Eating and drinking in Seminyak, Bali’s most appealing destination for lovers of good food and drink, has never been better or more interesting than it is right now, with brilliant restaurants and cafés offering everything from pan-Asian favourites to contemporary Indonesian cuisine.
Eating and drinking in Seminyak, or anywhere on Bali for that matter, wasn’t as easy on our last trip in early 2010 as it was on our recent September sojourn, which turned into something of a culinary adventure.
Six years ago we struggled to eat well. This time, we struggled to find the time to eat everywhere we wanted. Each day our dining list grew longer. At one point I found myself wondering whether we could actually squeeze in two lunches and two dinners – on the one day! My how things have changed…
On that 2010 trip most meals were disappointing. When we asked what the best Bali restaurants were, the answer was always Ku De Ta. Australian chef Kieran Morland’s mod-Indonesian Merah Putih and Canadian-born Kevin Cherkas’ produce-driven Cuca opened in mid-2013. Nicolas ‘Doudou’ Tourneville’s French-Med fine diner MÉTIS and Brit chef Will Meyrick’s refined street food resto Sarong had been open since 2008, but surprisingly weren’t on everyone’s lips. (Yes, a lot of foreign names, we know; more on Bali’s Indonesian chefs in a future post.)
Unfortunately we didn’t get to every place we wanted to dine this trip, but we did make a dent on our increasingly long restaurant list and also managed to squeeze in some cafés and bars. Most of the spots were in Seminyak, which is why this has turned into a guide to eating and drinking in Seminyak rather than Bali. There’ll be more trips to cover other destinations – something we wouldn’t have said in 2010.
Here are our picks of the best spots for eating and drinking in Seminyak…
Our Guide to Eating and Drinking in Seminyak
Coffee & Breakfast
Skip the hotel buffet and make a beeline for this sleek, Australian-owned, Aussie-style café near Seminyak Square. Light-filled Sisterfields has an all-day breakfast/brunch menu, so it doesn’t matter how late you were out sipping negronis at Hank’s or dancing on the tables at Motel Mexicola, you’ll still be able to get your eggs Benedict, breakfast burritos and smashed avocado on toast. As you’d expect from somewhere that calls itself ‘the iconic Australian café’, when it comes to coffee you can safely expect to see your short/long blacks, flat whites, piccolo lattes, chai, matcha, and single origin cold drip on the drinks menu. Phew, right? Rest assured there’s also an espresso martini on the cocktail list if it was that kind of night.
Sisterfields, Jalan Kayu Cendana 7, Seminyak, 7am-10pm
This high ceilinged café, which feels like a European bistro with its marble-topped bar, high wood and iron stools, white tiled walls, and antique photographs on the walls is one of the best looking spaces in Seminyak. It also serves up some of the best coffee in Bali using beans from Revolver (see below). Like the interiors, breakfasts are charmingly old-fashioned, with a short list that includes eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine, and a Big Breakfast with sausages, bacon, free-range eggs, hash brown, baked beans, tomato, and ciabatta. The lunch menu is just as concise, with French classics such as quiche, minute fillet steak and beef Bourguignon (with wagyu beef), along with burgers and fish and chips.
Corner House, Jalan Laksmana 10 A, Seminyak, 7am-midnight
Big and buzzy (it was packed when we dined for lunch) with bare brick walls, a lofty ceiling and polished concrete floors, Mama San has a warehouse vibe meets old Shanghai gentleman’s club, thanks to the marble-top tables, Chesterfield-style sofa banquettes and red lamp shades. An enormous mural on the back wall of a beautiful Chinese woman (the Mama San, we can only assume) in cheongsam adds even more drama to the massive room. Mama San was to Bali’s dining scene what wanky start-up types would call a ‘disruptor’ and is credited with inspiring a whole new wave of well designed, quality, casual eateries after it opened in 2011. Five years later it’s still one of the most modish spots for eating and drinking in Seminyak. The striking interior aside, it’s the first-rate service, fantastic cocktails and outstanding food that make Mama San special. Conceived by owner-chef Will Meyrick of Sarong fame, the pan-Asian menu features updated street food classics and quintessential dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and beyond, such as salt and pepper squid served with red nahm jihm and beef kway teow with oyster mushroom, egg, bean sprouts, gailan, and sweet soy. We especially loved the Vietnamese la lot – minced pork belly wrapped in betel leaves and grilled – served with nouc cham dressing, which was as delicious as any we ate on the streets of Hoi An. Everything was well balanced and full of texture and flavour and spice. If you dine in the evenings, don’t miss the cocktail bar and Tasting Club with separate tapas menu upstairs (ideal for solo diners). Reservations essential.
