Pub of the Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Union Hotel in Brunswick
The Union Hotel
109 Union Street, Brunswick
When? 26 October 2018
Second review (last circa 2012).
The Union Hotel is a lovely old-school pub, in the middle of a suburban back (to a point) street in Brunswick that looks like every pub in your memory bank but none that exist now.
The broad exterior with a fading light greenish colour, some half height tiles and “interesting” shade cloths/blinds keeping the rays out, does nothing really to scream at you “come in”.
But that’s its beauty. A wonderful bar, that has curves a plenty covering a smallish area is a dimly, but not dark appearance/inside. To the side there is a split and floor level away from the bar with mess of old wooden tables. A separate area houses another dining room and a walk through to the beer garden of no set structure sets the pub up.
The Union, like so many of its brethren, could easily be bowled over for a redevelopment, but mercifully it hasn’t. If nothing else, drive down Union and have a look at it. So seemingly out of place in 2018, but so necessary for community in 2018.
Food and drink represent a neat mix of new and old thinking, and it’s that innate comfort and safety that wins you from the get-go. Music and trivia add the layer for a great night out.
Go in. Be surprised. It’s great.
Good things abound here, supported by excellent chalkboard specials near the bar. Union Share Platter – Mediterranean vegetables, marinated fetta, olives, calamari, fried chicken ribs and zucchini fritters ($17) or the Carpaccio – Peppered eye fillet topped with toasted hazelnuts, pickled shallots, capers and chervil and toasted sourdough ($14) struck me as highlights from the share/entrees.
Traditional mains like Flathead tails, full whack, $23, Grilled snags with bacon and parsley mash, greens RWJ, $18, have different companions, e.g. Grilled haloumi and warm beetroot salad – with rocket, orange segments, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and fried shallots with a citrus dressing ($19).
Entrees: $12. Mains $21. Desserts: refer specials board but around $10.
Southern fried chicken ribs with coleslaw and sriracha aioli ($16). Good. This seems to be a standard pub opener and done well. Must combine meatiness and they do here.
Smoked Salmon stack, avocado, tomato, cucumber, red onion, fresh herb salsa, sourdough. $16.5. Good. Neat presentation, very generously plated with the smoked salmon, with good flavours from the veg, fairly priced, no problems.
Marinated steak sandwich – 160 gm thyme and garlic marinated sirloin, char grilled on a toasted Turkish roll w/ beetroot, cheddar cheese and chilli jam w/ steak fries ($20). Just. While the thyme and garlic provided the distinguishable flavours, parts of the meat were quite gristly leaving you with a very nice, but not ordered toasted beetroot, cheese, chilli jam sandwich.
The pub loves its craft. Ditto wine. The list of craft is becoming synonymous with every suburb, not just those in the inner, and Stone and Wood Pacific doesn’t miss. Wine is extensive from small producers and the fairness in price allows for a good bottle to be shared and some change out of $40. Big tick to the pub there.
Tried was Zema Estate Pinot Noir (9.5/39). Good drinking; better buying.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
Everything good here, and at the sake of repetition if you are an owner/operator you live and die on first impressions. To go all ‘The Castle’ on you, there is a vibe specific to here and it is one that the pub gets and is reflected by attitude and offer.
This is a wonderful throwback pub. A total rarity being in the middle of a suburban street, no real frills other than a meaningful and generous welcome, cold beer, but with expansive areas to sit in relative (good) gloom and enjoy company without any distractions, means it is so easy to make it your local of choice.
The beer garden is verdant, lush and rambling, but used as the hub for activities, it is so easy to set up and forget just how much time you have spent there, having one and being entertained by a raft of music.
All businesses strive for consistency and in the intervening time since last visit the feel of the pub, with points of difference remain and improved.
Just a good pub is the Union in Brunswick.
Don Stuchberry. Owner of Carrington Hotel, Brunswick. Basically across the road from this weeks pub, Don and his son Wayne ran the wonderful Carrington, closed now for a least 15 years after redevelopment. Don was one of the first publicans to be Owner/Chef and won much praise for his innovation in pub food in the 80s and 90s.
Photo: The Union Facebook Page