Trams, and in particular the older ‘W’ Class green and yellow bone-shakers, are part of Melbourne culture. In the old days you could even jump aboard as the tram moved away from the stop and leap aboard. They were cold in the winter and a hot box in summer and the corridor was patrolled by a drab-suited bloke or lady with a bookie-style leather bag slung in front from which tickets and change were dispensed.
Today, sadly some say, the conductor is long gone and much of the charm and simple pleasure has been removed and replaced by swiping card-tickets and gleaming technology. Today, we need to find another source of the warmth and civility and convenience that this mode of public transport once provided.
Fortunately for Melbourne drinkers, the joys of hospitality, warmth and that indescribable feeling of a simple pleasure are all available in a tram-like setting at The Tramway Hotel along with a selection of great craft beer. Set back from the main street, The Tramway Hotel has a few restrictions on trading hours and outdoor dining or drinking but this is a small price to pay for the enveloping warmth and ‘old style’ hospitality that awaits within.
Resurrected by a team of three dedicated and passionate people, The Tramway is like a beacon in an urban maze – especially at night when the W-Class tram-cum-porch-light is a literal beacon – and is run more like an open-house than a business. Neat and tidy but with smatterings of inner-city grunge décor it really is like visiting a friend. Jess and her staff are never too busy to greet and chat, particularly when it comes to the swiftly rotating taps featuring plenty of good craft beer.
Last year really saw The Tramway land on the map with Good Beer Week and a collaboration with Jade from The Wheaty producing a South Australian Pint of Origin project that drew the crowds. So much so, in fact, that the pub pulled its biggest numbers for the week in the 18 months or so it had been open. This year The Tramway will again showcase the pride of South Australia in what promises to be another record breaking week.
Which leads nicely into my final bit. Records. As in old vinyl and real sound and music-as-story telling kinda thing. While Jess as a hands-on operator has a hospitality and fine wine background, the other partners will be well known to inner-city hipster types as the founders of Polyester Records – a Melbourne music icon. On my last visit I commented that the music choice was perfect. Stuff you felt you knew even if you’d never heard it and, for an older fart like myself, music that was at once all new and fresh but neatly familiar. Jess told me that they also try to play an album in its entirety by way of paying respect to the artist who recorded it that way.
That’s respect and it carries into everything else they do at The Tramway – from the sheared-back concrete wall and the re-loved furniture that gives a funky-without-being-twee feel to the cosy room, it’s all about the guest. Its inner-city locale belies the feeling that it could just as easily be a country corner pub. The Tramway Burger is worth the trip alone and it award winning status is well earned.
If you can’t get down during Good Beer Week, make a point of getting in after while the SA beers are still on tap and the crowds are thinner.
You can find the Tramway Hotel at 165 Rae Street in North Fitzroy, opposite Edinburgh Gardens.
Find it by foot, bike, car or catch the tram. If coming by the 112 tram get out at the Edinburgh Gardens stop, near the Fitzroy Bowls club. If coming by 96 tram from the city get out one stop after Alexander Parade.