You know life is looking up when head chef Nicky Riemer, ex-Melbourne Wine Room and Trunk – is in the kitchen, and her newest venture Union Dining is testament to this. The restaurant is loosely divided into two: a small front bar and larger dining room. The vibe is European bistro chic with timber finishes, low lighting and a palette of warm browns and caramels. The room also features two big, beautiful arches that lead to the far end of the dining room. Diners are mainly thirty plus couples or small groups knocking off from work, mixed in with the odd family enjoying a special occasion.
Kick it all off with two fat prawns grilled in the shell and supercharged with a garlicky butter (perfect for mopping up with the excellent bread). Or, for a lighter and more delicate start, go the milky translucent kingfish carpaccio spruced up with dill, capers and nuggets of pickled beetroot.
It’s hard to choose a main course and there’ll be ridiculous amounts of umming and ahhing over the very approachable offerings. The pork schnitzel will create severe food envy in your dining party. Juicy pork with lemon zest and parsley spiked crumbs, is accompanied by a mindblowingly zesty coleslaw of red cabbage, shaved fennel, pinenuts and a welcome sweet twist of currants. Clearly salads are a forte at Union Dining and the nutty pearl barley salad with artichokes, baby carrots, creamy fetta and beautifully fresh walnuts makes vegetarianism seem like a very good option.
To end, the Italian trifle is a stellar choice. Dive through the thick layer of creamy zabaglione to reach the dense, coffee-soaked sponge. It’s definitely the superior option to the homemade banana ice cream that tastes a little sour.
Union Dining brings a little class to Swan Street with its capable, confident staff (in startling clean aprons) and provincial European menu that manages to be both polished and comfortingly unfussy.