Bali – Not so cheap anymore?
Bali – is it no longer the cheap tropical get away it used to be? Yes we get cheap flights and if you choose – cheap accommodation but what about the food and drink?
Back in April I was on my honeymoon in Bali (I know right – someone wanted to marry me!) and off I went with my list of places to try – MamaSan, Sarong, La Lucciola – you get the idea – places that are serving food just a bit cheaper than Australia but astronomically more expensive than “Bali”.
La Lucciola was touted as the best place for breakfast in Bali. We got there early, got a great table with uninterrupted views looking out over the ocean and felt like this was going to be it. We were about to be IM-PRESSED. We were not. It was average at best. We spent just over $40AUD on smelly prawns in a soggy frittata, dry bread and wishy washy coffee.
Other places we visited we were spending around the $100AUD mark on what were pretty much dim sum dishes with a bit of julienne veges on top. I soon began to question why were we spending this amount of money on food? I have eaten some of the best Indonesian food of my life for under $10 in the little warungs or even those pubs with the cheesy sign saying “we serve bloody cold beer”, but here we were trying to shake that “aussie bogan” stigma by eating at fancy restaurants and watching the sunset from fancy bars amongst boat shoe and kaftan wearing pretentious try hards who you know were at the Bounty the night before drinking happy hour jungle juice.
Ok I get it – we all want a nice night out on holidays, and Andy and I definitely had our fair share, but we shouldn’t forget about the local food on offer.
The number one rule used to be that if there were other westerners eating there it was a good sign it was safe to eat there too. Is that still a rule? Maybe it’s not dodgy, maybe it’s just undiscovered.
I’m not saying eat at a place where it looks obvious you will get Hepatitis A – just to “see what it is like” – but be adventurous. That small restaurant or bar down a lane way with the old bloke sitting at the bar in his bintang singlet might just serve the best nasi goreng you’ll ever eat. The thing is – that bloke has probably been coming to Bali for 30 years and he KNOWS they serve the best nasi goreng!
There’s a place I go to every time I go to Bali – Pub Bagus – down Poppies II. The same people have worked there for years and I am in love with their food – especially their sate (to use the Indonesian word) and nasi goreng. For about $17AUD we each had a meal and a few beers – plus great service.
In Seminyak we stumbled across an ice cream shop near Sea Circus on Jl Laksamana. This ice cream shop had a small outdoor kitchen serving curry. The beef rendang was like nothing I have ever tried before. You couldn’t tell where the meat ended and the sauce began – it was THAT good. Rich sticky lumps of beef in a gritty spicy sauce and this wasn’t made from packet paste – the guys in this open air kitchen had put in the hard yakka and pounded and ground the ingredients to make the complex paste needed for rendang.
Taman Ayu Cottages on Jl Petitenget in Kerobokan had no one in their little restaurant when we went on the hunt for a cheap lunch. We gave it a go and ended up only spending $15AUD on meals and plenty of drinks. While we were in there plenty more families stopped by – looked at the menu out the front – looked at us eating and decided to come in. Soon it was full. They were obeying “the rule” maybe?
Maybe I am just an Aussie bogan at heart because I am comfortable being in a bar serving cheap bloody cold bintangs with a dodgy cover band singing the words wrong to Bob Marley songs.
We shouldn’t be scared to leave behind pulled pork and green smoothies when we go on holidays. Do we think that eating in expensive places means we won’t get the dreaded Bali belly? In my experience the people who get sick in Bali ate western food. So I beg you – give the small warungs and bars another go – you might be surprised how good you can eat for very little money.
Do you have a favourite place in Bali you’d love to recommend?
If you still fancy the “fancy” – Here are a few of my recommendations that are actually worth the money:
Jl. Raya Petitengent 888, Seminyak
This place is a pearler – serving up Seminyak quality food at almost Kuta prices. The menu has a mix of both traditional Indonesian food and western style food. Their selection of teas are extensive with a very refreshing ginger and lemongrass ice tea cooling you down on even the most humid Bali day. The Nasi Campur (pictured below) here is also a must try! We had both a lunch and breakfast at Biku with breakfast costing about $17AUD (including coffee) in total and lunch was about $30AUD (including drinks). They also do a high tea (either traditional or Indonesian) but you must book – what a great idea for a hens party!
Jl. Laksamana No. 22, Seminyak
I have recommend Sea Circus in a previous review a couple of years ago but I still believe it is still THE best place for breakfast in Bali. The coffee used is Five Senses – single origin from Kintamani, roasted in Bali. If you don’t fancy a hot cup of brew they also do a Yirgacheffe cold drip (pictured below) that is presented beautifully with milk and sugar syrup (neither are needed). The breakfast menu is western style with plenty of feel good healthy options including “hangover cure” meals that come with a side of Berocca and Panadol. Our breakfast came to about $25AUD in total including coffees.
Down the lane way opposite the Bali Clinic on Jl Kayu Aya (eat street), Seminyak
Often referred to as the “best coffee in Bali”, Revolver is serving up it’s own roast of single origin or their house blend. With a new all day breakfast menu to boot this place is a great little haunt to escape the craziness of eat street to enjoy a cup of strong coffee that really is the best in Bali. For 2 coffees we paid about $5AUD.
Jl Kayu Aya (Oberoi) No. 7b Seminyak
Jl Raya Ubud No. 88 Gianyar (Ubud)
I think I may have found a place serving coffee that rivals Revolver. They serve a variety of single origin coffees from different regions in Indonesia.. think Java, Bali, Sumatra, Aceh etc. Pick your bean then pick your method – drip, pour over, French Press , syphon etc. It’s all about the coffee here with a limited food menu. For 2 coffees we paid about $6AUD.
Jl. Petitengent No. 100x, Kerobokan
Forget the rest. Seriously. If you are going to drop some cash (in terms of Bali) on a meal then do it at Merah Putih. From the moment you walk in to Merah Putih you are in constant awe at the the surroundings, the food and the service. The food is mainly very traditional Indonesian with a modern twist on some of the dishes. It’s all designed to be shared amongst the table. The Ikan Bakar (BBQ fish) was incredible. Delicate silky flesh with that tell tale flavour of being cooked over coconut husks. A-MAZING. For sweets, kue lapis (layer cake) with spiced mousse was a traditional dessert with a modern twist (pictured below) – if you don’t try it here buy some from a shop somewhere in Bali. It’s a real treat! Total bill was $120AUD for 2 starters, 2 mains and dessert – all shared, plus 5 cocktails. Open for both lunch and dinner – bookings essential.
Check out my other post on a previous visit to bali!