Talented global chefs are the star ingredient at Bali's hippest eateries, writes Scott Bolles.
It isn't only the newly rich from India and China that have the Bali dining scene pumping. A new group, whom Bali locals call EPLs, is flocking to the island paradise. EPLs are fans of Elizabeth Gilbert's tome-turned-film Eat, Pray, Love. And why wouldn't they head to the scene of the story's climactic finale? Great weather, affordable dining and a boatload of talented expat chefs have put Bali on the eating and drinking map. And you've got to love that.
Leather chesterfields, marble mahjong tables, vintage clocks and old photographs are designed to transport the Mama San visitor to colonial Shanghai of the 1920s. The latest venture from one-time Jimmy Liks chef Will Meyrick, who earned his stripes in Bali at the glamorous Sarong, Mama San in Seminyak mixes an old warehouse with a signature wall plastered with an image of Asian beauty. Mama San even offers a sideline as a cooking school. Meyrick's menu flirts with Asian cuisine from Indonesia to Cambodia, the travelogue of food taking in lamb and pumpkin pot stickers and caramelised short ribs with kaffir lime, chilli and lemon basil. Mama San also has a couple of rare creature comforts: airconditioning and valet parking.
135 Jalan Raya Kerobokan, Br. Taman, +62 361 730436, mamasanbali.com.
Too cool for school
While Tacos-n-Tatt-Tuesdays might be a hard sell with health authorities in some parts of the world, the hum of a tattoo gun gets the punters' blood pumping at Deus Bali. Surrounded by the rice paddies of Canggu, just a quick squeeze of a motorcycle throttle from Echo Beach, this offshoot from Deus ex Machina at Camperdown houses a motorcycle workshop, gallery and a cafe. The coffee is dependable and, when tacos aren't headlining on Tuesdays, the menu settles on Thai food with regular sushi nights.
8 Jalan Batu Mejan, Canggu, deuscafe.com.au/deus-bali.
Restaurant of the moment
You don't often see white truffles in Bali. But French chef Nicolas "Doudou" Tourneville has an exacting eye for an ingredient and a commitment to quality that places Metis restaurant near the top of many foodies' must-do list in Bali. A separate degustation menu devoted to foie gras mightn't sound like you're scratching traditional Bali food culture, but pan-seared foie gras with port and raspberry reduction offers its own type of journey. The a la carte menu is a more familiar trip, with pan-roasted scallop provencal and 14-hour crisp pork belly. The dining area is slicker than a brand-new Rolls-Royce and the gloss black bar lounge has rice paddy vistas.
6 Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta, +62 361 4737888, metisbali.com.
Bridges is a restaurant on an upward trajectory. In its short life, the eatery, on the banks of the Campuhan river in the pretty resort town of Ubud, has garnered glowing reviews and some serious diner hype. If Australian chefs are currently Bali's favoured restaurant ingredient, Ubud has some shining examples. Former Bills chef Kath Townsend plies her trade at Maya, while at Bridges, Nicolas Lazzaroni, a chef who cut his teeth in northern NSW, is punching out the sort of dishes you'd long retain as a holiday memory. Menu items include caramelised laksa prawns, maple-glazed duck confit and a cheese selection that wouldn't look out of place in Paris. Bridges is also conveniently located near the Don Antonio Blanco art museum.
Jalan Raya (near Museum Antonio Blanco), Ubud, +62 361 970095, bridgesbali.com.
The moment you clap eyes on Potato Head Beach Club and its facade of antique shutters, you know the venue has some of the best eye candy available anywhere in Bali. It is a visual gift that keeps giving; from an infinity pool and ocean views to the interior strewn with antique furniture. There are cocktails, a bistro and party atmosphere in large quantities. Perfect for visitors that are staying in private villas and are keen for a quick upload of action and reprieve from all that serenity.
Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak, +62 361 4737979, ptthead.com/potato-head-beach-club.
Open room with a view
There are few hotter tickets in Bali than a seat at the Rock Bar at Ayana Resort and Spa, Jimbaran Bay. There is a good reason: if this cool, minimalist bar was any closer to the water it'd need its own mooring. When the winds are kind few places rival it for catching a sunset. But there is a price to pay, with long queues at peak times (namely sunset) and pricey drinks. But throw in tapas dishes and a DJ, and there are few places like it. Anywhere.
Jl Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, +62 361 702222, ayanaresort.com/rockbarbali/wp.
Burning the milk seems to be a dedicated pursuit among many of Bali's baristas. If you crave a reliable coffee in Bali, Grocer & Grind in Seminyak is a good option. They also knock out a good espresso if you prefer your coffee sans milk, and offer a breakfast and lunch menu.
Jalan Kayu Jati 3x Petitenget Beach, Denpasar, +62 361 730418, grocerandgrind.com.
Bali has long been an island of excess, only now it comes with a butler's touch, with swanky private villas and hedonistic five-star beach clubs worthy of Miami and Ibiza combined. Where you drink says as much about you in Bali as the address of your villa. Head to these staples and so-hot-right-now-spots to see and be seen.
Ku De Ta, Jalan Laksmana, Seminyak
Ku De Ta is the original doyenne of beach clubs that spawned the Bali obsession with destination bars. DJs spin discs for the day-bed worshippers that make way for bikini-clad models who descend upon the outside grassy bar to pout at sunset. Lucky for us there's a good mix of the real people that make this joint fun. Add a restaurant manned by Phil Davenport from Hugo's in Bondi, a plunge pool, a pumping party calendar and alcoholic smoothie-style shakes, and you have one hell of a potential party on your hands. kudeta.net.
Hu'u bar, Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak
Tucked away in the backstreets of Seminyak, Hu'u bar's clean-lined, modern space just screams cool. A central bar, 14-metre lap pool and wooden decks host designer locals and cashed-up tourists with modern cuisine from their Nutmegs restaurant kitchen. Hu'u is ideal for late-night lounging and people watching. huubali.com.
Naughty Nuris, Ubud & Batubelig
Chef Anthony Bourdain calls Nuri's martinis the best outside of New York City. This author can also attest to that. Apparently Naughty Nuris is also known for its pork ribs, but we are a little hazy on that. A local favourite in Ubud, Naughty Nuris' style of naughty-but-nice street food is now also available in Batubelig. naughtynurisbali.com.
Karma Beach Club, Batubelig
There's a lot of hype around the Karma Beach Club, which opened this year from the names behind Karma Resorts and the Nammos Beach Club on the private beach for Karma Kandara at Uluwatu. We've yet to lounge in the private VIP beach cabanas, hang our heads in shame at the bloody mary breakfast bar or indulge in mini Karma spa treatments, but we're told the DJs are already rocking and the day beds are a hot commodity. We'll let you judge for yourself. karmabeachbatubelig.com.
Woo Bar at the W Retreat & Spa, Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak
The Woo Bar is giving Ku De Ta a run for its beach-club money with an equally fancy pool club complete with bean bags. Designed to draw the beautiful people with chandeliers, quirky tables and cocktail-inspired shisha tobacco. It's working. whotels.com/baliseminyak.