Annual pilgrimage to Bali

Chaos’ antiques store is full of so many beautiful things, and whilst I’ve often offered to show off my wood-working skills, for some reason she prefers to get it from authentic sources and professionals, so every year we travel to Asia to buy the furniture. Large architectural pieces such as doors, columns, arches and armoires, all hundreds of years old and brought from India. Then we go to Bali, Indonesia to buy all the contemporary, artisanal pieces. Everything from stone Buddhas, to hand crafted plates. The Bali shopping takes about four weeks as Louise works with literally hundreds of small work-shops, each person specializing in a few different items. For me, this means four weeks of improving my front crawl in the swimming pool and working my way through the island’s restaurants.

I’m often asked where I like to eat. Well, the truth is, it’s Bali. In four weeks, we will have two dozen great, memorable meals. The design of the restaurants is often spectacular, the settings, even more so. The service in the restaurants is amongst the best I have ever experienced anywhere in the world, as the people of the island are so sensitive and they present themselves, the food and drinks with balletic elegance. 

Apparently, the people of the island celebrate the most religious holidays anywhere in the world. This can be frustrating when you travel hours to visit them at their ateliers to offer them a commission, only find they are at the local temple, but otherwise it is quite humbling, as they are doing less damage to the environment, or their spiritual selves by ‘economically underperforming’.

I’m not sure that we in the West have won the argument about economic development and all the concomitant benefits that wealth creation has provided. As Marcuse wrote in One-Dimensional Man, “Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing. As the liberty to work or to starve, it spelled toil,  insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this kind of freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization.”

Personally, I consider myself as a capitalist-apostate. I opened my first restaurant more than thirty years ago, and enjoy many of the material rewards that I’ve earned over the years, I’ve also taken silver from other people who have done well from the free-market capitalist system. I stand in awe of the works of human genius sponsored by wealthy individuals or powerful leaders, popes, Medici’s, kings and queens, to the modern day and the buildings built for the ‘Bilbao effect’, but the ramifications have hurt people, the animal kingdom has been decimated, nature has been violated, our souls befouled.

The whole history of political philosophy has been unable to provide a conclusion satisfactory to everyone, certainly not to the cast of furry, winged, finned, hoofed and scaled little people with whom we share this planet.

Anyway, back to expensive, luxury restaurants and hotels in Bali.

We always seem to arrive in Bali during the night, no matter where we fly in from, which means the first meal will be the breakfast pilgrimage to La Lucciola. We literally come here every morning whilst on the island. I will try to manage my ‘amazings’ responsibly, but this place simply is. The views are extraordinary, the palms that stand as sentinels on the shoreline, the vibrant vegetation, the crashing waves that line the piercing blue sea like a intricate lace hem. The restaurant is entirely open, made from bamboo and wood, with touches such as a a painting canvas pierced with a thousand fresh jasmine flowers

Seashore at Ku-de-Ta.

La Lucciola

Night time at the magical La Lucciola

We order eggs, crispy bacon, excellent homemade breads. Fresh juices, cappuccinos, fruit plates and are immediately immersed into the spiritual rhythm of the island. Well at least until we have to leave and are then re-immersed into the less than spiritual rhythm of the traffic. The island has become a victim of its own success in recent years and there are more people wishing to visit parts of the island than the original infrastructure can cope with. We stopped taking cars years ago and now drive ourselves around on bikes. Actually better fun, at least until we get knocked-off.

Film night at Ku-de-Ta

Louise usually works all day, so dinners are the time when we can catch up and enjoy the fabulous addresses in the town of Seminyak. One of the first nights will always be drinks and dinner at Ku-de-Ta. Again on the beach. This place was for a long time the coolest, most glamorous spot in town. They have a funky bar with great cocktails that we shamelessly plagiarize every year, an excellent fine dining restaurant, lounge area where you can get great sushi and day beds where you can ensconce yourself with drinks and nibbles and watch an evening movie on a gigantic screen erected once a week in front of the sea.

Chilling by the Sea.

Another night might be Mamasan, where they have a great Asian fusion menu, as well as a decent, though noisy bar on the first floor. I used to have this excellent Duck dish with spices and little pancakes, or the Lamb Curry which was always perfectly flavored. Louise waited every evening for her soft-shelled crab. Booking here is critical, or at least was before the pandemic. Again, super décor and smart clientele.

The restaurant at Mamasan

The Legian Hotel

Whilst Louise is working, I like to spend the day at the Legian hotel. The setting is beautiful and the hotel, simply breathtaking. The owners obviously work with all the best ateliers on the island and every detail is considered. This is a perfect place to relax, read, appreciate ones good fortune in these difficult times.

The Illuminated Panel at Chandi

Another must visit spot for us is Chandi on Eat Street. Ginger Mojitos are awesome and I always have the Chicken Satay plate. They also do a grilled  imported, Rib-Eye with Potato Puree which is fantastic. The room is nice though the focal point is the illuminated panel behind the bar. There used to be a great Maitre ‘hotel here, a local guy who used to remember our names, year after year.

Garden Scene at Métis

A real treat will be to go to Métis. The design is stunning, built around a paddy field with an incredible sense of aesthetics. There is a majestic jasmine tree in the center of the garden which in the evenings -or maybe a cunning waiter with aerosols – fills the air with a magical fragrance. The chef is French pied-noir, and cooks once a week the most delicious Couscous with Lamb, Merguez and Chicken. I’m literally queueing outside the restaurant on the day when the dish is available to make sure I get one of the plates.

Stunning Merah Putih

Merah Putih is another great address. The structure has enormously high  vaulted fabric ceiling which makes you think you are eating in a cathedral. They have plants and palms growing everywhere between he tables. Again, tasty food, beautiful décor, plates, glasses and friendly staff.

Another day of religious festivities. Remarkable people.

All the restaurant shots are from the internet, the rest of the photos are ours. Thank you.

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