I have to say I was utterly stunned by Bali's culinary offering. Every meal I had was so fresh, so delicious, so cheap and so beautifully presented that London’s eating out scene instantly paled in comparison. With Australia being so close to Bali you can definitely spot a culinary influence here, there being a plethora of Antipodean inspired brilliant brunch spots serving fantastic coffee (after all the Aussies invented the flatwhite) and coming with aesthetically pleasing modern interiors. Below are some of my favourite foodie discoveries which I have been yearning for ever since I left the island. Come hungry to Bali because boy will you want to make the most of every mealtime!
Crate cafe has a cult following and rightly so! Its open dining space is achingly cool- overlooking a rice paddy field, it houses a regularly changing art exhibition, a DJ playing a pleasing mix of hip hop tunes and all the other trimmings you’d expect from a metropolitan hipster spot (neon signs, mismatched furniture, polaroid pictures etc.). However, I am happy to report that it’s not style over substance here and that the food proved not only incredibly pretty, I mean even the water comes served with a stunning array of fruits and flowers to flavour it and is almost TOO photogenic to drink it, but is also super tasty and offered outstanding value for money. A main sized brunch dish will set you back under a fiver and Crate offers an Antipodean inspired menu that has so many delicious sounding options that we seriously struggled to decide what to go for. I could have easily come back every day for a month and eaten something different as it, to my delight, also offered an insane number of veggie and Pescatarian friendly options.
In the end, we decided to split our mains (best way to try as much as possible without seeming greedy) and settled for corn fritters with smoked salmon, poached eggs and a fresh tomato salsa as well as a more classic avocado on toast with halloumi, poached eggs and tomatoes. I also was more than curious to try my first smoothie bowl, a bowl filled with first with a thick smoothie layer and then topped with lots delicious mix-ins such as fruit, nuts, coconut you name it, so ordered their blueberry special which came with a thick blueberry smoothie base, frozen watermelon balls, coconut flakes and delicious granola. I was dubious about these bowls but I have to say I adored the fresh fruity flavours- I probably wouldn’t go through the effort of making one at home but while in Bali make sure you try one, especially at Crate where they are so pretty and damn tasty! Our savoury options were equally wonderful, with the corn fritters being the stand out dish, full of fresh flavours and different textures and with the eggs poached to perfection. The brunch we had blew any brunch I have had in London recently out of the water and Crate cafe is a place I would return to in a heartbeat. A must visit.
Shady Shack was my other ultimate brunch favourite of the trip and once again came highly recommended by many friends and blog posts. In contrast to Crate’s hipster tendencies, the emphasis at Shady Shack is on offering super healthy and wholesome dishes with tons of Vegan and otherwise only vegetarian options (sorry meat eaters!) which means if you are looking for a brunch that will leave you feeling virtuous and well nourished than this is your spot!
Again the menu was so vast, comprising of at least 10 pages, that I seriously struggled to pick – there was everything from more lunch / dinner type Buddha bowls (the halloumi bowl in particular sounded fantastic) to smoothie bowls to more classic egg based brunch type dishes. In the end I went for their Onzen cooked eggs, a traditional Japanese low temperature way of cooking the egg which means the egg retains a unique texture in that the white tastes like a delicate custard and the yolk comes out firm, but retains the color and creamy texture of an uncooked yolk, on sourdough with an array of roast veggies (sweet potato, asparagus, tomatoes and leeks) and an utterly delicious sweet chilli relish on the side – it may sound simple but every perfectly cooked component shone in its own way.
This the kind of food I love cooking in London for myself, taking humble vegetables and making them the star of the show, and which you seldom find when eating out, too often restaurants wanting to overcomplicate things. This was fantastic healthy cooking and a brunch I would love to have available in London, where eating out does not have to mean instant guilt or overindulgence. Even my smoothie bowl, lacking a little of the sweetness that surely had been added via sugar to my Crate bowl, was absolutely delicious and showed me that keeping as true to the original ingredient as possible doesn’t have to mean bland and boring health food, us too often seemingly used to overly seasoned and sweetened food. Another must visit Bali brunch spot.
I only went in for a coffee at this beautifully designed café one morning to do some work bits that needed to be done, social media never sleeps after all, but was still left impressed with Koloni. My cappuccino was beautifully presented and very expertly made, and as I perused the super healthy Californian inspired menu (think vegan Huevos Rancheros, fish tacos and carrot cake waffles) I was rather sad that I couldn’t squeeze in an eating occasion here. One worth checking out.
