Other than a lick of paint and some chic tiles under the bar the most notable change in the newly refurbished Union Bar and Grill is at the back of the restaurant. What was once an uninviting dead space has been successfully brought to life with the added theatre of an open kitchen, enhancing the whole atmosphere.
Union has always been noted for its fabulous drinks, so of course we had to start with a few cocktails. Gladly the famous Mules are still kicking around but they have upped their game with a few spicy variations. ‘The El Burro’ was our favourite (well we had to try all of them!) using tequila (an often underused cocktail base due to its strength) and agave syrup. There is also a new selection of carefully crafted gin and tonics on offer. Each branded gin is complemented by a delicious botanical profile. We highly recommend ‘The Hendricks’ with rosehip, lavender and cucumber. Alongside beer and house wine, the mules and gin and tonic menus are all half price, 5-7pm daily, which makes for a very happy hour or two!
The food menu has also been given new life with the introduction of 57 Below’s famous Parami pizzas and a refocusing on their grill concept. We started with a piece of slow poached Scottish salmon with pickled cucumber and grain mustard dressing (14,500ks). A decent sized portion of quality salmon, well cooked, with the pickled cucumbers adding a lovely texture. The dressing was a little sweet for us though.
Main dishes offer several imported steaks to choose from as well as nine types of burgers, using mostly beef but also more adventurous patties such as scallop and prawn, and Indian chickpea. We went for their signature Union burger (16,000ks), which has both beef and pulled pork. The meat was moist, the all important homemade brioche bread kept its structure and the strong cheddar cheese brought a deliciously tangy kick. The burger itself was up there with the city’s best but was let down marginally by the less impressive chips, which were a bit on the dry side. Elsewhere there’s an impressive smokehouse menu where we couldn’t help but go for the generously portioned 72 hour Smoked Beef Short Rib (33,000k), which was bursting with sweet-smokey flavours and came with a slice of cheesy potato gratin, which we could have eaten by the plate load! The further addition of a stack of rocket salad should have been nice but sadly was inundated with salt. We finished with a runny orange chocolate fondant which was faultless!
Having switched their prices from dollars to kyat, Union is now more approachable and the quality of food and drink was of a high standard. The service, as it’s always been, is impeccable. The only thing that strikes me as a slight identity crisis is the plastic fast food-style sauce bottles on each table, which seem a little out of place. All things considered, this all over makeover has put the Union Bar institution firmly back on the map in what is a rapidly evolving city.