In Food + Drink

Bali’s New Fine Dining Hotspot From The Group Behind Motel Mexicola

White snapper crudo, carpaccio, nigiri, urchin, caviar and world-class wine, lots and lots and lots of world-class wine.

If you’re headed to Bali expecting Nasi Goreng and fried noodles, but tend to have a palate for slightly finer fares, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Berawa’s new addition, an innovative diner called Uni.

Dripping (quite literally) with edge in both the stylish décor and innovative menu, it’s no surprise to learn that Uni is part of the Mexicola Group that boast some of Bali’s biggest names in their portfolio, like Da Maria, Luigi’s and, of course, Motel Mexicola.

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However, unlike their other venues, much less of a party place, Uni embodies an intimate yet exciting atmosphere and manages to marry a sophisticated fine dining menu without the stuffy feeling one may expect when it comes to refined cuisine.

How Uni have managed to navigate this balance comes down to a few things, one of them being the extremely personable head chef, Steve Skelly, who is an expert at not only cooking and menu creation, but also at making each and every guest feel special and appreciated.

“I spent the last three years working in massive venues, twelve hundred people a night at Mexicola, and four to five hundred a night at Da Maria, I was like enough is enough. I’ve done my time there, I’ve learnt a lot and I’m grateful that I’ve done it but I wanted to get back into the kitchen and do some smaller numbers, engage with the guests, get to know the regulars and even just know all the staff’s names and their birthdays.”

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While the exceptional, personalized service is second to none, it’s only rivalled by the impressive menu. Though, not extensive, Steve has whittled down some very unique and equally mouthwatering dishes, which are constantly changing.

“Every morning we get phone calls from the suppliers for the fish and what’s available, so we swap out species and if there’s no option for that we’ll create new garnishes and dishes each day.

Not all of it, there’s certain dishes that we’d get bollocked if we took off, like the crab lasagna, people are already losing their sh*t over it! But certain dishes, we just get bored of!”

“[Uni is] locally sourced seafood and vegetables are served with Japanese and French influences in a modern style. No messing around with elaborate plating or crazy combinations. Uni is the place you can eat at multiple times a week, not just special occasions.”

Of course, regardless of the excellence on a menu, the ambiance is hugely important to a dining experience too. Unsurprisingly, Uni checks the boxes in the décor department too. Glass sky panels graced with hanging greenery, dim lighting, chic booths, a huge open kitchen, a seriously cool Japanese mural and kitsch details like fluorescent paint bottles making up the walls of the bathroom, Uni oozes cool.

While, it may seem like creating an atmosphere like this is carefully curated, the reality couldn’t be more opposite.

“Adam [Uni’s other partner] and I got drunk one night and we came here when it was still the old chicken shop and had some beers and we got a bit of paper and drew up a floor plan, then we headed back to his place and had some more beers – let’s be honest, we were really drunk- and we finished drawing the plan and it’s pretty much exactly what the restaurant is now.”

Making Uni truly an experience of taste, drinks guru and (part owner?) Nicolas Lento created the entire cocktail menu from scratch, which includes almost as many low alcohol proof cocktails as regular cocktails. ‘Why?’ (like me) you may ask. “Because it’s something you can have as an aperitif and you’re not going to be super drunk and allows you to enjoy your meal.”

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“You can have one, two, three and it’s very easy to drink, and it just opens your appetite, most of them have carbonation which makes increases your hunger, and the feedback is amazing.”

However, if you’re after something stronger, the wine list at Uni is both impressive and extensive, in fact, it’s the only place in Bali that serves natural wine – something that Nicolas guarantees to leave you hangover free. Plus, if you need any help deciding between the twenty plus wine offerings, Nico will be more than pleased to help, listing wine as a true passion of his.

“I’m here on the floor and I’m able to explain to customers why I’m choosing this red wine or this white wine.”

“I just… I really, really love wine! I’m very interested and you know when you get interested in something you just want learn more and more and more, and you want to please people and share that joy with them.”

(All images: Mexicola Group / supplied)

Published 01 November, 2019