Mama San, Jalan Raya Kerobokan 135, Seminyak, Lunch & dinner (11am-11pm)
If you can’t get into Mama San then hightail it to nearby Lantern. This newish and comparatively more compact and quieter, casual ‘urban Asian eatery’ dishes up sharing plates of Southeast Asian favourites, predominantly from Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, specifically the Nonya Peranakan cuisine. Lantern boasts that they use only local produce and ingredients, and that everything is made by hand. Once again, everything that we sampled here (pictured above) was fresh, crunchy, punchy, and packed with flavour. Like Mama San, you’re not coming here for the location – both restaurants are located on busy roads – so your focus should be firmly on the food. Having said that, aside from the pretty plates on Vietnamese ceramics, Lantern has a very cute interior, with bamboo sofas strewn with cushions, golden-yellow lanterns dripping from the ceiling, arty murals on the walls, a fruit bowl on a table, and a white-washed bar that looks like a country kitchen. If you linger over a late lunch, note that Lantern offers a 2 for 1 cocktail deal from 3-6pm each day.
Lantern Bali, Jalan Petitenget 17, Seminyak, 10am-11pm
Coffee & Cake
Opened in 2011 by a former Narrabeen surfer and secreted within a window-less, warren-like space behind a closed door on a Seminyak laneway, Revolver Espresso feels more Melbourne than Sydney. Endearingly cluttered, cosy and crowded, it reminded us of a grungy Brunswick Street, Fitzroy café circa 1995. Sadly, on the day we dropped in, our burnt, bitter coffee was just as bad, the carrot cake disappointingly dry, and staff as oblivious to our barely touched coffees and unfinished cake as café staff could be way back then. We’re still including it here, not for nostalgic reasons (we really don’t miss those cafes from the 90s), nor the clever speakeasy style or cute outlaw theme (a salad named Machine Gun Sally), but because everybody else there seemed happy with their coffees and cakes and Beanhunter gives it a 9.3, rating it Bali’s #1 coffee joint. Revolver claims to source beans from the best farmers in the world, roasts and blends their own coffee, and uses La Marzocco coffee machines and Mazza grinders, and provides coffee to some of Bali’s best cafes. It gets such great reviews that had we have had more time we would have returned. Had coffee here? Let us know what you think.
Revolver Espresso, Jalan Kayu Aya 3, Oberoi, Seminyak, 8am-5pm
Sipping a negroni on a comfy sofa at a swanky bar by the beach is a must. Try Woo Bar at the W, Ku De Ta or Potato Head or, better yet, get right down on the sand at Seminyak and gaze at the sunset from a bean bag at somewhere like La Plancha, easily one of Bali’s best sunset watching spots.
Okay, so Sangsaka is not strictly in Seminyak – it’s very close by, in neighbouring Kerobokan – but this petite 40-seater easily served up one of our finest meals in Bali (the other was at Locavore in Ubud but more on that soon). This inviting little restaurant epitomises casual elegance with its bare tabletops, banquette seating and easygoing black-clad staff. The intimate dining room is made all the more welcoming by the warmth of the glow from the illuminated bar at one end of the space and the flames from the grill in the open kitchen on the opposite side. The Aussie owner-chef Kieran Morland (of Merah Putih fame) uses a range of woods and charcoals to mimic the aromas and flavours of traditional dishes from across the country, which he has deconstructed and reconstructed. This is original, innovative, contemporary Indonesian cuisine that’s rooted in premium quality local produce. Don’t even think about ordering anything except the ever-changing tasting menu of nine dishes served over five courses. On the night we dined we got to savour delectable creations such as ‘Kerang’, pearl scallop with ocean trout and puffed rice; ‘Bakwan’, freshwater crayfish and sweet corn fritter; and ‘Udang Kipas’, a slipper lobster dumpling with woku (curry sauce) and trout roe. Make sure staff explain each plate to you and the origin of the dish. You’ll have a much better appreciation of what Kieran is doing here if you have a good knowledge of Indonesian food. A tip: go early in your trip, as you’ll most certainly want to return. This was easily the highlight of our eating and drinking in Seminyak. Drinking? Yes! Wait until you try the Mollucan spiced negroni.
