I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published September 26th 2011
Melbourne has long been the culinary capital of Australia and it seems there is no end to the variety of places to visit in order to stave off the pangs of hunger.
Apart from the endless array of 'normal' eateries in such well known places as Southbank, Lygon and Chapel Street, we've been encouraged to dine on cruise boats plying the Yarra, rattle through dinner on that most Melburnian mode of transport, the humble tram and even nosh away thousands of feet above the city aboard classic old aeroplanes.
But one of Victoria's iconic tourism attractions also offers some great eating options.
Puffing Billy is well known as a great day out for people of all ages and its lunch and dinner runs are proving equally popular.
Puffing Billy started life as a part of Victoria's public transport system running regular passenger and freight services into the Dandenong Ranges until the early 1950s. Since then, and with the help of countless volunteers who maintain the rolling stock and track, the little narrow gauge rail has become one of Australia's best known and most popular tourist attractions. The current railway is the remains of four experimental lines used in the development of the Dandenong Ranges region in the early 1900s.
The "Steam & Cuisine Luncheon Train" departs Belgrave at 12.30pm daily (except Christmas Day) travelling to Lakeside Station at Emerald Lake Park and returning to Belgrave at 3.30pm.
Passengers may select from the standard three course menu or enjoy sharing a 'Natter Platter', a selection of cured meats, smoked salmon, seasonal roasted vegetables, olives, crackers and cheese and seasonal fruit salad. That's followed by scones with jam and cream and tea or coffee.
Belgrave Station is the start and finish point for Puffing Billy's lunch and dinner trips.
An excellent range of local wines and other beverages are available for purchase on the train.
The Luncheon Train' costs $85 per adult or $75 for children and Concession Card holders.
For the ultimate railway dining experience you need to sign up for Puffing Billy's 'Dinner Special'.
Departing Belgrave at 7.15pm, you'll enjoy a unique steam train experience as you make your way to the historic Nobelius Packing Shed. En-route you'll enjoy a selection of olives, cheeses and dips.
Dinner is served at Nobelius and comprises a soup entrée followed by roast legs of beef with gravy, pork and apple sauce or grilled cajun chicken all served with seasonal vegetables and salads. The main is followed by desserts of profiteroles or pavlova.
Puffing Billy is a familiar sight and sound in the Dandenong Ranges.
Cheese platters, a complimentary glass of port, coffee, tea and dinner chocolates are served on the return trip to Belgrave, where you'll arrive at about 11.30pm.
The 'Dinner Special' costs $93 per person and there are no concessions. The 2013-2014 season dates are available on the website.
Bookings are essential for both services and you will be required to nominate your menu choice for the 'Luncheon Train' at the time of booking. Any special dietary requirements, including vegetarian meals can be accommodated with 72 hours prior notice.