The best cup of coffee of this trip was undoubtedly at Coffee N Oven, a cute little café, specialising in artisan coffee, freshly baked bread and fine pastries in the heart of Canggu. Their 7 islands espresso blend is specially roasted for them and offered complex taste notes of dark Chocolate, roasted peanuts, caramel and strawberries, with every sip of my flatwhite being miles above the burnt beans and watery end result which I've had in some supposedly artisanal and very overhyped coffee shops in London (naming no names).
Their beautiful array of pastries and cakes, to be admired behind a glass display, was equally convincing and on par with the finest of patisserie I have had in Paris, with particularly their take on a lemon meringue pie impressing us, it being a creamy zingy piece of heaven, encased in perfectly baked pastry. This is the perfect place for a caffeine pick me up and sweet treat, especially if you are coffee snob like me.
We headed to Milu by Nook on my first evening in Bali and I was instantly won over by the fresh produce used here to create Asian fusion inspired healthy dishes that scream feel-good food! The interior is no less impressive, filled with a gorgeous array of typically Balinese style furniture and homeware (think bamboo chairs and low hanging lamps). You can also take in the lovely views across the rice paddy fields adjacent to the restaurant if you wish to dine on their outdoor terrace as we did to make the most of the Canggu’s evening breeze and listen to the local wildlife as we tucked into our dinner.
To kick things off we shared a gorgeous vegan starter of stir fried vegetables in peanut sauce which was an utter delight before picking out our mains. I chose the fillet of grilled Mahi Mahi, a local white fish delicacy, in a spicy sauce served with more stir fried veggies and a fresh salad which was absolutely delightful, full of flavours but without a hint of stodginess and so perfect for the humid weather, while Josie had mushroom coconut satay sticks, a kind of mushroom and coconut paste that had been shaped around a stick and fried, served with a delicious coconut sauce and a side of, you guessed it, more flavoursome veg, both of us over the moon about the fresh and imaginative takes on classic Asian flavours we were being served. I also tried the local rose wine which at £2 a glass was not only great value but a perfect accompaniment to the dinner. 2 glasses of wine, a starter and a main cost me under a tenner here and the entire atmosphere of the place combined with the standard of food made our dinner here an absolute delight that perfectly set the scene for the rest of my trip.
Lupé is a little more of a casual affair when it comes to dining out in Canggu. Run by an expat Kiwi, it specialises in serving all you can eat buffet fare. with different culinary focuses each night. We went on a Wednesday which is veggie night over at Lupe and for around £5 you can basically eat all your heart desires. There were yummy roast vegetables, pasta, soup, some Asian dishes, salad and an array of breads and dips. This wasn’t haute cuisine but honest and great food and particularly suited to those with a big appetite and small budget. For those travellers missing home, there also is a roast dinner night every Sunday with Yorkshire puddings and the lot!
Moana Fish Eatery as you can guess by the name specialises in all things seafood and has a rather impressive menu that ranges from poke bowls to seafood pasta to crab burgers to more local dishes like Nasi Goreng and is a fish lovers (me!!) dream with it’s sheer selection of enticing sounding dishes. After a long deliberation, I went for their famous tuna poke bowl topped with their special spicy sauce and wow it was truly incredible, way better than any I have had in London, not only in terms of the quality of tuna but also in terms of the sauce (god knows what was in it but I could have eaten it by the spoonful) and yummy toppings. Everyone else’s dishes looked equally good and we washed it all down with a rather nice and affordable white wine. A must visit for seafood lovers and great if visiting in a bigger group!
This was my favourite meal of the entire trip. Firstly because if you visit Kembali Bumbak on a Friday night the entire food menu is half price and I mean EVERY Friday (something you just couldn’t imagine in London unless it is the soft launch of a place) but secondly because the modern fusion food with healthy edge served here was truly outstanding both in its flavour combinations and presentation with something of a similar calibre (in my eyes perhaps Ottolenghi when it comes to the way vegetables were elevated into something truly special here) easily costing ten times as much back in London.
