By Katie Wilson
If you find yourself in the pretty coastal town of Rye with a hankering for oysters and great seafood (they also serve top notch meat dishes), make a beeline for The Union.
This modern British restaurant dates back to the 15th Century, but gets its name from the union between England and Scotland in the early 1700s.
Now called The Union Rye, it still retains historical charm with its fairytale facade and original features such as wooden beams and brick fireplaces inside.
But the interiors have definitely been given an update. Think new wooden floors, slate blue walls and cosy nooks and window seats with chic cushions, perfect for drinks or an afternoon coffee.
Showcasing a seasonal menu of mainly local produce which changes daily, The Union Rye has a few house specialities worth ordering if they are on offer.
These include the Colchester Oysters with Jalapeño Relish (£3.50 each). Prior to my visit I was ‘oyster curious’ and had never quite managed to eat one properly, but these looked so good I had to try one – and swiftly ended up ordering six more.
It’s fair to say I’m now a convert. For anyone also in the ‘oyster curious’ camp, start off with oysters that are smaller and therefore easier to swallow, and it’s all about what you put on them. For me, the jalapeño relish was perfection.
Another signature dish at The Union Rye is the Ham Knuckle Croquettes with Aioli (£8.50). I’d also recommend ordering the Sardines with Sweet Grain Mustard (£13.50).
Of course you can order individual dishes if you prefer, but the menu is a mix of snacks, small and large plates, so is perfect for sharing.
Our very helpful waitress Nadine suggested around five dishes between two people, which was just the right amount.
For mains we tried the Pork chop with Braeburn apple and Kentish cider (£27), but the standout dish for me was definitely the Scallops served with Mash, Smoked Pork Belly, Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto (£16.50). I could have eaten it twice.
This was washed down with a bottle of natural wine from nearby Ham Street Vineyard, on the good recommendation of Nadine.
There is a sharing dish on the menu each day, which was Whole Rye Bay Brill with Brown Crab Butter and Cockles for two to share (£45) when we visited.
Sides come separate in the form of Sourdough with Laverbread Butter (£4.50), Ratte Potatoes with White Miso (£5) and Curly Kale with Toasted Caraway and Black Sesame (£7).
The Union Rye take pride in making as much in house as possible with the best ingredients they can source. This includes their own ricotta, black pudding and ice cream.
Speaking of sweet things, you must try their Dark Chocolate Rice Pudding if its on the menu when you visit (£8.50).
Less than a 10-minute drive away in the Rye countryside is The Union’s sister restaurant The Plough, which serves elevated pub food and has an apartment above called The Loft that sleeps two.
Best for: Dinners, date nights, seafood, special occasions
The Union Rye is at 8 East Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7JY and is open Wednesday and Thursday 5.30pm to 10pm and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12pm to 10pm
Prices start from £7 for a small plate to around £45 for a sharing dish, the menu changes daily
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