I have to be the worst person in the world at keeping secrets. I don’t know how the Boy does it but consistently for some years now he manages to crack the puzzle on what his Christmas gift is from me. It frustrates the hell out of me! So this year I thought I’d go way outside the box from the usual gift giving we normally do and instead I decided I would get him a holiday …. and I would come along of course!
Now obviously the first place that came to my mind was Thailand as our love affair with this country continues and I really wanted to organise a trip to Bangkok with a detour via Hua Hin for some beachside relaxation. But after some investigation with our travel agent, I soon realised that with a wedding to save for; going to Thailand during its peak season was realistically out of my budget! She suggested we go somewhere a little closer to home such as Bali. Being only three and half hours flight from Perth it seemed like the perfect place to get in a quick amount of much needed R&R.
For nearly half the price of a trip to Thailand she arranged a five night holiday to Bali including flights staying at Villa Air Bali in Seminyak. I laminated some brochures of the villas and pictures of Bali and wrapped it all up in a big gift box with the Flight Centre travel documents. To my exquisite delight the Boy had absolutely NO IDEA what it was until he opened it! Finally success at keeping a secret!
The flight was over before we knew it and we were collected by our pre-organised transfer. We travelled for nearly two hours from the airport bouncing along on potholed streets in the bucketing rain while our transfer tried to sell us guided tours. It was much to our relief when we pulled into the lobby area and were warmly greeted by our hotel receptionist. The lobby was open plan with a large moat pond surrounding it with some beautiful Koi and a symphony of frogs. The locations of the villas are slightly out of the main area of Seminyak so it was generally a taxi ride to get to the restaurants and beach clubs.
We were taken to our villa where our porter showed us every infinite detail of the villa right down to opening the kitchen drawers and showing us the forks and knives. The kitchen had only basic utensils and enough glasses and plates for two people. Although there was a stove top, there weren’t really enough kitchen bits and bobs to make much more than a stir fry. Not that I planned on doing ANY cooking mind you.
The villa was clean and free of any mouldy odours so common to some middle range accommodation during the wet season in the tropics. The only downside of the villa design was that during rainy downpours, water would flood across into the living area and onto much of the tiles. Both of us nearly stacked it a number of times as the floor became very slippery. The pool was so refreshing and inviting; it was invigorating to stumble out of bed each morning and plunge into the pool.
The bedroom was icily air-conditioned much to the Boy’s delight and the bathroom was enormous. In fact it was bigger than the bedroom. There was a large selection of amenities and in addition to the usual suspects there was some insect repellent and some fragrant bath salts.
Despite the brochure for the villa mentioning it has free WIFI, it took us a couple of days before they could actually get it to work properly. The connection was very poor as reception informed us that the internet in Bali is not very fast. The villa comes with a free stocked minibar but this was a little deceiving as it only contained only a couple of beers and some soft drink. I guess I can’t really complain if it’s free!
Breakfast can be served in villa or the restaurant with six options available: American, Healthy, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese. We decided on arrival we would try and have a different kind each morning for a bit of fun.
The first (and worst) breakfast we had was The American. It was bland and very simple but I suppose it was acceptable enough. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy albeit a little tepid. The black rice bread was gluten free and had a distinct nutty flavour which I really enjoyed. The yogurt was watery and fairly inedible.
The Chinese breakfast consisted of some congee (rice porridge) with a myriad of accompaniments not all of which I recognised and could identify. It was served with some mantou (steamed buns). I carefully selected a number of the accompaniments and placed a sprinkling of them into my congee.
The Boy on the other hand piled all of his on top of his congee and mixed it all through. The end result looked at little scary and was not very pleasant apparently! I quite enjoyed mine but I was a lot more conservative with what I put in it.
The Indo breakfast option gave an option of either Nasi goreng (fried rice with shrimp, chicken and vegetables) or Mie goreng (fried noodles with egg, chicken and vegetables). I ordered the rice and the Boy ordered the noodles. My nasi goreng was fairly run of the mill and was nothing I couldn’t have recreated better at home. Unfortunately I spotted some onion contained in this one and ended up spending a fair amount of time having to sift carefully to pick the pieces out which was annoying. As with our American breakfast, our meals were served a little on the cold side.
