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Bali’s Restaurateurs Are Stepping Up Their Game


Not just a haven for surf, sand and soirees, Bali’s dining scene also stands among the region’s best. Holly McDonald checks in to a few of the island’s hotels, whose restaurants are keeping up the pace with dishes that put the focus on creativity, provenance and style.

Published on May 15, 2018

On Bali, it’s true that life’s rhythms are still dictated by the vibrant ceremonies and intricate traditions that lured travelers here decades ago. In parallel, however, on the hoteldining front, things change—fast. Resorts are paying ever-closer attention to guest desires, outplaying each other to offer everything from the most exquisite traditional Balinese dishes to delectable hand-crafted cocktails worthy of being served in a just-opened New York bar. Here’s a rundown of just some of the latest offerings from Bali’s most salubrious resorts.


WASTE WARRIORS

At hipster haven W Bali Seminyak (doubles from US$320; mains from US$14), a new culinary director, UK-born chef Richard Bias, will shortly kick off a series of one-off events to be held every few months called Scraps. The dinners will focus on the idea of making better use of our food in order to throw less away. “With carrots, for instance, you can use the tops for pesto, skins for crackers or crisps, and the carrot for puree—from a young age as a chef, you do this anyway,” he says. The first menu will feature dishes with names such as “tuna collar tartar on yesterday’s rice with guacamole, chili and lime,” as well as “cauliflower tree trunks with cheese odds and ends and toasted garlic crumbs.”

 


Striking décor at the W Bali's grill house, Fire


Bias is also stamping his mark by introducing new menus across the resort’s varied dining venues. Enthused by the availability of fresh produce in Bali after a stint in Oman, he aims to amp up the presentation and sophistication of dishes. At modern grill house Fire, for instance, the new menu shifts away from usual steakhouse starters like salads towards more refined selections, like lobster wonton with oxtail and mushrooms. Bias aims to revise menus every four months: “We can’t rest on our laurels, we want to keep a constant evolution going.”


Wok and roll presentation at Fire

 

A CLASS ACT

Not everything worth a diversion in Bali is beachside. The St. Regis Bali Resort (doubles from US$420; mains from US$20) has long attracted guests indoors with its sumptuous afternoon tea at its elegant King Cole Bar, and to celebrate the resort’s 10th anniversary this year they are offering a Quintessential Afternoon Tea Series, for a special twist on the usual. The first theme, Arte-Noon Tea, will provide guests a selection of coloring illustrations by emerging Indonesian artist Ida Bagus Gede Wiraga for a soothing coloring session while chatting with friends, nibbling on sweet and savory delicacies and listening to a live jazz pianist. Arte-Noon Tea runs from May 10 to June 30, with more themes to come.


The Arte-noon Tea set at St. Regis Bali combines mindfulness with high tea

 

A TOUCH OF THE LOCAL

The latest addition to Kayumanis Jimbaran (doubles from US$284; mains from US$7) is Kayumanis Resto, a standalone Indonesian-focused restaurant set in a lush coconut- and banana palm–studded garden. Opened late last year, the restaurant is housed in a stunning replica of a Javanese wooden joglo house, complete with hand painted floor tiles and a wraparound veranda, evoking the mood of a bygone era; the stylish bar brings it back into the present day.


Kayumanis Resto's joglo-style restaurant

The menu meanders across the Indonesian archipelago, with long-time resident chef Oka creating both traditional and modern-twist selections, such as authentic Balinese smoked duck served in an individual clay grill. Also highlighted on the menu are a range of Indonesian tonics that have been used for generations to promote good health—proving perhaps that the more things change in the world, the more they stay the same.


The Balinese smoked duck at Kayumanis Resto arrives in theatrical style


SKY-HIGH BRUNCH

With access to 19 bars and restaurants, Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana (doubles from US$162; mains from US$11) has no shortage of dining options and events. Among them, we suggest you join the fiesta at what, for Bali at least, is slightly offbeat: a Mexican brunch at Unique. Yes, Mexican, on a mod rooftop, around a 25-meter infinity pool, with the Uluwatu Hills in the background. Expect an assortment of burritos, nachos and other favorites, but with a Balinese spin—the crispy churros come with a chocolate and mango sauce. Don’t forget the locally inspired margaritas either. But, no worries about authenticity: the chef is actually Mexican.


Cocktail hour at Unique’s rooftop

 

FROM THE SOURCE

New-kid-on-the-block Hotel Indigo (doubles from US$255; mains from US$12) has been gradually unfurling its tantalizing array of seven dining venues since opening on the sands of south Seminyak’s Mesari Beach last year. The resort-wide focus is very much on the local, from vernacular architectural touches through to its food.


Find locally sourced coffee beans and handmade ceramics at Pottery Café


The earthy Pottery Café offers a huge array of Indonesian single-origin beans, roasted in their own coffee-roasting machine—a rare hipster sight in a hotel café, even in ever trendy Bali. Whether it’s coffee, tea or hot chocolate from somewhere in the archipelago, drinks are served in pottery pieces handmade by local ceramicists. In the evening, stop by Tree Bar for a bespoke cocktail based on one of the arak liquors infused on-site with various local spices and herbs.

Poised to open next is Salon Bali, serving high-end Balinese cuisine. Diners can choose from an eight- or 12-course tasting menu dedicated and framed around the famed Balinese ceremonial dish babi guling, or suckling pig; the kitchen features its very own pit to prepare the pig. Later this year, SugarSand is set to turn heads when it becomes Seminyak’s latest beachfront bar and restaurant.

 

DINNER WITH A VIEW

In the resort enclave of Nusa Dua, Hilton Bali Resort (hilton.com; doubles from U $97; mains from US$12) is undergoing a major refurbishment, with The Shore restaurant, on Sawangan Beach, one of the first dining venues to reopen here. Designed to resemble a ship on stilts, the breezy three-story restaurant offers a casual alfresco setting for its new menu celebrating seafood and Mediterranean inspired dishes. Also on offer is the monthly signature #eatdrinkhilton menu, offered at Hilton properties across Indonesia to promote locally sourced ingredients. We tried the pork belly caramelized with palm sugar, the monthly hero ingredient at the time; it was melt-inthe-mouth and, sprinkled with colorful flower petals, looked like summer on a plate.

On the second floor, a sleek lounge and bar with pops of mustard and cobalt offer more intimate spots to chill out, while the rooftop has lounges that overlook the ocean. Linger over a sundowner or late-night cocktail; happy hour sees two drinks for the price of one. Stay tuned for an outside guest package set to launch later in the year.


The artfully plated strawberry and tuna salad at The Shore


Hilton Bali Resort offers localized cocktails, like the Soursop Martini


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