Never has a place attracted such diametrically opposed views of love and hate as Bali. There are people like me who are in love with this tropical island, returning often, and there are people who have never been yet believe that it is not a place worth visiting. It is a real shame because when you know Bali like I know Bali you can’t imagine not returning. I’ve eaten all around the world and some of my most memorable meals happened here. Once you try my top 10 you might just be booking that plane ticket, either for the first time or one of many. Enjoy.
1. Date night – Merah Putih
The day we landed in Denpasar, on our most recent trip, the Baron and I made a beeline to Merah Putih for dinner to start our holiday right. Upon entering you are immediately impressed by the vastness of the elegant space with souring solar glass ceilings softened by palm trees, candles and pretty fairy lights. The Indonesian inspired menu certainly stands up to the ambiance of the space. The flavor combinations are so delicious, the pork belly left the Baron speechless, no easy task. Whilst Asian desserts are often derided and ignored, MP's desserts are so alluring it is impossible to choose just one and when they cost between $3-$6 why choose? Whether you select the palm sap tart, the young coconut panacotta or the passion fruit brulee with salem cake you won’t go wrong. Book ahead online for lunch and dinner and let your holiday begin.
2. Staying healthy at Earth café - Jl. Kayu Aya, Seminyak
This is the sort of place that my finely tuned food foraging skills happily led me to. I didn’t need a guide book to tell me that this place was the goods. I could just feel it, it's a gift. This is my number 1 go to place for breakfast (when I take a break from the butler service at the villa darling or more likely when I decide to have 2 breakfasts, who can resist breakfast cooked by your very own chef), lunch and for stashing some “healthy” desserts back at the pad for feasting on between strenuous bouts of sunbaking and splashing about in the pool. Raw, organic, vegan, cacao, nutty goodness abounds at this gem of a café where you can often find me deliberating at the dessert cabinet. But I digress for there are an amazing amount of healthful smoothies, juices, teas, kombuchas and tonics to restore and rehydrate you along with a fantastic range of gluten free dishes including quinoa pancakes, young papaya salad and pumpkin ginger soup. This vegetarian café will have you hooked too. Eat in or take away.
3. NYC meets Seminyak - Chandi
Three words keep me coming back to Chandi; Black. Rice. Pudding. This traditional ceremonial dessert dream is served with mango cheeks and coconut sorbet. I just can’t get enough of the stuff when I’m in Seminyak but there is more to Chandi than desserts. With the owners originally hailing from New York they have incorporated the fit out to combine NYC style with Indonesian culture. If you have a red meat loving Baron in your life this is where you should take him. Succulent cuts of meat are expertly cooked and presented on stone plates. Lunch or dinner can be enjoyed on the verandah overlooking “eat street” or in the stylish dark wooden dining room. Chandi also does a particularly good sate.
4. Coming back from the beach – The Junction
After a few hours walking along the beach and swimming, the Baron is on the look out for some refueling STAT and as it is usually at least 3 long hours since my last nasi goreng fix we often make an emergency stop at the Junction for a quick hit. The setting is beach casual, minimalist with white wash interiors. The menu is a crowd pleaser with a good cross section of options ranging from soups, pastas, currys, seafood and traditional Indonesian dishes including of course my fave nasi goreng and sate. The Junction also does freshly squeezed juices, which after a long beach walk really hits the spot.
5. Family friendly Italian – Ultimo
Soooo Italian you’ll think you’re back on Lygon St. Every traditional Italian dish imaginable is here at Ultimo. Don’t be fooled by the white tablecloths, nothing on this menu is going to break the bank and the kids are more than welcome. An easy no fuss dinner with the family and plenty of carb loading awaits. It’s wise to go to the early sitting or have your concierge call to make a reservation for you.
6. Special occasion - Teatro
At Teatro you are whisked a million miles away to a Michelen-esque style restaurant that could sit comfortably in Manhattan or London, the pleasant difference being the price. A 4 course set menu starts at $50AUD~ plus taxes and the degustation starts around $95++. Welcome to fine dining Seminyak style. The absolutely sincere, adorable and sweet staff whose attentiveness is never obtrusive encapsulates the very best of Balinese service. I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday here and it was such a memorable evening of 5 wonderful courses. The setting is very intimate with dark wood interiors, subtle lighting and splashes of red in the soft furnishings. The food was beautifully presented with impeccable, mainly local, ingredients and sublime French cuisine with an Asian flavours. Book ahead online for dinner and dress to impress.
7. Pre or post dinner drinks – Red Carpet Champagne Bar
Between the actual red carpet leading up to the bar and the super cute outfits the bar staff wear you can’t miss this place. A long, narrow bar perched on busy eat street is in prime people watching position. Watch the shoppers, beach goers and food seekers stroll past while the locals scoot by on their motor bikes. A fun spot to unwind at the end of the day with a champas and a cheese plate, or perhaps some cocktails and a cigar if you prefer.
8. On the beach – Samaya Breeze
The perfect romantic location for dinner on the beach and as the name suggests you will have the deliciously warm sea breeze gently caress you. Set on a wooden boardwalk within the exceptional Samaya resort and decorated with gorgeous white paper lanterns the mood is set as the waves gently lap the shore. One of the more pricey restaurants in Seminyak but still very affordable by Australian standards, especially given the location, ambiance and quality of the food. This would be a lovely spot to propose or celebrate a special occasion. I recommend the scallops for entrée and any of the seafood dishes for main. Bookings essential for dinner.
9. On the beach literally at La Lucciola - Jalan Petitenget
It really feels like you are nestled in a tree house as you watch the sunset over the beach at Seminyak. A relaxed vibe with a Mediterranean menu, suitable for couples and families. Kick off with a cocktail and finish the night with a banana soufflé or chocolate fondant. Bring your camera and be sure to book a seat with an unobstructed view of that sunset.
10. Fun dinner with friends – Motel Mexicola
The craze for tacos has spread to Seminyak and everyone heads to Motel Mexicola to get their fix in a fun, kitschy set up washed down with a margarita or 3. Plenty of communal tables for large groups but if you’re in a couple and want to be part of the action choose a seat at the bar. The music’s pumpin,’ staff are friendly and the food is tasty. Time to line up some shots of Patron.
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