For Steve Rowley, Matt Vero, Cal Hitchens and Will Benjamin, the restoration of a 19th-century pub is not an unfamiliar pursuit. The team already runs the 150-year-old Marquis of Lorne in Fitzroy, and has recently taken over the tenancy at the Mount Erica Hotel in Prahran.
Union House is a heritage-listed hotel on Swan Street. The approachable double-level space includes comfy booth seating and a sprawling tiled bar. Crain your head back to examine the Victorian Ash acoustic timber roof panels, which help balance out the noise in the ground-level main bar. Upstairs diners will find a more refined, but still relaxed, 65-seat dining room, the focus of which is a pricey freestanding Cheminees Philippe fireplace. There’s also a 70-seat rooftop terrace.
The pub has 10 taps offering smaller Victorian brews, including Stomping Ground, Hook Turn Pilsner and Mornington Peninsula Brewing’s Pale Ale. And there are a couple of cocktails on tap, including an Espresso Martini. Wine options cover a Mornington Garagiste le Stagiaire pinot gris, ¬a Barossa Nick Spencer pinot rose and rarer orange drops. Happy hour runs Monday to Friday from 4pm until 6pm.
The menu includes veal schnitzel with green cabbage salad and relish. And a rockling burger with salad, chilli, shallots and chips. There are five different steaks, including a formidable 800-gram rib eye. Some options that don’t feel like typical pub food include eggplant with tahini labna and hazelnut, and a beef carpaccio with fried Jerusalem artichoke and salted ricotta.