The suburban backstreets of Fitzroy are riddled with character filled old pubs – relics from its past as a working class stronghold. Those days may be long gone, but the boozers are as vital as ever, and none more so than the Union. Traditional but not stodgy, it attracts a varied crowd of Fitzroy denizens, from families with children by day to rockers in spray on jeans late at night.
The covered garden that wraps around the rear of the building is always popular, whether there’s sunshine or rain falling on the roof. Back indoors lies the large curved bar at the centre of proceedings: a long, narrow dining room branches off in one direction, and the rest of the ground floor is given over to the relaxed, cosy bar and lounge. Boasting a fireplace, well-loved couches made for slumping in and a pool table (with old-fashioned fringed lamp, thank you), it’s an excellent place to pass an evening when the weather outside is unfriendly. Vintage oil paintings and ghostly old photographs adorn the walls lending a little extra old-world ambiance, and a funky 70s-style rug really ties the room together.
Musically, it’s all about guitars, from classic rock to modern indie. There are some hilarious posters of former rock gods adorning the stairwell which leads to the first floor, but rock star antics are a rarity: the punters tend to be mellow and well-behaved.
The menu is heavy on traditional pub food – fish and chips, bangers and mash, steaks, burgers and pizzas. Like so much about the Union, it’s familiar and comforting rather than strikingly innovative, but that’s hardly a criticism. There’s a lot to be said for comfort, and the Union’s great strength is providing it.