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17 Apr 2012

Whet your appetite at Melbourne Aquarium

Imagine sipping a peach Bellini cocktail in Antarctica, followed by canapés on a river and finishing with desserts next to a coral atoll.

You might achieve it on a billionaire’s yacht ... or simply join Friday night drinks at the Melbourne Aquarium.

Held on the last Friday of the month, the evening is a roaming affair, taking in the underwater “worlds” of the aquarium.

“The evening starts with the penguins in our Antarctica world, and finishes at the Fish Bowl,” said the aquarium’s food and beverage manager Jo Beshara.

“It’s an amazing, two-and-a-half-hour underwater journey through the entire aquarium, accompanied by a live band,”
she said.

“You enjoy the spectacular night views of the Yarra River from the upper deck, and watch the graceful rays and marine life in the 2.2 million litre oceanarium.”

Ms Beshara said the evening was one of many packages offered by the aquarium’s Five Star Functions.

“We host weddings, birthdays, hens and bucks nights, and corporate get-togethers,” she said.

“School formals, bar mitzvahs, gala dinners, charity fund-raisers – the list goes on.”

“It can be a traditional three-course dinner, or a less-formal stand-up cocktail reception.”

“There are heaps of marriage proposals on our Valentine’s Day event!”

 “Two couples held their wedding ceremony underwater in the oceanarium fish tank, while guests watched from outside.”

“For a corporate function, you can have the company CEO underwater with a two-way, greeting his staff through the tank as they arrive.”

Aquarium communications manager Gabriella Iacuone said company family days were popular, with face painting, balloons, tours, fish feeding and lunch.

“Our Mother’s Day brunch and lunch will include all-day entry and is attractive to all age groups,” Ms Iacuone said.

“Access is easy – there are no stairs.”

Ms Beshara said executive chef Michael Craig was preparing a new winter menu. British-born Craig recently joined the aquarium following five years at the Melbourne Sofitel, and before that at Harrod’s and the Mandarin Hotel in London, and the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh.

“We serve sustainable seafood and source our produce locally when we can,” Ms Beshara said.

“And yes, we do serve fish – but they are not from our fish tank!”

The Melbourne Aquarium is on the corner of King and Flinders streets, Melbourne. Call 9923 5952, email or visit


Meals on Wheels

We have all seen it and wished we were on it ... the iconic Colonial Tramcar Restaurant has trundled along Melbourne’s tram tracks for 30 years.

Come hail, rain or shine, the tramcar restaurant has served lunches, dinners and special occasions daily since 1983. And with a punctuality that must be the envy of Yarra Trams.

“Autumn/winter is the best time of year to enjoy the tramcar restaurant,” said manager Ingrid Marshall.

“Inside, it is like you are cocooned from the elements.”

Ms Marshall said the restaurant’s menu varied according to season, and always aimed to showcase Victorian produce and wine.

“A Mother’s Day voucher would be a fabulous way to say ‘thanks’ to mum,” Ms Marshall said.

“Our Mother’s Day services are a luncheon departing at 1pm, an early dinner at 5.45pm or a late dinner at 8.35pm.

“We will have a ‘Xmas in July’ theme for every Sunday lunch in July. It will be a lot of fun.”

 The tramcar restaurant departure point is the undercover tram stop at 125 Normanby Road (corner of Clarendon St), South Melbourne.

The four-course luncheon trip takes about two hours, the three-course early dinner is 90 minutes, the five-course late dinner is three hours.

There are usually three tramcars operating and as one tramcar is retired, a new one takes its place.

Tramcar No.5 recently came into service, and the newest member of the fleet is due on the tracks in May.

Restaurant manager Mark Saltalamacchia said the newer trams stayed loyal to the historical colonial feel but were more aerodynamic and had state-of-the-art suspension.

“The stabilisers on the new trams are fitted on the floor rather than on the bogeys,” he said.

“This gives an even smoother run. I can place a full glass of champagne on the edge of the table, and it won’t move.”

Also staying put are the tramcar restaurant staff.

“Staff loyalty is a key feature of this company,” Ms Marshall said.

“I’ve been here for 14 years. Most of the staff have been here for years.”

Waiter Antoine Farsoun recently transferred to the tramcar restaurant from the Eureka Skydeck, and before that he was at Eureka 89 functions centre. All three businesses are run by the same parent company.

“It’s like a big family,” Mr Farsoun said.

Melanie Green joined the tramcar restaurant in February.

“Sometimes I’m a chef, a wine waiter, or the maitre de, and I’m already the trainee supervisor,” Ms Green said.

“I love the variation.”

For Mother’s Day menus and timetables, visit or call 9696 4000.

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