Adding to the ever-growing list of classy restaurants that are cropping up in Richmond of late is Union Dining. It’s taken over the site of Laikon, the former Greek restaurant on Swan Street. The transformation of the heritage listed building (which, incidentally, is named Union House) feels quite Italian, if only due to the similar decor and style it shares (sans tablecloths) with another great Richmond restaurant, Church Street Enoteca.
The restaurant, or “provincial European dining experience with contemporary Melbourne class”, is headed up by Adam Cash – restaurant manager, formerly of Cutler & Co and Ezard, and Nicky Reimer – the head chef, formerly of Melbourne Wine Room.
We arrived on a Friday night, and were immediately seated by Adam. The menus arrived swiftly, as did a few slices of decent bread and well seasoned butter. Ordering was made pretty easy, as the menu is quite small – a handful of appetisers and oysters, four entrees, five salads, and five mains make up the savory items.
A couple of glasses of the rather good 2006 Mt Langi Ghiran ‘Cliff Edge’ Shiraz ($11.50) were selected from the well-varied wine list, and shortly after they arrived, so did our first dish of the evening.
The Kingfish Carpaccio with pickled baby beetroots, capers & crema fresca ($19.50) was thoroughly enjoyable – a simple, delicate, and thoughtful combination of well-prepared ingredients. Like everything else on the menu, it was served “family style”, and I had to keep an eye on Ritsy as she can be a real kingfish fiend!!!
Following on from the kingfish was the Salad Nicoise with grilled tuna ($19.00). Unfortunately the tuna was dry, dull, and disappointing – the pool of too-thin dressing and copious amounts of strong spanish onion on the plate didn’t help.
Our main for the night – Abbacchio of goat, braised peppers & Manzanilla olives ($33.00) – fared much better apart from one small, dry piece of meat that must have been sitting just outside the braising liquid. The manzanilla olives were very, very good, and most of the goat was wonderfully tender – a nice dish on a cold Melbourne night.
Our side of Hand cut frites with aioli ($8.00) was great – crispy, rustic looking french fries with an excellent garlic aioli are always a good thing.
Feeling the need for some sugary goodness, we ordered dessert – Pot roasted quince, almonds & anglaise ($15.00). It didn’t look too spectacular, but it sure tasted great!! Flecks of Prailine added some nice texture to the dessert, and the quince was so good it prompted us to go buy a quince to stew (for 4 hours) and eat with our home made porridge.
Whilst there was a minor hiccup with one of the nights dishes (it’s a menu and a kitchen in it’s infancy after all), the most exciting thing about Union Dining are all the things it’s doing right. The staff are very good, the restaurant itself is comfortable, and the menu direction really suits the space. I think they’re on a winner here.