We all went a little crazy on the ordering front, after all it was all half price, so I decided to go all out with a starter, main and dessert. To start I chose charred greens & leaves (broccoli and kale) which came served with chilli, feta, smashed chickpeas, pistachio dukkah and lemon tahini yogurt and came from their “from the garden section”. This turned out to be a mind-blowing combination of fresh flavours and was served in a very generous portion that easily gobbled up. When it comes to mains there are your classic steak and meatier options (also all half price) which you can have with a side of sweet potato for shoestring fries with smoked aioli or you can go for one of their impressive looking burgers, served in a black charcoal bun- whether you like the sound of the tempura soft shell crab one, served with mango chilli slaw (I nearly went for this) or want to give their veggie alternative a go (an equally tasty sounding spiced chickpea and halloumi number served with red curry tahini and sesame slaw), but what got me really excited was the healthy bowl section of the menu, especially as, slightly hungover on the evening, my body was craving all the nutrients it could get. I was tempted to get another tuna poke bowl but in the end went for their cauliflower rice bowl served with halloumi, beetroot hummus, pistachio dukkah, avo, horseradish cream, a poached egg and a perfectly cooked fillet of house smoked salmon. It not only looked stunning but showcased true cooking expertise, a lot of strong flavours combined into one incredible bowl- nourishing, satisfying and like nothing I had ever had before.
Eating this left wondering why London restaurants don’t try to create more healthy YET fully satisfying dishes like this that don’t make you feel like you are missing out on the good stuff because here I definitely was over the moon with what I was served. I did go a little unhealthy at the end, I mean who can say no to a slice of cheesecake for under a pound and the peanut butter and praline cheesecake we were served (most of our dinner party could also not resist) was no after-thought but an outstanding end to an utterly outstanding meal. I would have happily spent a good chunk of money on this kind of meal in London, which makes it the more ironic that the anyway decent prices were halved when we ate here that Friday. Drinks do stay full price but with wine around £3 a glass one really cannot complain. If you follow only one of my tips trust me and go for dinner here. One last thing - make sure you book your table via their Facebook page, expats know this little gem and frequent it, as I would, most Fridays.
Lastly, if you are after some fun cocktails away from the young crowds of backpackers that can dominate the nightlife in Bali, I would fully recommend this hidden gem. And with hidden I mean that the Black Cat bar is genuinely located through a fridge door that reads broken at the back of a working mini mart, where drunken dwellers can be seen stocking up on crisps and bottles of the local beer Bingtang all night long. Once through the door you find yourself rather bizarrely in a small and darkly lit speakeasy style bar with dance floor. Cocktails are Quentin Tarantino themed, well made and for Bali standards very affordable (most people stick to beer so you can’t actually find cocktails that easily) and there is a pleasing mix of hip hop and electronic getting everyone moving on the dance floor. I had one of the funnest and most unexpected nights out here in a long time and can only recommend it to anyone after a little different when it comes to Bali nightlife!
Josie, my dear friend who hosted me in Bali, knew that I love a good work out and Bali happens to be somewhat of paradise for all things exercise. Whether you want to learn how to surf, seek the yoga experience of your life or want to do some hard core cardio work in a beach setting, there is something for everyone and I tried to pack as many different classes into my time there as possible.
Yes, I guess to some this doesn’t exactly sound like a relaxing beach holiday, but for me it was all about the balance. I exercise 5-6 a week in London and I am simply not the beach bum type, plus enjoying a massive brunch after a morning class is one of the best feelings in the world because you really feel you’ve earned it. I would highly recommend to try at least a couple of my below recommendations as they massively contributed to the overall fantastic and unforgettable trip I had and offered me unique experiences I won’t forget in a hurry.
As any of my friends will tell you I love a tough work out that pushes me to my limits (I’ve become somewhat of a Barry’s boot camp ambassador, trying to make everyone I know try it at least once), so when Josie suggested a 7am beach boot camp with the guys at 2befit I jumped at the at the chance. And boy was it fun! Think circuit training but the beach as the sun is rising. Rather than being stuck in a grim and sweaty gym you are moving from station to station barefoot, running down the beach with sand bags on your back for extra endurance.
Everyone there, instructors and fellow attendees, had a wonderful energy about them and the instructors made this hour of intense work so fun that both Josie and I left pumped and ready for the rest of the day. The hour long class costs the equivalent of £3 which is ridiculous compared to what you pay in London and I have been dreaming of a Friday morning work out there ever since! Yes, it wasn’t easy but to me it was one of the most unique and memorable work out experiences in the most amazing of settings I have ever had!
