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Review: Baretta Bar & Restaurant

There’s a thrilling chill of anticipation as the spoon cracks the burnt toffee surface of the crème brûlée and sinks into the delicate custard beneath. A silken symphony lightly teasing with orange and cardamom, the dreamy, creamy custard beautifully contrasts with the brittle, slightly bitter sweetness of the caramelised topping, and is a revelation between sips of the honeyed notes of the wonderfully syrupy Pyramid Valley Elze Late Harvest Amber Semillon. We’re immediately grateful to our incredibly welcoming and knowledgeable host Trish Coutts for the recommendation and pairing – our only regret as we devour the elegant dessert is that we didn’t order two.

Baretta 1

Channelling some serious 1930s Italian cool, Baretta has been a Christchurch institution and essential dining spot since opening its glamorous doors four years ago, offering a promise of an opulent, European escape in the heart of the city. The broody intimacy of Baretta’s dining room sees guttering candle light dance across the metallic sheen of the famous peacock wallpaper, which joins black louvres and ornate gilt cornices to juxtapose the tactile, rough-hewn rustic tables and towering wrought iron wine cage stocked with coveted vintages. It could easily pass for a Milan hotspot, and we’re happy to indulge in the fantasy given the winter chill outside. We start the evening toasting flutes of Tuscan Leonardo Prosecco, its light floral perfumes and lush fruity notes creating a harmonious counterpoint to the rich decadence of an exceptional duck and orange parfait. The parfait’s light citrus infusion cuts through its exquisite, mouth-coating seduction and, when slathered on crisp slices of perfectly toasted bread with a healthy streak of the earthy sweetness of a blood-red beetroot chutney, it’s a flavour marriage of epic proportions. A well-dressed salad on the side features the salty explosion of some next-level olives.

Baretta 2
Our mains selection is the legendary pork belly and the beef wellington special, which includes a carefully considered wine match. The pork belly, true to form, is both a masterclass in respect and a mouth-watering display; a halo of golden crackling protects fall-apart tender meat and melt-in-the-mouth rendered fat, which crowns an indulgent nutty parsnip puree studded with golden roast kumara, steamed broccoli, the delicious sharpness of an apple and pear relish and the addictive acid profile of a bodacious port wine glaze. Trish’s matching prowess sees the dish elevated into the stratosphere with the multi-tasking, smooth drinking harmony of the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir.

Similarly delectable is the self-contained beef wellington, where delicate, buttery pastry sits atop the meaty hit of an equally buttery medallion of smoky-grilled medium rare beef. This meets its perfect match in the subtle oakiness of a ruby-hued Church Road McDonald Series Syrah. Almost stealing the show though is a warm pea, pancetta and hazelnut salad; a brilliant textural and flavour pairing of salty crispy meat, fresh baby peas and the wonderful nutty crunch of roasted hazelnuts ensures that, while we are now full, not a single pea makes its way back to the kitchen. We purposely deliberate over the dessert menu, sipping chilled glasses of nectarous Santa Maria Limoncello and willing its digestive properties into action, in the futile attempt to delay our departure.

Baretta 3
174 St Asaph Street
03 260 2600
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