Ubud is arguably seen as the foodie capital of Bali, with an eclectic mix of fine-dining restaurants, local warungs and healthy hipster cafes.
A highlight of our trip was dinner at Api Jiwa at the recently opened Capella Ubud. This BBQ dining experience is an animated affair with unusual concoctions being cooked up directly in front of you. Dishes included Lombok oyster; duck yakitori; wagyu beef rendang; and cured hamachi with squid noodles and smoked dashi. The most unusual dish was certainly dessert – coconut gelato with sea salt, olive oil and caviar. It sounds bizarre, but it somehow worked! My one tip however, is to ensure you turn up hungry as the restaurant exclusively offers a 10-course degustation menu, so there’s a lot of food to get through.
A firm favorite for guests wanting to indulge in contemporary fine-dining is Kubu Restaurant at Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. With the option of dining in a private bamboo nest, dinner at Kubu is an experience in itself. Each course is beautifully presented, the food is exquisite, and the waiting staff are very attentive.
However, for those looking for something simpler, then turn your eye to The Fair Warung Bale by the Fair Future Foundation. This local warung can be found in Ubud town center and is a modest affair – expect worn wooden chairs and tables, or dining on the floor in a traditional bale. Dishes here include local favorites such as nasi goreng, cashew tofu and tempe, and red chicken curry. However, the real appeal of dining here is knowing that all profits are donated to the Fair Future Foundation, which supports local communities through health, social and welfare programs.
Seminyak is a fantastic destination for those looking to enjoy good surf, shop for bohemian homewares, and tuck into healthy treats. Although there is a multitude of quirky cafes and hipster coffee shops, one personal favorite is Shelter Bali. Hidden down a small lane, amidst working rice paddy fields, Shelter is a great place to escape the midday sun and cool off with a cold coffee or fruity smoothie. Other dishes on the menu include veggie buddha bowls, blueberry hot cakes, and Australian beef burgers.
For a local’s insight, make sure to book onto a local street-food of Denpasar. This is a great way to see what the Balinese treat themselves to, with local delicacies including babi guling (suckling pig), bebek betutu (slow cooked duck) and ikan bakar (grilled fish). Here you will also learn about the history and significance behind the dishes, and back stories of the local storeowners.
For a culinary delight, make sure to visit Amankila in Manggis, over on Bali’s east coast. Visiting this side of the island feels like stepping back in time – away from the crowds of the busier west coast. However, the food does not linger behind. Traditional dishes are cooked up using locally sourced ingredients and are absolutely standout. Highlights here included afternoon tea with a Balinese twist, featuring little rice pancakes and a cup of jamu; and a spiced nasi goreng for breakfast – a great way to start the day.
Despite being under a 2-hour flight from Bali, the food on Java has very different intricacies. My main recommendation would be to try rijsttafel, a Dutch word meaning ‘rice table’. This extravagant meal is made up of numerous small side dishes, such as sambals, satays, rendang, gado-gado, lodeh and tempeh, and was designed by the Dutch as a way of impressing visitors when they traveled to colonial Java. Nowadays, it’s a fantastic way of trying lots of different plates – rather than committing exclusively to one big dish. Whilst sampling Java’s culinary delights, enjoy a stay at Amanjiwo, a luxurious boutique property in the rural heartland of Central Java overlooking the Buddhist Temple site of Borobudur.
One of the best ways of exploring the Komodo Islands is by hopping on board a luxury yacht and cruising through the islands. As well as being able to explore untouched corners and dive in remote regions, it also allows you to tuck into a wide variety of dishes whilst on board. My day spent on Dunia Baru was a real gastronomic highlight with a sumptuous spread of brunch dishes – much more than regular avocado on toast. Think freshly cooked bowls of mie goreng, spicy vegetable frittatas, and exquisitely cooked Indonesian wagyu beef. The chef on board can cook up almost anything your heart desires, so make sure to discuss your preferences with your Travel Consultant in advance.