The Japanese breakfast was by far and by large my favourite – I actually ordered this one twice I loved it so much! It came with some bean paste soup (miso), steamed rice, a couple of pieces of marinated grilled fish and some steamed white and orange sweet potato. There were also some green beans in peanut sauce. On the side was some dessert containing sweet jelly, red beans and fruit which made a refreshing end to the filling meal. I did make the mistake of tasting the side dish of natto. What the hell!! I always thought I was good with eating weird tasting things but this stuff is definitely an acquired taste – we both thought it was pretty gross. Is there a better way to eat this stuff?
Overall if we return to Seminyak we will probably stay somewhere more centrally located, but if you don’t mind being a little off the beaten track Air Bali was good value, peaceful and clean.
Like Me on Facebook!Villa Air Bali, Seminyak | (+62) 361 737378 | www.villa-airbali.com Price: $$ Package deal with Flight Centre: $1014 per person for return flights with Virgin Blue from Perth, airport transfers, 5 nights accommodation in a pool villa with breakfast included, two massages in villa, free minibar Food: 2/5 (in villa breakfasts should be served promptly after making to avoid being cold) Service: 3.5/5 (reception went out of their way to notify restaurants in advance of my allergies) Ambience: 4/5 (relaxing, clean and modern style villas) Drinks: 2/5 (minibar was scant and was refilled only intermittently) Total: 11.5/20
Bearing in mind that our mini-break to Bali was a spontaneous and relatively unplanned trip the holiday’s budget was a little tighter than I am normally accustomed to. It was our fourth night and we had already eaten at some very impressive restaurants such as Ku De Ta and La Lucciola. These were wonderful meals but they came at prices that are comparable to those back in Perth. To add to the situation it is only a year before our wedding date (WOOT!) and the boy was getting justifiably concerned about our spending habits knowing full well that we still had our Sydney trip the following week!
Once again by recommendation, this time from one of our travelling companions who came with us last year in Phuket, we made the journey in the torrential monsoon rain to the more built up southern part of Seminyak to Chez Gado Gado. On entry into this opulent venue I started to worry that I had inadvertently chosen another pricy restaurant. Thankfully after scanning the menu I was relieved to see that things were all very reasonably priced despite the external appearance of the restaurant being quite fancy.
We were greeted promptly by the maître D who had been kindly informed in advance by our hotel reception of my dietary requirements. She explained she would get the chef to come to our table so I could discuss the menu directly with him. The executive chef is Quirijn Rademaker, a Dutchman who has been working at Gado Gado for the past 4 years having previously come from Shy restaurant in Jakarta. He was keen and energetic and offered to adapt a number of options off his menu for me. I was eyeing off the terrine of smoked and cured salmon with crab, pomelo and sour cream vinaigrette. He said although the terrine is not suitable, he could make me a salmon carpaccio and accompany it with a dill mustard cream, fresh fennel and the pomelo. I haven’t tried salmon with citrus before – it sounds like a pretty weird thing to combine, but surprisingly it really worked and I was suitably impressed.
The boy ordered the lobster ravioli which I obviously couldn’t taste but looked really flavoursome. Having eaten out for a number of nights in a row, he was starting to get a little weary of my repeated and incessant questions regarding the taste of his meals so I didn’t get much of a description from him other than “delicious”.
After such fresh and saporous entrees, unfortunately our main meals were lacklustre by comparison. The potato gratin was served lukewarm and tasted like it had been re-heated. The jus contained onion so the chef made an alternate sauce for me that was too peppery and didn’t balance well with the sweetness of the beetroot and duck. None of the dish was unpleasant by any stretch of the imagination, just mismatched and poorly combined.
We had also ordered some sides of sautéed mushrooms and zucchini with mint and garlic. These sides were seemingly forgotten and I had to remind the waiter that we ordered them. They didn’t come out until we had finished our mains completely. The sautéed mushrooms were juicy and tasty but the zucchini was soggy with excessive oil and was intensely overloaded with garlic. After overdosing on our garlic we had no room left for dessert and tried to make the most of the break in the rain and head back to the villa. As soon as we had paid the bill and were heading out the front door to hail ourselves a cab – the heavens opened up again and the tropical downpour continued! We got thoroughly soaked!
