Seven unmissable places to eat in Bali
Thanks to a cross-pollination of cultures, tastes and flavours, Bali is quickly emerging as a world class player in the ranks of culinary travel destinations.
The Balinese people take immense pride in locally-produced, succulent dishes like beef rendang (a spicy meat dish, traditionally eaten at ceremonies), babi guling (spit-roasted hog) and nasi goreng (a rice dish with pieces of meat, vegetables and a fried egg), but the island has matured and welcomed a deluge of new, international cultures to its mix.
The result is a delightful blend and fusion of tastes and smells through lived and shared experiences.
Choose any street in Bali and it’s possible to eat at several Chinese restaurants, a handful of Indonesian ‘Warungs’ (small, family-owned businesses), Italian ostiaries, grab some kimchi or tofu stew at a Korean saloon or sip over an iced coconut latte at an up-market café.
Bali is a culinary experience to be enjoyed by everyone. If you’re ready to take your first bite, here are seven unmissable taste-experiences to try on your next trip.
KYND Community is a plant-based café and restaurant based on the outskirts of Seminyak. The cafe lies on a quiet road, and is sheltered by residential houses and scattered hotels. Its white entrance is inconspicuous, but inside, the restaurant is alive with vivd colour and texture. Sit outside on the terrance and experience the hot-spot “Instagram” wall or chair swing (and watch all the Instagram husbands/girlfriends/parents come to life!) or relax in the cool, spacious indoor café.
Meat eaters will be pleasantly surprised by the flavourful, wholesome, honest and generous portions. Vegans will have a hard time choosing from the 20+ delicious options available on the breakfast and lunch menu.
The Kynd smoothie bowl is arguably the most famously Instagrammed item on the menu, should you want to join the Insta wall. Try the ‘Leo’ gourmet toasted sandwich (smashed avo, grilled asparagus, garlic mushrooms, pesto, rocket, balsamic reduction and dukkah) for carb-loading, or the caramel kiss waffles for something sweet. A trip here is a feast for all the senses.
What: Boutique coffee house
Revolver Espresso takes pleasure in “accidentally revolutionising the coffee scene in Bali”. From the outside, the café could pass as a grubby, red-light bordello. Inside, however, it is a series of brightly decorated and themed rooms connected via small doorways and stairs. The space can sit up to 150 people and fills up fast (the lane is just off Seminyak’s main street). If the restaurant is full, guests can queue in the heavily-graffitied lane outside, complete with glorified red-rope and “security”. It’s all part of the cafés toughened look and is a bit of fun and has feel of exclusivity to it.
Revolver sources its speciality coffee from local farmers and roasts the coffee beans in their own roastery in Seminyak. It also has a full menu of locally-sourced food to choose from too.
Try the ‘Mother Clucker’ burger on a soft, spongey black bun or the chilli scrambled eggs (‘Packing Heat’) if extra spice is what you crave. The black caesar is a quirky updated take on a classic salad (the parmesan crisps are to die for), should you want something a little lighter.
The interior is laid-back and cool. Fake money decorates glass-top tables and guests are encouraged to take a few notes and write messages of their own on them. Grab a pen before you leave.
What: Asian fusion, vegetarian and vegan-friendly
Ingka is a gem hidden among the residential homes in Kerobokan, East of Canggu. From the outset, the space looks modest, but inside reveals a large, double-height cavern with a mix of contemporary Balinese and Asian furniture. The seating area can seat 100+ people, while the outside garden at the rear can sit another 30+ people.
As well as focusing on an Asian-fusion menu, Ingka also serves local cuisine, coffee and cake and vegetarian and vegan options. Highlights of the restaurant include the coconut green curry, steamed rendang of ayam betutu, eggs and avocado on sourdough, the fresh, exotic smoothie options and the resident cheeky cat. Haven’t finished all your food? The staff will provide you with a take-away box to enjoy again later. The service here is second-to-none.
Duck Duck Goose
What: Asian street food
The Duck Duck Goose restaurant in Kerobokan stands out for a number of reasons. Most-obvious is the building itself: the structure is brand new with rustic detailing on the outside. A blend of new and old asian-style furniture surrounds the interior saloon, while floor-to-ceiling windows provide a flood of natural light to the small space.
Second to stand out is the food. Some dishes are authentic (babi guling, panang), while some are “re-envisioned” (chocolate orange and duck gyoza,), as proclaimed on the Duck Duck Goose website. The menu was created by Canadian Chef Oli Brown who spent 20 years exploring Asia and Indonesia, sampling every taste and flavour on his way.
Dishes are small with beautiful pockets of flavour and are perfect for sharing.
What: Tapas and cocktails
It’s easy to walk by Neon Palms without much notice. That’s because this super trendy tapas bar is located above street level in the equally trendy Bali Boat Shed Boutique. Though the venue is small on space, it offers a cosy and intimate casual-dining experience. The restaurant is divided into a small indoor dining area and a larger, semi-outdoor dining area (which can get noisy during peak traffic times).
Apart from the stunning selection of cocktails and tapas, the restaurants interiors is what also draws in the crowds. It’s tropical-island-meets-art-deco with feisty jaguar prints on the wall, palm trees and other exotic plants lining the floor, and delicate touches of gold finishings plotted here and there.
Visit on ‘Wicked Wednesday’ and get tacos for as little as 15,000IDR (€1) per taco. Don’t leave without trying the vegan peking duck taco’s (hoisin, pickled cucumber, coriander, crispy shallots and lotus chips) or the panko crumbed fish taco with asian slaw, lime and aioli.
Potato Head Beach Club
What: Casual and premium dining. Indonesian
Potato Head Beach Club is one of the most widely recognised venues in Bali for its perfect, panoramic views of the sunset, international music acts and super relaxing chill-out areas. But did you know it has two brilliant restaurants on-site too?
To dine in the casual restaurant on the ground level (ie. food and drink without a sun lounger) there is a minimum spend of 300,000IDR (just shy of €20). However, when most dishes are from 80,000IDR to 125,000IDR, this is easily done. Try the jack fruit nachos with a locally brewed craft beer and sit back and enjoy the sunset.
‘Kaum’, meaning ‘tribe’ in Indonesian, is located on the upper level of Potato Head and serves authentic Indonesian. The eclectic menu is a result of deep research across the archipelago and reflects the indigenous cooking methods, native ingredients, and traditional flavours of Indonesia’s tribal communities. Booking in advance is recommended.
Both restaurants cater for vegetarians and vegans and there are options for meat-eaters too.
What: Casual dining. Mix of local and international dishes
Sitting on the shoreline of Batu Bolong Beach, Old Man’s is a surfers sanctuary by day and an after-hours music and dance destination by night.
For lunch, the bar’s thatched roof provides perfect respite from the hot sun. By evening, stretch out on one of the lounge couches with a frozen mojito in hand, and watch the sun gently drop beneath the waves.
The atmosphere here is fun and friendly and is suitable for the teens-to-infinity age bracket (babies, toddlers and dogs are all welcome), serving local speciality dishes and Western favourites in generous portions.
With 25,000IDR beers (€1.50) and great value meals, it’s a great stop for travellers on a budget.