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 and has taken over the historic Mount Erica Hotel. Union House, a heritage-listed pub on Swan Street, is the group’s newest venue. The double-level space has comfy booth seating and a sprawling tiled bar. The upstairs dining room is a little more refined, but still relaxed, and orbits around a pricey Cheminees Philippe fireplace.
Ten taps offer some of the team’s favourite smaller Victorian brews, and there’s also a couple of cocktails on tap, including Espresso Martinis. The menu includes time honoured modern-Australian pub dishes with adaptations such as veal schnitzel and a rockling burger. There are also five different steaks. To start, don’t miss a beef carpaccio with fried Jerusalem artichoke and salted ricotta. Happy hour runs Monday to Friday, 4pm–6pm.
Hector’s Deli might be the most over-qualified sandwich shop in Melbourne. Owners Dom Wilton, Jason Barratt, Edward Ring and their staff have worked in some of Melbourne’s best restaurants including Stokehouse and Attica.
The six varieties are mostly corner-store standards, but with elevated ingredients. Meat for the Wagyu pastrami sandwich comes from Meatsmith, while the ham, cheese and tomato uses mortadella, mozzarella and provolone. Coffee comes from Axil Coffee Roasters and milk is from St David Dairy, with pastries from Rustica.
Hector’s is located on the corner of a quiet suburban block in Richmond. Tall windows let in plenty of morning light. It’s small, with only eight seats inside, and a pared back fit-out with clean white brickwork and white tiles. Retro-tinged graphics on uniforms and elsewhere by Never Now design studio add just the right amount of character and colour.
A neon cat greets you at the door to this sleek new two-storey restaurant on Swan Street. Bar seating gives diners a view of the open kitchen, while the rest of the space is fitted out wood tables, bronze flourishes and dark grey walls.
The Modern Eatery began in Western Australia and serves contemporary Japanese. Aburi sushi – which involves lightly torching the fish so it’s partially seared and partially raw – is a specialty here. Hot dishes include pan-fried gyoza with umamiso and seared Wagyu beef with lotus chip, creamy garlic shimeji and mushrooms.
Alongside cocktails and local producers such as Stomping Ground’s pilsner you’ll find imported beers, six Japanese whiskies and a wide selection of sake. One of them, Niseko Tokubetsu Junmai Suisei, comes from a micro distillery in Japan’s Hokkaido region. Only 12 bottles are exported to Melbourne each month.
If you’re thinking this 200-seat bar sounds more like a place to store money than spend it, give yourself a pat on the back. The red-brick heritage building, dating to 1907, was once a bank. Inside you’ll find a glistening chandelier, very bank-teller-y green-and-gold desk lamps on top of the Art Deco-style tiled bar, and a brass railing staircase that leads to a massive rooftop terrace.
The menu by Dylan Evans (ex-State of Grace, Kid Boston) features upscale but unfussy pub-grub dishes, including smoked free-range grandmother ham and hanger steak. Cocktails include The Loomis Fargo, with Macallan and Laphroaig whisky in a smoking (literally) balloon glass garnished with a slice of honeycomb. Or you might want to “invest in shares” – for groups of two to four – with either The Joint Account jug (rum, lime, cherry and pineapple juice and maple syrup) or the Notorious G&T (with tonic foam and Campari dust).
Pop in from 11am on Sunday for a three-hour “bottomless brunch” that offers all-you-can-drink prosecco and Mimosas.