A couple of months ago my mum’s older brother died. We travelled to the country for his funeral, and on the 2-hour drive home we chatted in the car about how we should get out together more often (preferably not at a funeral next time!).
So when Mum suddenly said, “I’d love to go on that restaurant tram at night, so I can see all the city lights!” the family machine kicked into motion, with the resulting back and forth emails about who could make it and when, what time sunset was, would they cater to vegetarians and vegans…you know the kind of thing.
In a relatively short period of time, we had a table booked for 4 people for the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant’s early dinner tram. This met all our criteria:
- our crowd wasn’t too big and overwhelming
- we’d arrive in daylight but be on the tram after dark to see the lights
- Mum would only have to fit in 3 courses
- we could be home before 9pm.
‘Our crowd’ consisted of my Mum (vegetarian), one of my sisters (omnivore), my brother (vegetarian) and me (vegan).
They know what vegans are
I sent through a query about dietary requirements and quick as a flash I received a PDF version of their vegan menu! You could have knocked me down with a feather. They couldn’t have thrown the menu together in that time, but they don’t mention it on the website (although they do have vegetarian and gluten-free menus online).
I could hardly contain my excitement when I realised they knew what to feed a vegan, and I wouldn’t just end up eating a roast dinner without the meat – or a bowl of spinach and a basket of chips as I did at my last family lunch!
Don’t be late!
We arrived at the tram stop superdooper early, because we didn’t know how long it would take to get through the city crowds in peak hour…and you can’t be late! They have to fit the pickups between the regular trams, because trams can’t overtake, so they absolutely HAVE TO leave on time.
There were actually 2 Tramcar Restaurants running that night – and the staff are almost military in their punctuality and organisation, gathering the guests for each of the trams together, ready to jump on as soon as their allotted tram pulls up.
When our turn came, there was a bit of a hairy moment as Mum (86, with creaky knees and a prosthetic hip) hauled herself up the steep steps into the tram, with a bit of help from us. She can be very determined.
We took our seats in a tiny, 4-person booth at the front of the tram, surrounded by swags of fabric, tassels, lamps and mirrors. It felt like something out of an Agatha Christie novel…especially when my white-haired mother looked me in the eye and whispered, “I wonder who’s going to be murdered tonight?” OK Mum, stop it, you’re creeping me out!
Then we felt a jolt and a shudder…and we were off!
As we were on the quick, early dinner (5.45-7.15pm), our first course was out by the time we’d got ourselves comfortable. It was a set menu, and I’ll only mention the vegan food here – that’s a rule of Vegan MOFO!
So I won’t mention that the others shared a hummous dip and a capsicum dip with lavosh crackers. They contained non-vegan ingredients. Doh! I got my own little dish of guacamole and rice crackers. The guacamole was OK. I’m not sure what it had in it, but it didn’t really taste like fresh mashed avocadoes, but I didn’t mind, the restaurant is mostly about the atmosphere anyway.
Yes, it was a vegie stack, and I know that’s something a lot of vegetarians and vegans roll their eyes at, but I thought this was a good one. The vegetables were marinated and thinly sliced. They came with a vanilla bean beetroot relish drizzled around the plate. I couldn’t eat too much of the relish, because it was quite sweet, but it was delicious is small amounts and looked really pretty. It would make a great vegan Christmas dish.
Between courses we were entertained by the views of Melbourne’s southern suburbs, including South Melbourne and St Kilda. Next time we’ll go on a night when Luna Park is open and St Kilda is all lit up.
The staff were pretty entertaining too! And they couldn’t do enough to help, never once making me feel like having a vegan on board was strange or a bother. They said they are happy to cater to any diet.
An individual apple crumble, surrounded with sliced strawberries…followed by a glass of Cointreau (my choice, and included in the price).
No sooner had I drained the last drop of Cointreau from my glass than we were (punctually) arriving back at our starting point, but our booked taxi had already left because we were 2 minutes late (not so punctual after all)… Oh well, we booked another taxi and managed to get back to my place by 8.30pm.
A week later, Mum says she’s still recovering from her big night out, but I’d definitely do it again. We had a great night, and still had time for a good night’s sleep!