Sangsaka, Jalan Pangkung Sari 100, Kerobokan, Tues-Sun 6pm-midnight
Located at the entrance to the elegant Seminyak Village shopping mall (don’t let that put you off), Tiger Palm is one of the hottest spots for eating and drinking in Seminyak at the moment. The newest and most talked-about restaurant of Chef Will Meyrick (Sarong, Mama San, above) and long-time colleague Chef Palm Amatawet of Koh Samui. Themed around the spice trading history of the region, the design was inspired by “East Indies colonial glory” and tips a hat to Penang’s Eastern and Orient Hotel’s Palm Court circa 1950, playfully incorporating tropical motifs, reclaimed teak floorboards, and vintage chandeliers. The menu stays on topic, featuring a range of street food snacks, complex curries, tandoor roasts, and fragrant stir-fries from across Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Southern India. The focus, however, is on Malaysian with a box of signature dishes drawing our attention to specialties such as Egg martabak with green chilli, curry powder and curry sauce, and Nasi lemak with chicken rendang, cucumber sambal, peanuts, ikan bilis (anchovies), egg, and coconut rice. If you don’t feel like a sit-down meal, there are high tables and stools on a terrace beside the bar – ideal for sharing something from the dozen ‘dim sum & bites’ that include char sui pork bun, black bean pork ribs, and a soft shell crab popiah. Whatever you order, don’t miss the fragrant, melt-in-your-mouth Kandar beef rendang, simmered in coconut milk with Indian spice.
Tiger Palm, Seminyak Village, Jalan Kayu Jati 8, Seminyak, 11am-2am
Big, brash and boisterous, Motel Mexicola is probably the most colourful place when it comes to eating and drinking in Seminyak right now. In more ways than one. If you’re not in the mood to party when you turn up, it won’t take long. The night we went the manager was doing rounds of the place pouring tequila down people’s throats. Encouragement of irresponsible drinking aside, there’s a Mexican chef in the kitchen and the antojitos, tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, and other Mod-Mex street food snacks are muy buena. We ordered way too much, the standouts of which were definitely the tacos carnitas with slow cooked pork shoulder, avocado, chicharrón, and salsa macha, and tacos de pollo with chargrilled ‘al pastor’ chicken, pico de gallo and red cabbage. I have to confess, however: I really went for the wild décor by Mash and Studio Gram, designers of Africola and Kutchi Deli Parwana, two of our favourite Adelaide interiors, and as Trip Advisor reviewers appear required to say: “it didn’t disappoint”. Even more vibrant and quirky than Frida Kahlo’s Mexico City house, with murals and tiles enlivening every centimetre of space, Motel Mexicola is a temple to Mexican kitsch – Catholic paraphernalia fills nooks and adorns walls, and there’s an altar to a suited guy with reflecting glasses and ’fro that’s covered in framed family portraits and votive candles dripping with wax. It’s worth dropping by to gawk at the décor, just don’t forget most people are here to party. If you’re not keen on downing shots and dancing on tables, go for lunch instead.
Motel Mexicola, Jalan Kayujati 9, Petitenget, Seminyak, 11am-1am
Hank’s Pizza and Liquor
A tip late in our Bali trip from a Bangkok-based Aussie chef mate saw us enjoying our last supper at this laidback dive bar and pizza joint after an evening of writing and days spent gorging on Indonesian food. Hank’s solved two problems – our need for a late meal and a change from Asian. It’s definitely one of the coolest spots when it comes to eating and drinking in Seminyak right now. Blissfully quiet the night we drank (potent barrel aged negronis) and dined (wonderful thin crust wood-fired pizzas) – and I say ‘blissfully’ because we did Motel Mexicola the previous night – it’s usually a happening spot with Jukebox nights (guest music selectors; Thursdays), DJs (Fridays), and live gigs (Saturdays). Those in the know swear that they do Bali’s best pizza, but as it’s the only pizza we sampled on the island, we’ll have to take their word for it – and the fact that Hank’s is owned by three Antipodean chefs, including Brent Mills (in the kitchen), Phil Davenport (formerly of Ku De Ta), and Benjamin Cross (current exec chef at Ku De Ta and Mejekawi). In tune with the rock and roll theme – the ceiling and toilets are wallpapered with hand-made gig flyers from the 80s and 90s, rock gods grace the walls, and that strange thing in the menu is a vinyl record – the pizzas are named after Bowie, Morrison, Hendrix, etc. Try the ‘Dylan’, with pork and fennel meatballs, broccoli, caramelised onion, parmesan, roasted chilli oil, and lemon. And when you need a change from pizza, Sundays are roast nights.
Hank’s Pizza and Liquor, Jalan Kayu Aya 27, Oberoi, Seminyak, noon-midnight
This post is part of a series from Indonesia. Our trip was supported by Skyscanner, which provided flights, some accommodation and some transport. We paid for all meals and drinks. Reflections, opinions and recommendations are obviously our own.