maitre’d and guided to our table
The famous fleet of historic trams are painted a distinctive glossy burgundy to reflect the era of old. The interior is elegant and sophisticated like the luxurious Pullman-style European trains of the 1920’s. Think plush velvet booths, bold brass fittings and crisp laid white tablecloths. Despite the aisle separating the tables on either side, be prepared to get up, close and personal with your neighbours since the dining carriage is quite narrow!
During the two hour luncheon period , we cruised through the bustling streets of Melbourne’s CBD, past the Queen Victoria Markets and the beautiful parklands, before venturing Bayside to Albert Park and the St Kilda promenade. Waiting staff are always on call to answer any questions, top up drinks and promptly clear the plates.
We were treated to a four-course lunch menu ($85 per person including drinks). The menu showcases the best of seasonal and local produce with a distinct Victorian focus. The meals are cooked elsewhere but prepared in the tiny kitchen onboard. Early and late night dinner services are also available.
To start, a duo of neatly prepared dips paired with crispy lavosh and golden baked water crackers. The hummus had a great depth of flavour with the addition of a touch of mint and tahini, while a roasted red capsicum dip was teamed with Australian cream cheese and house made tapenade to pack a further flavour punch.
A confit duck terrine was nicely executed, accompanied by a duo of zesty cornichons, a sprinkling of parsley and a wild berry relish to add a bit of sweetness to the dish. The prosciutto wrapping the duck was a nice touch but made the dish a little too salty for my liking.
The alternative entrée was a cylindrical assembly of smoked salmon and avocado mousse. The avocado mousse was smooth and creamy throughout and crowned by fleshy chunks of smoked salmon – a common but winning flavour combination. The baby caper, red onion and tomato salsa was a nice addition to the dish, bringing together the flavours beautifully.
For mains, the Victorian farmed eye fillet of beef far outshone the grilled chicken breast. Ordered medium rare, the beef was perhaps a little overcooked for my liking (served medium) but was lean, tender and full of flavour. The beef fillet was teamed with a rosemary and thyme scallop potato, broccoli, onion marmalade and a red wine jus, which may have been best served as a jug on the side.
The final course was a cheese tasting plate, perhaps a little unfortunate for sweet tooths like me (desserts are only served during the dinner service). A creamy brie was complemented by a more bitey cheddar cheese, providing a pleasant textural combination. The platter was served with a zesty quince paste, nuts, crackers and a spiced fruit loaf.
Finally, tea and coffee was served to guests – the perfect end to a lovely luncheon.
A restaurant on a tourist tram may sound slightly tacky to a fickle Melbourne crowd. However, if you’re prepared to blend in with the tourists, and leave your expectations of fine dining at the door, you’ll be in for a pleasant treat. This dining experience gets booked out extremely quickly, especially on weekends.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Food – 6/10
Value – 8/10
Ambience – 8/10
Service – 8/10