Union Dining: quite literally slow food

The last time I had dinner with my accountant (yes, this is Adriane, not Ed) we chose to eat at the pork-driven Josie Bones. The Jew and the fish-eating vegetarian, and we had a great night.

This time we’ve picked Union Dining, one of the hot new names on everyone’s lips.

Firstly, if you’re trying to find it, look for the BP station at the far end of Swan St, it’s next door. Parking can be a challenge, and by the time I arrived I was feeling slightly frazzled, but as soon as I set foot inside all was forgiven. The entrance was softly lit, the music calming, and someone came immediately to take me to our table. The restaurant has the feel of a country pub recently renovated with the usual wooden tables and bentwood chairs, although combined with the tiled walls and floors it makes the noise levels pretty high.

Two prawns an hour

We started with the prawn entrée, spilt open and grilled with roasted garlic and saffron. There were two to a serve, and they looked great. Ours were over-grilled making them a bit dry but they were still delicious. The accountant continued with the quail, resting on soft white polenta with pine mushrooms and seemed happy.

Then we waited. And waited. Well into my second glass of wine, and having eaten one prawn so far, our mains arrived an hour and a half after we first sat down, a good hour between courses. Luckily there was plenty of di Chirico bread to keep me from falling over.

Still no sign of the mains

I chose the Basquaise fish soup, with roast garlic and fennel aioli. It was tasty, a rustic, thick and tomato based soup although a half-serve was enough for me. The accountant chose the Harpuka on wilted greens, with mushrooms and baby leeks. The fish was moist and tender with a crispy skin and, although the presentation was a little lacklustre, he was happy with it.

We shared a salad of braised baby artichokes, beetroot, pearl barley and whipped feta. I felt there was a bit of a mismatch with the artichokes which had a strong floral taste, with the earthiness of the beetroot and barley. I later found out they had used oranges when cooking the artichokes rather than the usual lemon, which may explain the floral taste. It doesn’t work for me.

To finish we shared a raspberry sorbet. Three scoops of bright berry-coloured sorbet on a bed of Limoncello, fresh and zesty it was a perfect finish to the night.

I won’t be rushing back soon, but it is early days, and they’ve only been open for a couple of months. It was expensive for a mid-week catch-up, possibly due to the extra drinks we had while waiting for our food. Having said that, the service was great and the sommelier was very helpful and knowledgeable. There’s an open fire, dim lighting that are difficult to argue with but plenty of din.

Union Dining on Urbanspoon


  1. Hey Joyce,

    Firstly I’m a big fan of your blog and thought you may be able to steer me in the right direction.

    I’m looking at taking my work group of 7 people out for an end of financial year Friday afternoon escape and am looking for a central Melbourne restaurant that would take a group of us, to learn to cook some food and have a few wines as we get cooking for the afternoon…

    Know of any suggestions where I can start to find one that would be up for it?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Corey, I think you got the wrong blog not Mel Hot or Not. This is Tomato. I can’t think of any restaurants that would do what you are looking for. But there are plenty of places where you can book group cooking classes.