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Published June 15th 2014
Tramcar restaurant experience derailed
My expectations for a five star dining experience aboard a piece of mobile Melbourne history were palpable. Alas my expectations were dashed in my Friday evening tramcar dining disaster.
The lead up to the evening was as expected and transpired smoothly. We assembled with the other Friday evening diners at tram stop 125, a covered waiting area, on the corner of Normanby Road and Clarendon Street, South Melbourne.
I admit to being startled at the number of assembled guests; however uniformed hosts soon appeared and separated us into three main groups which corresponded with the number of soon to be arriving restaurant trams. In fact the efficiency with which we were greeted and corralled cemented my expectation that the evening meal would be an impressive and pretentious fine dining experience.
Photo courtesy of The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant website. The tram.
The trams themselves were a delightful celebration of beautifully restored and maintained mobile machinery. Driven carefully by a Yarra Trams driver, our tram trundled dutifully through the streets of Melbourne. Absurdly, I had absolutely no idea where we went even though my wife is a Melbourne native. A simple narrative of our locality from time to time would have sufficed.
Photo courtesy of The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant website
Inside, the waiters were attentive and poured wine and waited tables adeptly. Sadly it was the menu and then the food that derailed my evening.
Our five course menu started with biscuits and dip. Both were nice. Not stunning like you might expect, just simply nice.
Entree was a choice of duck terrine and smoked salmon and avocado. This was my first encounter with a terrine of any kind. I was shocked to discover the terrine is served chilled. The tastes were satisfactory but I questioned the logic of serving a cold entree dish on a chilly winter evening. Strike one.
Main was a choice of chicken or beef. The descriptive titles on the menu veiled the true constitution of the dishes. Satisfactory eye fillet of beef at slightly above room temperature paired with chilled rosemary and thyme scallop potato - my food betrayed the inherent difficulty of keeping pre-prepared ingredients at an appropriate temperature on a moving tram carriage. My wife's chicken was equally undesirable and a sizeable portion returned to the kitchen untouched. Strike two.
The cheese tasting plate that next graced our table was delicious. Local cheese and crisp water crackers. A beacon of hope.
Our tram trundled to a halt for a ten minute scheduled stop somewhere in South Melbourne. With dessert yet to be served, and fearful of striking out, my wife and I took a walk (baseball style) and kept walking. We hailed a cab and escaped back to the city without availing ourselves of the choice of two desserts. For whatever reason, we weren't the only escapees - four other diners availed themselves of the adjacent main thoroughfare and eagerly accepting cab drivers.
The evening was a train wreck, or more correctly a tram wreck. My recommendation? Tour the city by day and avail yourself of a guided tram tour. For dinner, consider the wonderful history of Melbourne with your feet firmly on the ground of a stationary five star restaurant.
Please note that the tram car restaurant is a popular Melbourne experience. Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.