Before Union House was Union House, it was neighbourhood favourite Union Dining. As with many good things, it came to an end, and in February this year Nicky Riemer and Adam Cash closed the doors to the Swan Street space. But now the crew from Marquis of Lorne has Fitzroy moved in.
It can be daunting taking over a venue that was already a favourite. But the re-fit has been done tastefully and the food and drink offerings are so good, Union House looks set to become one in its own right.
What about the old adage that you can't please all the people all the time? Yeah, nah — out the window at Union House. This place has drawcards coming out its ears.
First and foremost it's a pub — so if you're after a couple of pints of local craft beer and a burger, you can get some great versions of those. The rockling burger ($19) is made up of a well-crumbed rockling (a saltwater fish, for the uninitiated), chilli and cos on a brioche bun. It's the perfect size to get your mouth around and fills a sizeable gap.
If you're after more bistro-style fare, they have that too — snacks, starters, mains and steaks. The only reason you'll be frowning here is because choosing is hard. Will you have the roast chicken breast and confit leg ($29)? Or the grilled pork loin with braised beans and gravy ($26)?
Vegetarians are well catered for as well, with several interesting options. The smoked eggplant with tahini labneh ($14) has a lovely lemon twist and it's melt-in-your-mouth delicious, especially when scooped up with toasted flatbread. Combining healthy and tasty, the ricotta and semolina dumplings in broccoli broth ($22) are a lighter, smoother take on traditional gnocchi.
As well as beer, there's a beautiful French-inflected wine list. If there are a few of you, and you're in for the long haul, there's a menu just for magnums and they're available in fizz, pink, orange and red.
Depending on your mood, and the weather, you can enjoy the open bar area downstairs — with its booths and high tables — or head up the stairs to the dining room made cosy by the Cheminees Philippe fireplace. For sunny days, or just because you like rooftops, there's an upstairs terrace with a bar, lots of wooden furniture and plants.
Union House is casual and unpretentious. You can wheel in your pram and park it next to a booth, bring a date here on a Friday night or meet up with some friends and work your way through a magnum and the menu.
Images: Letícia Almeida.