By Graeme Kemlo
News that the City of Melbourne will spend $2.2 million to extend its outdoor dining for another six months will be welcomed by the restaurateurs of this renowned culinary city. But what has happened to the moveable feast in this city, if we can borrow from Hemingway’s observations about Paris in the 1920s?
True many foodies had to enjoy pre-ordered takeaway from their favourite chefs during previous and recent lockdowns, but what about the meals on wheels, on water, on wings and more that used to define Melbourne’s iconic offerings to groups from interstate and especially international visitors?
Melbourne’s best-known moveable feast is the Old Colonial Tramcar Restaurant complete with a singing waiter. But despite the infrastructure built especially for this experience adjacent to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), the gourmet tram went off the rails well before COVID. It was allegedly a victim of aged tram hardware that raised safety concerns and now the matter is subject to a potential legal stoush.
The Yarra River’s French Bateau has had an interrupted dinner cruise schedule largely due to social distancing, but they did offer Valentine’s Day dinners, only to fall foul of another Melbourne lockdown.
Further out of down, past Geelong in the Bellarine Peninsula, the popular Blues Train cannot run due to COVID. And a different configuration of train engine and carriages, known as the Q Train, is an award-winning restaurant that plied the same local railway tracks to Queenscliff has also had to close because of the pandemic.
We can even remember a DC-3 (or was it a DC-4?) that dished up dinner at altitude over Melbourne and Port Philip Bay but this is sadly yet another experience now unavailable in the Melbourne culinary ecosphere. We understand the fast ferry from Melbourne to Portarlington can be booked on certain days and can deliver a dinner cruise… ash for the good old days of the moveable feast.