MELBOURNE | Mr Union is an Ascot Vale cafe and restaurant that’s all about simple food done well, with a mixture of Melbourne favourites and dishes influenced by owner-chef Gabor Pelikan’s Hungarian heritage. Housed in what was modern bistro Union Food & Wine, the former bank building feels a bit like a cozy home. It’s a long, narrow space with lots of natural sunlight, wooden floors, and simply painted walls dotted with an array of artwork. Further back is a long marble bar, with an impressive wine installation behind, and behind that a quieter dining space that continues on to the kitchen.
The familiar dishes on the “Day” menu are well executed versions of the classics with a twist. Almost everything at Mr Union is made in-house, and produce is sourced from local producers and farmers. Smashed avocado is served on grain sourdough with beetroot hummus, crumbed feta, rainbow organic quinoa, bonito sesame, and smoked almonds, while a super salad bowl features sauteed kale, smoked almonds, ume seeds, black sesame seeds, edamame, salad mix, tomatoes roasted pumpkin, grilled halloumi, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s all tasty stuff, but for us the real attraction at Mr Union are the Hungarian influenced dishes, which provide something genuinely different in Melbourne’s crowded breakfast market.
Hungarian-style dumplings, served with vanilla sour cream, sweetened cinnamon breadcrumbs, strawberries, and blueberries, are dense, fluffy, moist, and delicious. The grilled cevapi (Balkan beef and pork sausages), presented beautifully with tomato ajvar, toasted flatbread, onion, and pickled chilli are another delight. The final dish we tried was the eggs benedict, with sauteed kale, beet hummus, shoestring fries, glazed bacon, saffron hollandise, and French onion rings. Another winner, with the quality of the produce shining through, beautifully balanced flavours, and textural complexity.
For dinner, there’s more of a meat and seafood focus. This is where Mr Union’s Mibrasa oven, an indoor barbecue grill and smoker in one, is used. The result is meat that’s juicier and more succulent than might otherwise be the case, with a nicely charred exterior. Think things like wood-roasted quail, twice cooked pork belly, wood roasted salmon, and the signature Mr Union pork hock, a 1+kg slow braised pork shank, served with rosemary potatoes, olives, roasted tomato, beetroot horseradish, and honeyed mustard.
An assortment of drinks are on offer, including espresso based coffees using a specialty house blend by Where’s Marcel, and a rotating single origin. Those looking for alternative milks, and on-trend lattes will also be pleased – whether it’s soy or almond milk, matcha or tumeric or more, you’ll find it here. The wine list is small, quality, and well priced, featuring wines from Australia and New Zealand. Those looking for good beer however will be disappointed with Coopers Pale the craftiest thing on offer. Stick with the wine which does the food justice. We didn’t see any Unicum behind the bar but let’s be honest, some things are best left in Hungary.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Mr Union, and applaud Gabor and his team for doing something different than the rest. It’s something we’d love to see happen more often in this town.
169 Union Road
Telephone: (03) 9372 7566
Sun – Mon: 9:30am to 3:00pm
Wed – Sat: 9:30am to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 10:00pm