Why The Union Rye Is A Restaurant Made In Sussex


The Union is set in a beautiful 15th century building at the heart of Rye, with a menu made from seasonal produce that is primarily local to the East Sussex region. We meet the owner, Rajh Siva, to tuck into more

When did you first develop a love for hospitality?

It certainly wasn’t an instant attraction and I can’t tell you that it started from growing up around excellent food at home or from travelling and experiencing all types of cuisine like many others in my position can. I completed my university degree and I passed a lengthy process of interviews and assessment to join The Royal Navy as an Officer. However, while I was in the recruitment process I took on a front of house job at a pub near where I lived and stayed on longer than I had planned to. I dropped my plans to join the Royal Navy and that’s how I committed to hospitality as my full-time career.

What would you say you learnt from that first experience in hospitality?

It taught me that hospitality, whilst well known for not providing a great quality of life in many instances, can have a hold on you if you are given the right environment to grow and prosper and I was lucky enough to have a great boss and mentor who allowed me to do so. This is an approach I have taken with me throughout my career. 

The Union Rye Credit Key Quill
Rajh Siva outside The Union, photo by Key & Quill

What’s been your influence on the food style at your restaurant?

The food at The Union is unpretentious, simple, and restrained believing the ingredients should speak for themselves. We focus hugely on the service and proudly guiding you through our daily changing menu and our produce-led cooking. We work with brilliant suppliers and producers for vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy, which is predominantly British and local to Rye and the south east region. I’m very proud that the kitchen team makes everything in house fresh every day, from butter and ricotta to black pudding, crackers, and ice creams. Our small menu changes daily depending on what ingredients are best and what is available each day.

How have you approached the menu?

The menu is designed to be shared, with lots of small plates and several larger plates. It is something we have developed and built on and it works very well for us. We always have oysters on the menu and at the moment they are served with our jalapeño relish. Our house made warm ricotta with Jerusalem artichoke, rosemary and honey is perfect to scoop up with freshly made caraway crackers. Dishes that are ideal for sharing might include roast celeriac with oyster and shiitake mushrooms, tarragon and hazelnut, or mackerel with chocolate and chilli. Our larger plates include bavette steak with bone marrow butter or a tranche of stunningly fresh wild halibut with brown crab bisque. For pudding there might be dark chocolate pudding and blood orange or buttermilk pudding, rhubarb, and ginger sponge.

How much Sussex produce do you look to use?

With local and seasonal being key factors for our menu approach, we work to have only local provenance at the forefront. Our meat comes from Jamie Wickens in Winchelsea and with Frank Langrish, whose sheep and cows graze our surrounding areas, supplying much of what we get from him. Paul Hodges in Hastings brings us fish, which is dependent on what is landed that day. Shrub Provisions supply our fruit and vegetables; they only work with local farmers and growers, so our produce is always seasonal and doesn’t travel very far to get to us. That’s where we start with our ethos on our food. We also carried this forward to our drinks menu with the likes of Tillingham, Ham Street, Westwell, Charles Palmer, Gusbourne and many more East Sussex and Kent vineyards taking their place on our wine lists.

The Union Rye Credit Key Quill
Where possible, produce is sourced locally, photo by Key & Quill

Is there one dish you particularly love right now?

Seared scallops with nduja butter on our house made crumpet. It’s got everything: fresh seafood, spicy sausage, and buttery bread. It’s the perfect time of year for scallops in Rye and the nduja we make the butter with is made in Sussex. It’s been hugely popular on the menu.

What’s planned at The Union over the coming months?

We’ve rebuilt the entire floor above the restaurant, which used to be a manager’s flat, into a bar. It’s going to give us another arm to the business and could be somewhere to come before you eat with us. Most importantly it’ll be a great place to just enjoy drinking and gathering without feeling like you are an extra or afterthought in a busy restaurant, which is something Rye has been missing for quite some time.


Share this Article

Written by
Must Read

You May Also Like

Did you know you can now buy or subscribe to our printed issues?


Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to find out what’s on your local area, exclusive competitions, the latest launches and much more!

Select the areas you want to hear about