Away from the cheerful chaos of the royal borough’s main thoroughfare, the Greenwich Union nestles cheek by jowl in the area’s residential side streets, hiding its light under an elegant bushel.
Meantime Brewery’s first pub — it opened in 2001 — is known to locals simply as the Union. Long and narrow, the bar runs down one side, with a couple of cosy booths behind. These are at a premium, however, and soon fill up, so you may find yourself occupying slightly more basic seating at the back. A pair of battered leather armchairs crouch uneasily next to treacherous stairs down to the cloakrooms, but these too — a sign above them, tongue in cheek, offers them for sale — are soon occupied. For more clement weather, the Greenwich Union has a secluded and pretty garden, as well as couple of tables out the front.
Buzzing, in a word — it’s rather like being in a large, homely kitchen during the best sort of party. The Greenwich Union is clearly popular and, with the summer influx of Olympic visitors, will only get more so. So make sure you visit soon…
You can’t beat good British fare and the Greenwich Union serves some of the best. So the menu features such delights as fish fingers with tartare sauce, smoked mackerel terrine and potted shrimp. The latter is not an enormous portion (£6.40) but is nicely presented, with plenty of hot toast. A ramekin of foie gras pate (£5.90), by contrast, is huge and, under rather too much unclarified butter, is silky smooth and flavourful. Its accompanying stout and raisin chutney is an enchanting foil.
The Union offers three burgers and its pork and apple version (£11.30) is a triumvirate triumph — size, flavour and texture are spot on. It’s not for delicate appetites, as it carries a considerable heft, but is juicy and nicely rustic. All burgers are made on the premises and it’s worth visiting just to try one. An extra £2.50 gets you a generous helping of tasty cheddar, but it’s really just gilding the lily. No further frills are needed with the excellent sirloin steak, either — aged for 35 days, this is as perfect a piece of cow as you will find and exceptional value at £17.50. Both dishes are served with good homemade chips.
The homemade theme continues with puddings. A tiramisu (£4.70) is more cheesecake-like than is traditional, but will pick you up nonetheless. Its puddle of berry compote is a delightful contrast to its gooey richness. Sticky toffee pudding (£4.25) is unashamedly rich, as it should be — and you’d be hard-pushed to find any better.
Dessert beer, anyone? Before you raise your eyebrows in pitying wonder, you really should give it a whirl. Be warned though, at 8% ABV, it may be your head that does the whirling. A Liefmans Goudenband red Belgium beer, it goes exceptionally well with both puddings. This extraordinary creation has an initial nose of apples, which takes on a deeper fruitiness with the berry compote and sparkles with caramel notes when paired with the sticky toffee pudding. As it warms in its elegant little glass, it becomes almost port-like. Truly, a revelation. A Meantime London Stout, too, is something of an eye-opener — although, after too many, you might be more inclined to seek some shut-eye. Priced at £3.95 per pint, £2 per half, it has notes of dark, roasted coffee and is deceptively easy to drink. Seasonal brews rotate around every two months. As do the clientele, around every two hours…
The Greenwich Union has a limited wine list for non-beer drinkers, which starts at £15 a bottle for both red and white, Chilean Alto Bajo Chardonnay and Merlot.
The Last Word
Great pub food, superb beer and a lively, friendly atmosphere is guaranteed at the Greenwich Union.