Foodie Review: Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
It’s taken me 4 years to get there, WROS an additional 2 years and it was Posh Boy’s 3rd time. The arrival of London Buddy #1 into Melbourne meant only one thing. We were finally going to go on the tramcar restaurant. I’d heard only good things and WROS’ excitement levels were uncontainable when I told her I’d managed to secure a Thursday night late dinner booking.
Tennis Boy had taken Gym Bunny for her birthday one year and they’d both rolled off as a result of the free-flowing vino. Posh Boy had been equally inebriated when he took his parents but whilst we feared for our heads the next day it didn’t take the edge off our excitement. We dressed up accordingly, me in my LBD and new blue heels, ready to be wowed.
Pre-dinner drinks were arranged across the road from the tram stop at Crown which coincided perfectly with one of Melbourne’s infamous weather changes. Following a month of no rain, it poured, the temperature plummeted and we couldn’t get cabs for love nor money. We all turned up as scheduled, a wetter, dishevelled and chilly version of ourselves. But we weren’t going to let something as silly as the weather spoil our fun.
I’d also used my Entertainment Book voucher to get $30 off the cost of two of the meals. It made the usual $120 price tag more palatable given my continued state of unemployment. Still $120 for 5 courses and unlimited booze still felt like extraordinarily good value.
First impressions didn’t fail us. You are asked to arrive 15 mins earlier than the 8.35pm departure time which meant hanging around in the rain and cold again with our equally wet and cold fellow passengers but you could feel the anticipation in the confides of the tram shelter. We were all in for a good night, couples, friends, families and tourists mingled easily together and we were ushered onto our respective trams with slick efficiency. The tramcar was sumptuous. I felt like Hercule Poirot would appear at any moment from behind a velvety curtain to request a sherry to help lubricate ‘zee little grey cells’. I wished I’d worn a vintage 20s outfit and wondered how much it would be to hire an entire tram for such a themed party.
The service was exquisite, the banter, light and jovial. The waiters were here to make sure we had a good time and no mistake. The first course of pate and dips was already on our tables and I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the obvious supermarket water crackers rather than something a little better. Both the pate and capsicum dip were a delight – so much so we asked for more crackers so we could scrape the bowls clean. Sparkling arrival, swiftly followed by our choice of red or white wine with our entres.
London Buddy #1 and I went for the kangaroo which was far superior to the others’ barramundi. This was my favourite dish of the meal but LB#1 felt it was too lemony and as this was her first kangaroo, a slight disappointment as it masked the flavour of the meat. On sampling PB’s fish we agreed it was good but nothing special. We’d won that round.
For mains, I was odd man out by choosing the chicken and I clearly lost this round. Again is was fine, a tasty roast chicken breast. Nothing less but certainly nothing more. The beef fillet was a hit with the rest of the party though. By this time we’d trundled around the north of the CBD onto St Kilda Rd presumably in the direction of South Melbourne. The rain had continued and affected the trams automatic break system which meant the smooth tram journey became more of a bunny hop and the serving of drinks was suspended. Rumours circulated the car of us being returned to the depot or towed for the rest of the trip. We did neither, the poor staff had to announce we’d be spending the rest of the meal at domain interchange and then taken back to the first stop. The disappointment was crushing.
The staff performed brilliantly under very difficult circumstances but in my opinion, the constant rush back and forth to ascertain what was going on, disrupted our service, ambience and, as we were sat next to the driver’s cabin, conversation. The door continuously banged open and shut throughout the meal and I’d be lying if it didn’t crush my buzz. Whilst we were clearly merry from the wine, it wasn’t as free-flowing as promised, nor was the food as ‘fine dining’ as I was led to believe. But when you put in of context of ‘we’re dining in the middle of a road, in the pouring rain, on a tram’ it wasn’t half bad. The cheese and puddings were good and another highlight was having a frangelico liqueur outside of the 1980s and away from my great-aunt’s drinks cabinet of dregs. (When mixed with Bailey’s it’s doubly awesome!)
I was the only one of my group who voiced their disappointment. They all still had a great night. I have a good one too – just not the one I expected.
I wrote to the reservations team the next day, saying as much, not really to moan and complain – as the service under the circumstances was good – but to express disappointment over the experience. Surely in Melbourne’s weather this happens a lot and they’d be a well rehearsed back up plan for such eventualities? Apparently not. The tramcar goes every day, even on public holidays and it’s only ever happened once before.
I received a polite and quick response to my email, thanking me for my feedback and particular praise of the staff which would be passed on. As a good will gesture they have offered me 50% off my next late dinner booking for 4 – a very generous gesture.
I am hesitating to rebook immediately though as for all the Agatha Christie mystic, the magic has been broken. A bit like my heels after not breaking them in properly. Whilst it was a fun night, I’m not sure it will be a 2nd time round plus I’d have to pay out another $60+ just to find out.