SUNFLOW YOGA (AND ANY OTHER YOGA FOR THAT MATTER) @ DESA SENI
Bali is a bit of a yoga haven and Desa Seni is known globally as one of the best spots to improve one’s practise. Now, I am not usually a big fan of yoga back in London, let’s be honest a gym room full of smelly mats doesn’t exactly scream serenity, but when Josie mentioned a sunset flow yoga class held outdoors at Desa Seni I was more than intrigued, so we headed there one afternoon. Desa Seni doesn’t only offer a variety of yoga classes everyday but is also a beautifully designed boutique hotel resort and the whole complex has an almost otherworldly, magical feel about it, full of wooden huts, beautifully kept gardens and spaces for relaxation and reflection.
Our lesson was held in an open temple space in the midst of their lush gardens and as our lesson began we were encouraged to truly take in the nature’s around us. With closed eyes and lying on the floor it was an absolutely incredible experience to allow my body to fully use all its senses - hearing the birds chirping, feeling the slight evening breeze blowing and being fully aware of every breath I was taking. I could finally see the potential power of yoga and it had only been the first few minutes of the class. As the sun set our amazing instructor not only took us through the usual yoga sequences but made a real effort to show us how the right breathing was as important as each pose, with gentle music in the background completing the perfect atmosphere.
As we entered the final phase of the class (the shavasana), lying down and closing our eyes once again, the instructor read aloud a Buddhist poem and I have to honestly say by this point I had not been more relaxed and well stretched in years. This one hour showed me what “real” yoga is and I can now see why people go on week long retreats focusing on exactly this level of yoga practise. We went on to go to another class later in the week which was equally fantastic and eye opening and focused on a developing positive mind-set. It might sound very new age and hell London Stella would have frowned at the idea, but in this setting and with these fantastic instructors I am fully converted to the power of yoga. I have been to a couple of classes since being back in London and sadly it is just not the same. I urge if you find yourself in Bali try at least one Yoga class here, even if like me you are usually a yoga cynic. You’ll thank me later.
A SURF LESSON WITH LOCALS
I was super keen to release my inner surfer chick while in Bali, it is after all an island world famous for its excellent waves, even if I wasn’t too sure I was going to be ANY good (I am generally quite clumsy in life so balancing on a wooden board in the sea didn’t sound like a natural skill to me). Bearing this in mind Josie organised two local surfer instructors to give us a two hour one to one lesson on my last day there. She knew these guys already as her and her fiancé Matt had taken a couple of lessons with them before, but you can simply wonder down Batung Bolong where there is surf school after surf school and haggle for a good price until you find the instructors you want to go for.
We ended up paying around £20 for the lesson which I thought was excellent value for money as I got taught all the basics and then had my super nice instructor with me in the water the entire time. Me being a total rookie he spotted the incoming waves and steered me towards them so that all I had to do is “ride the wave” when he told me to. Not bragging or anything, I mean maybe a little, but I managed to stand and stay that way on my second attempt and loved it from the very first second. In fact, I am so keen now to improve and do it again I have been dreaming of more surf holiday destinations (Hawaii anyone?!). I would highly recommend giving surfing a go while on the island, especially when you can get such attentive teaching at such a good price, I for one will be back on a board in no time!
Josie took me to another of her favourite exercise studios where we attempted an hour of Muay Thai boxing. The studio itself is super nice and offers a range of classes including your usual hard core cardio work outs but also some more unusual work out approaches. I had done kick boxing a couple of times before and really enjoyed so was intrigued to find out what Mua Thai boxing was going to be all about.
I have to admit it is not the easiest of things to get your head around, much more akin to dancing with its set moves and rhythm than standard boxing, but we had a super friendly instructor who took his time to work with everyone individually in the class so that it really felt like a personal training session and you never felt like a complete idiot. We definitely got our sweat on and it’s a class not for the faint hearted but its super varied, warming up by skipping rope, then some group warm ups, followed by partnered up boxing and finished off with a round of boxing and kicking focused circuit training, but it was super fun and there was a great energy in the room so that even I as total beginner didn’t feel self-conscious at all! Definitely one to try if you like boxing and want to do something a little different and a total steal at about £5 a class!