Up a cobbled path, behind the boutique Berjaya Duxton Hotel, in a conservation shophouse area, tucked away off Chinatown.
This space used to be an architect’s office, but now it’s a wine bar – one that shares a name with a bar in the owner’s native South Australia. Otherwise there are no similarities between the two. The people behind the scenes are the same people behind the Denise Wine Shops sprouting like mushrooms all over Singapore, which explains the prominence of Kaesler and Two Hands wines on the list, as they are the importers for them.
What’s it like?
A place where you can finish the latest Patricia Cornwell while enjoying a glass of wine – it’s that brightly lit. The window side of this long, narrow space is taken up by hard, white formica-like banquettes – hardly conducive to hunkering down for the night and ordering that second, third or fourth bottle. The bar is really the focal point of the space with its mosaic-like back wall with prominent liquor-bottle display. The wines are stored in a glass unit towards the back of the bar, but it’s much easier to just choose from the list. Unless you stare at the diners across at Broth, there’s not much people-watching to do. Or any other kind of distraction either. Other than filling our glasses, the staff pretty much left us alone, spending more time at the modern French restaurant upstairs.
Who are the regulars?
While the Universal has yet to be discovered by the masses – we were the only table on a Saturday night – the set-up seems to target professionals who are interested in the quality of the drinks and the company.
The 500 selections (including 20 by the glass) cover a large part of the wine-producing world – Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain – and range from a heart-racing $8,200 for the ’89 Petrus to $45 (a steal) for the ’06 Rolf Binder Semillon ‘Hellions’. The best deals here are the Aussie wines – the list has 105 to choose from, with Rolf Binder and Kaesler wines leading the pack, and though the flavours are big and bold, the prices aren’t. If cocktails are more your scene, the Universal probably isn’t. However, you will find the general manager’s own creation on the menu: the Bennetini ($25), a concoction of Absolut Blue, Citron, Mandarin, Bombay gin, Bacardi rum with lychee liqueur, lemon juice, lime cordial and lychee syrup. Sweet.
Wine by the glass $13-$24; bottles $45-$8,200; cocktails $12-$25.
|Venue name:||The Universal Wine Bar||Contact:|
36 Duxton Hill
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri noon-midnight, Sat 5pm-midnight.|