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!Like Me on Facebook! Chez Gado Gado Jalan Camplung Tanduk, (Dhyanapura) 99, Seminyak, Bali, 80361 INDONESIA | (+62) 361 736966 | www.gadogadorestaurant.com Price: $$ (Entrees 88-164K Rp/$9-17 AUD, Mains 146-295K Rp/$15-30 AU) (incl. tax & service charges) Food: 3/5 (has potential – overall not bad) Service: 3/5 (slow on drinks service and forgot side dishes) Ambience: 3/5 (would be awesome to watch the sunset on the deck weather permitting) Drinks: 2.5/5 (cocktails were fairly average) Total: 11.5/20
After our decadent meal at Ku De Ta there was some discussion amongst our friends on Facebook which lead to a number of alternate dining recommendations being given. We decided to follow their advice and booked a table at La Lucciola which was conveniently in Seminyak where we were staying. To the Boy’s satisfaction we also managed to book the hotel car in advance and dodge being over charged by local taxis. He is not the biggest fan of the whole rorting system of taxis in Bali and this was cause of many complaints from him.
The restaurant is located right up on the beach but unfortunately we arrived just after sunset so we missed the view as the golden sun had already plunged into the sea. Despite this, I was still amazed at what a stunning setting; the restaurant is surrounded by lush gardens and Koi ponds facing out directly onto the beach. It faces towards an area of beach on the northern end of Seminyak beach which is much quieter and more peaceful than the main area.
We were greeted with beaming smiles from all the staff and found a distinct lack of pretention that we saw when at Ku De Ta. Upon arrival I handed the waiter my allergy eating card and off it went to make its obligatory journey around the kitchen to be returned back some time later with the waiter who offered some recommendations off the menu. I was also informed that although normal bread is complementary, they do have gluten-free bread available for a small extra charge. Being the only place in Bali that offered me gluten-free bread, I was already feeling quite positive about our evening.
The bread had great texture and was not crumbly or stodgy and I was quite impressed as I haven’t had a lot of good gluten-free bread experiences when travelling in Asian countries. It was served with freshly whipped butter and olive oil.
I had recently been reading a review on My Kitchen Stories on Café Sopra in Sydney where she tried their vitello tonnato. So when I saw it on the menu I was keen to try this classic and elegant Italian summer dish for the first time. It truly was a taste sensation. The veal was tender and subtly sweet and was topped with big dollops of creamy almost pungent tuna flavoured sauce which contained an astringent hint of capers. The sauce was definitely the key to this dish’s success.
The boy ordered the duck for his entrée which consisted of a moist, juicy duck breast on top of a crisp pear pastry. It was accompanied with some crunchy peppery watercress, fresh pear and some sweet beetroot. He was suitably very impressed with his choice.
My main was not nearly as tasty as the veal. The barramundi was slightly over cooked and lacked that flaky softness I passionately love about this fish. I also felt that wrapping such a delicate fish in prosciutto overpowered the flavours somewhat. The celeriac purée helped to lift some of this heaviness making the dish still overall quite enjoyable.
According to the Boy this was a very filling dish. It was heartily seasoned and all the seafood was cooked to his liking. We also ordered some sides: the wild rocket salad with Pecorino Toscano and some roasted golden pumpkin with sliced almonds and balsamic. The rocket was crisp and fresh with generous shavings of the salty almost nutty flavoured cheese. The pumpkin had the skin removed prior to roasting which is a shame as I think that caramelised chewy part is the best bit!
The berry pannacotta held good shape despite the heat and didn’t collapse on my plate. It was delightfully light and silky and it filled the last little spot left in my stomach perfectly. The Boy ordered the gelato which he felt was fairly standard and nothing to get too excited about.
La Lucciola was our second favourite meal during this Bali trip (compared to Ku De Ta) but if you take into consideration the venue, the price and the service I would say this meal was actually the best.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!
Have you liked my Facebook page?La Lucciola Jl. Kayu Aya, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | (+62) 361 730 838 Price: $$$ (Entrée 107-145K Rp, $11-15 AUD, Mains 215-325K Rp, $22-33 incl tax) Food: 4.5/5 (they have gluten-free bread!) Service: 5/5 (faultless, attentive, not obtrusive) Ambience: 4.5/5 (beautiful beachside setting) Drinks: 3/5 (cocktails could be improved) Total: 17/20
It was our first night in Bali and our refreshing welcome drink served at our villa was a much needed treat. It had taken us no less than an hour and a half to travel a mere twelve kilometres through bumper to bumper traffic from the airport to Seminyak. Once we had checked into our villa and discovered the free minibar wasn’t very well stocked, we decided to head out into the town in search of something to eat and drink. I had been given a long list of eating venues from friends back home so I started at the top of the list and chose Ku De Ta.
