Southern Bali's chic food scene stretches from Seminyak to Canggu and Batubelig, writes Belinda Jackson.
When the sun goes down in Bali, we all stop to worship the end of the day by the water's edge, and Bali's most loved strip runs from Kuta Beach northward to Batubelig and Canggu.
"Canngu is the new Seminyak," the locals say. What they really means is that there are still terraced rice paddies and open spaces in Canggu, which has become a stomping ground of expats enjoying life in the tropical sun without Kuta's notorious traffic and bustle.
The hip strips of Seminyak have some of the best tables in town, serving classical Balinese as well as Javanese household favourites and the top international tastes.
However, Canggu and Batubelig, just to a little further from Seminyak, are where you'll find the secrets of southern Bali's chic food scene, hidden on sandy beaches and amid a strip of local shops.
Starting in the north in Canggu Beach, make a beeline for an elegant, classic Indonesian table or full-moon beach barbeque at Tugu Hotel, (tuguhotels.com).
At Batubelig, keep an eye out for Naughty Nuri's Warung and Grill, which the American guerrilla-chef Anthony Bourdain says has the best martini outside of New York. (naughty-nuris.com) It's Nuri's ribs, however, that keep drawing old friends back.
If you like a bit more bump in your beach bar, Seminyak's belweather Ku De Ta still has what it takes, with a chic crowd dressed to impress paying homage to the sun and the surf: the waves of this beachside club are some of the best on the strip. (kudeta.net)
Forget the rules about not taking children to clubs. At Ku De Ta's neighbour and rival, Potato Head Beach Club, the kids' pool is the one without the swim-up bar, and little ones are welcome to soak up the rays on white sun lounges with their families. (ptthead.com) Potato's restaurants range from casual snacking to fine dining and the sleek Lilin – which serves up true Balinese classics including sate babi kecap (sate pork belly) and ayam betutu bumbu rajang (Balinese roasted chicken).
Here's a tip: go to the beach bars an hour before sunset, because you don't want to be standing in the queue waiting to get in while the inside crowd revels in the last of the day's gorgeous light.
Chill out on beanbags with sangria in hand at La Plancha, a stalwart on Double Six beach, just north of Kuta, or toast your shopping extravaganzas with bubbles at the Champagne Bar, on Jalan Oberoi, in Seminyak (redcarpetchampagnebar.com).
In the heart of Seminyak, the list of sensational restaurants is almost overwhelming so get out the diary and start planning.
Forget Jalan Oberoi (also called Jalan Laksmana), known in some circles as Seminyak's "Eat Street". Instead, head to Jalan Petitenget. Set beside the Pura Petitenget temple, La Lucciola serves light, Italian-style lunches to a loyal clientele that often stays on for afternoon drinks and beach watching. Neighbouring Petitenget restaurant showcases Balinese produce and faces the busy street – just the spot from which to wave to passing friends. (petitenget.net) Take a seat on the terrace, order something with bubbles to accompany your meal and soak up the vibe in this smart, modern bistro (petitenget.net).
While you're in the area, also try former Longrain chef Will Meyrick's Mama San, which is smoking hot, and deservedly so, for its exuberant cocktail menu and pan-Asian fabulousness (mamasanbali.com).
Then shimmy up to the Anantara Hotel's rooftop where the SOS Supper Club serves dinner at sunset overlooking Seminyak's best surf spot (sosasupperclub.com) and the dancing starts, or flaunt it at the W Hotel's Woo Bar. You'll want to be back here for the hotel's Sunday seafood buffet at Starfish Bloo, so skip breakfast in preparation (starwoodhotels.com). In downtown Seminyak, the rice paddies are manicured works of art that set the stage for some of the island's top restaurants, such as serene Sardine which serves local seafood off thecoconut char grill and an elegant snacking menu (sarongbali.com) and celebrated Metis, with its champagne soirees and sundowners hosted alongside the paddies and water gardens. Metis caters for all comers: you can squeeze in a two-course lunch for $10 or blow the budget on its champagne and caviar sessions. Just make sure you book ahead. (metisbali.com)
If it's authentic décor you need, Biku is a cacophony of restaurant, cafe andrare Indonesian teas housed in a 150-year-old teak joglo – a traditional house from East Java (bikubali.com). Team tea with a tarot reading for an afternoon out of the ordinary. "The tea to drink with Asian high tea is masala chai or one of our limited edition oolongs such as fenghuang danchong," says Biku's owner, the Australian-born Balinese princess Jero Asri Kerthyasa.
After all this fabulousness, a plate of street food might be just the ticket, so try Petitenget's Warung Kolega for its authentic Javanese food. It attracts local workers, Indonesian tourists and canny expatsand its lunch specials include soto ayam (chicken soup) and the green powerhouse, kangkung, tossed in garlic, chilli and galangal. Decor tragics, shut your eyes: this place is cheap, fast and it tastes like home. Your new Balinese home.
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