The weather has finally started to warm up! One by one Melbourne venues are starting to slowly embracing the sunshine and long daylight hours by opening up their terraces, rooftops and balconies (though with outdoor heaters strategically placed, just in case), including Union Dining.
Union Dining is a restaurant focusing on local produce served with a European sensibility that’s owned by Nicky Riemer in the kitchen (ex-Melbourne Wine Room) and Adam Cash at front of house (ex Cutler & Co). It’s a large handsome space which used to be a Greek restaurant but now looks more like a relaxed French bistro. I was invited to try some dishes from their new Spring menu while viewing their new upstairs terrace.
Their rooftop area overlooks the quiet back streets of Richmond with a pinpoint of the city skyline over yonder. Adorning one wall of the terrace is the first winner of ‘Two Years on the Wall‘, a biennial art competition run by Union Dining in conjunction with TarraWarra Estates. Forty-five entries were received from contemporary Victorian artists vying to have their mural on show for two years (and a cash prize) and the winning entry was a paste-up of a self-portrait of the Melbourne artist Baby Guerilla.
Along with big shady umbrellas, ample seating and its own bar service serving beer, cider, cocktails and summery mixers like Pimms, Campari and Aperol, the terrace is a great place to watch the sun go down with a group of friends. To go with your drinks you can order from the ‘Terrace Food‘ menu of light, small, sharing finger food such as these loosely packed ocean trout croquettes.
The Spring menu includes a selection of items to suit all-sized appetites and tastes – you could choose to share, partake in a formal three course meal or loosen your belts for a multi-course night of indulgence.
To start we tried the cuttlefish salad with raisin and anchovy relish, pangrattato and tomato vinaigrette ($21) and artichokes barigoule, soft eggs, borlotti beans, parmesan and parsley ($28).
I enjoyed the chargrilled tenderness of the cuttlefish coupled with the crunchy breadcrumbs and sweet pops of raisin though I was less excited by the artichokes entree, despite its floral prettiness. This could be explained by the fact that I love seafood but generally avoid artichokes, but I also felt that the relative blandness of the latter dish lacked the vivid flavours of the cuttlefish.
From the mains we shared platters of spatchcocked baby chicken adorned with Otway shiitake mushrooms, a creme fraiche based sauce, confit shallots and roasted garlic ($35.50). This was my favourite dish of the night – I loved the fact that the chicken had been boned for easy slicing, you could press the soft garlic right into the skin and the earthy sauce just begged to be mopped up with a hunk of crusty bread.
The spatchcock was accompanied by an entree to share – pickled and roasted Spring vegetables with a brightly coloured parsley cream, crunchy walnuts and Meredith goat curd ($18). I would prefer this dish as a side rather than as an item on its own, as intended by the menu, but if you’re vegetarian it is one of only two entrees to choose from (the menu does say to ask your waiter for additional vegetarian dishes).
We were then presented with a tasting of a second meat dish, the Abbachio of Spring lamb with oregano, green chilli, pecorino and broad beans ($39). The meat was fork-tender and coupled well with the other Spring-like ingredients, but like the starters I felt that it paled in comparison to the ‘wow’ factor of the earlier dish.
The lamb was paired with an artfully arranged platter of sweet roasted zucchini and black quinoa, whipped goat curd, crisp red witlof and those plump sweet raisins again ($17/$26).
To finish we tried the trifle ($15) – not a dish I’d normally choose but this version is far removed from Grandma’s sponge-soggy dessert. The bottom is lined with tart tamarillo then layers are built with pistachio sponge and sweet zabaglione, before being garnished with a line of crunchy pistachios echoing the pale greeness of the sponge.
Finally, I’d like to applaud the polished and professional service I encountered at Union Dining. Water was proffered at regular intervals, plates were removed promptly and a rolled up blanket was quickly procured for my aching back when requested.
Dinner from 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday
Lunch from 12pm, Friday to Sunday
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