I tried to not to compare my first impressions of Bali with our recent times in Thailand but this was a difficult task to do. Having been to a few locations on a couple of trips to Thailand, there is definitely something about the people and their country that makes me smile. I guess that is why they call it the “Land of Smiles”! Bali just didn’t give me that same overwhelming feeling of happiness but at this early stage of the trip I hadn’t recognised this fully nor even now do I completely understand why.
Ku De Ta is an impressive venue day or night and I regret not going back there during the day to get a better look at their beach club in the sunlight. The venue is spacious with several different areas to either relax for drinks or sit down for something a bit more formal. The bar opens directly out onto the beach with sun beds and parasols all set up for those who want to enjoy a sun downer. The crowd was predominately Australian and had an air of pretention about it, which I think was the first distinct difference to equivalent venues in Thailand. I started to feel like I may as well have come to a beach club in my own country. In contrast to the patrons, the service was very welcoming and they were more than happy to take my eating card back to the kitchen to determine what I could have off their menu. The waiter returned with two entrée options and four main dish options that would be possible.
As you may know, I love my oysters. More specifically, I like trying new types of oysters that we haven’t tried before. Sydney Rock Oysters are a particular favourite of mine – they are smaller and have a more intense and distinct flavour than Pacific Oysters and they take apparently take 2-3 times longer to reach maturity. Ku De Ta offered two types of oyster but unfortunately they were not Sydney Rock. One type was from Eagle Rock and the other was from Otter Cove and both are Pacific oysters grown in Washington’s Puget Sound in the US. We ordered half a dozen of each type. The Eagle Rock were delicately flavoured, sweet and very creamy. The Otter Cove oysters were also quite sweet but were a little brinier than the Eagle Rock. Both were very fresh and left me with that lingering salty aftertaste of the sea.
My entrée of tuna and lobster tartare was visually very appealing and almost looked too pretty to eat. It was served on paper thin slices of cucumber placed crisscrossed against each other to make a decorative pattern on my plate. There was just enough wasabi to give the dish a kick making every mouthful a burst of freshness and the dressing had just a hint of sweetness ending the orchestra of flavours perfectly.
The Boy had crispy soft-shelled crab salad which was served with pork belly. He let me have a little taste of the pork belly and it was cooked perfectly with a succulent layer of meat covered with a very crunchy and crispy layer of crackling. The soft-shelled crab was battered so I didn’t get to try any but according to him it was again cooked to perfection although it wasn’t very meaty. He said the salad was an explosion of flavour with the sweet Borneo honey, tangy citrusy pomelo, cucumber and salty cashews.
My main dish was similarly mind blowing. The cod was the texture of butter and fell apart under my fork purely melting in mouth. It was marinated in a shiso dressing which has a similar taste to basil but much more subtle. The salad contained mushrooms which you may know are pretty much my favourite vegetable of all time and this was also dressed with the syrupy shiso.
The Boy ordered the grilled seafood a la plancha. It was served on a bed of fregola (small ball shaped pasta resembling Israeli couscous) and a soffrito sauce (basically tomato, onion and garlic). His fish was not as delicate and buttery as mine as they used barramundi which is a slightly more firm fish. The remainder of his seafood was juicy and tender particularly the scallops.
Pleasantly impressed with the quality of the food and the service, we both were too full for dessert and decided to get the bill before returning to our villa. To our complete surprise the bill came to nearly $300 Australian dollars! In Bali! The Boy was in shock! When you consider the local’s average income this meal was extremely overpriced from what it was. It was however the best one we had in our whole time in Bali and I will return next time I’m in Seminyak.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!Ku De Ta Jalan Laksmana, 9, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | +62 361 736969 | www.kudeta.net Price: $$$$ (142K-220K Rp/ $15-23 AUD entrée, 300K-370K Rp / $32-40 AUD mains) Food: 4.5/5 (wonderful layers of flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (accommodating and friendly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (gorgeous setting but lots of pretentious Australian tourists) Drinks: 4.5/5 (cocktails were delicio!) Total: 17/20