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Review: Universo Brasserie & Bar

Main image: Nancy Zhou

It’s brilliant culinary alchemy of the highest order. A lightly-sweet lemon puree that would normally be more aligned to a dessert has been added to the line-up of carefully layered flavours that make up the fresh oyster with crisp potato. Nestled in its half shell and topped with golden potato threads, the plump, crumbed oyster’s salty delicacy sky-rockets into the stratosphere among the symphony of complementary flavours and textures. It’s a dizzying introduction to Stealth Hospitality’s latest venture.

Housed in the contemporary cool of the Christchurch Art Gallery, Universo Brasserie & Bar is equal parts edgy-Euro chic and sunny tropical escape (courtesy of towering windows and huge potted lush palms). Buttery booth seating joins designer lighting suspended from the soaring ceiling, while a pimped-out bar featuring honeycombed metal fronting rocks bodacious cocktail and wine lists covering all tastes. Our super friendly host Tereza Krisicova talks us through the finer points of the menu as we delve into the seriously swanky cocktail list dreamed up by Stealth’s bar tsar Adam Wood. We order the fittingly tropical Barbadoes (a refreshing, fruity flavour explosion laced with white rum) from the Christchurch-streets-named house cocktails, as well as the decadent, heady dark chocolate smoothness of the Caffe Nero which is, without doubt, one of the city’s best espresso martinis.

Universo review oyster

The oysters are joined by jet-back fluffy squid ink bread buns, perfectly cooked turbot and a delightfully feisty rouille redolent with garlic, which is mighty fine between sips of the tightly nuanced and chilled crispness of the Pegasus Bay Savignon Semillon and its zesty finish. Taking its cues from the neighbouring gallery, the tiger’s milk ceviche is a stunning work of art; a fresh and fiery Asian-influenced reimagining. It’s a taste-bud storming combo of fresh chilli and lime, tempered by the coconut and coriander of the raw fish staple. We’ve ordered it alongside the genius that is the deceptive, simply titled Yorkshire pudding, which houses all the ingredients of a primo Sunday lamb roast (addictive tender shreds of lamb, rich gravy, parsnip puree and mint) within an airy shell.

For mains we’ve selected the super light potato gnocchi with succulent confit chicken and the earthy sweetness of a burnt onion puree. It’s a harmonious medley; hidden by a nutty parmesan foam topped with a fried egg. We also opt for the lavish trappings of warm, Asian-spiced and impossibly tender confit duck tousled with artichokes, mushroom, crunchy herbed potatoes, next level duck skin crackling and a piquant liver, date and tamarind vinaigrette.

Universo review duck

We finish off the evening with the silken seduction of the lemon tart, its sharp citric tingle contained in a beautifully short, buttery pastry. With a yoghurt ice cream, it makes an irresistible pairing with the toasted almond and sticky apricot notes of the Pegasus Bay Finale.

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