I love good food, great wines and cocktails and exceptional service when I go out to dinner.  These things all combine to make a memorable dining experience for me and on our most recent Asian travels we have had some hits and some misses.

Whilst our most recent trip to Bali involved a range of dining experiences there were 5 stand out experiences that form the basis for this post and I wanted to share with you my favourites.

The options in Bali now are ever evolving and the standards really are amazing.  You can still experience Warung style traditional fare all over Bali and this is always cheap, nutritious and fabulous.  I loved my days going to the local Warung near the studio apartment (Zen for Men) that we were staying at that did a wonderful traditional Gado Gado for $2.20. It was tasty and who can ever argue with a table on the beach and the chance to just sit, relax and enjoy the view.

But onto the fine dining in Bali.  I last wrote after my last trip of some of the wonderful places that we had been too 18 months ago when we were last in Bali and since then there have been some great new additions on the fine dining landscape in the Seminyak area.

My dining on this trip is broken into two areas – our first week in Nusa Dua that consisted mainly of Bali Collection and our hotel as we were with kids and the second week was when we hit our straps in terms of fine dining when we moved to Seminyak.  I know that there are options in Sanur but we have not headed that way for a few years now.

So my top 5 for Seminyak consist of a couple of old time favourites and some new spots for us and we are heading back in September so there will I am sure be more reviews after that trip!

Our number 1 fine dining choice was a new place that has only been open for a few months but offers some of the most delightful traditional Indonesian food presented in a modern way!

1. Bambu

Jl. Petitenget no. 198Seminyak, Bali                                                                                          

+62 361 8469797

Bambu ticks all the boxes and is easily one of the most well appointed, delightful dining experiences that we have had in Bali!

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The services was first class and was not intrusive at all.  They were on the ball in terms of attending to our needs without ever being in our faces and were thoughtful, knowledgeable and respectful in all aspects of their service.

The ambience and décor were perfect!  It was like stepping into another world and the water that surrounds the dining areas is just beautifully lit and adds another dimension to the environment.

And then there is the food. Each dish is explained on the menu as coming from a different area in Indonesia and you are given the option to have each dish cooked non-spicy, spicy or how the Indonesians usually have it.  This added another dimension to the meal and we were also served a range of side sambals so that we could add more spice if we wanted to.

We chose to stick with cocktails as our drinks of choice as it was a warm night and along with the free flowing water it was a great accompaniment to the food.  They have some lovely special cocktails on the menu.

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We chose to start with the Kepiting Soka from Sulawesi which consisted of Crispy soft shelled crab, jicarna and rose apple salad and sweet chilli sauce.

This dish was a real delight. It was crisp, tasty, filled with flavour and all combined to create a complete dish for me.

Trevor chose the Ayam Pelalah from Bali which was a shredded chicken salad served with chillies, wing beans and kaffir lime. This was another taste delight. It was crafted to enhance all the flavours and served with just the right amount of spice so as not to overpower the chicken or the kaffir lime. All the flavours blended to create a wonderful dish.

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For main course I chose the local fresh fish that was cooked in a stunning coconut curry sauce and served with fresh vegetables. The fish was melt in your mouth and cooked perfectly and the accompanying sauce was tasty without overpowering the subtle flavours of the fish.

Trevor chose to have the slow roasted duck and it was served with long beans and cooked to perfection in a traditional spice mix and just the right amount of chilli to give it a real kick at the end. The duck was again cooked perfectly and the taste combination was mouth watering.

We had 2 side dishes with our main courses – sweet potato served in a sweet curry sauce and fried green beans mixed with chilli. They were both perfect choices to go with the meal and just added another dimension to it.

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For dessert Trevor chose the street style pancakes that were served with a chocolate sauce. They were melting in your mouth perfect and were a perfect final dish for the meal.

I chose to have the banana and jack fruit fritters served with sweet cane sugar syrup to pour over them and a homemade vanilla bean ice cream. This were bite sized balls that were full of flavour and simply delicious.

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This was a memorable meal from the moment we walked in and were greeted by the wonderful staff dressed in traditional sarongs to the moment we walked back over the water to make our departure. This restaurant has been put together by three of the people involved with La Lucciola and I think they have come up with one of the best dining experiences I have had in Bali to date!

2. Merah Putih

Jl. Petitenget No.100x,                                                                                     Kerobokan, Bali 80361   

+62 361 8465950

Next in line is Merah Putih which we left for our last night in Bali and were so glad that we did!

From the moment that we arrived I felt like I was stepping into another world. The high roof and the lighted tress reminded me of what I imagine Paris or London would have been like in the 1920’s and 30’s. It was quiet, cool and gorgeous.

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There was a full a la carte menu but also a taste of Indonesia 10 course tasting menu, which of course we chose to part take in. It offered a range of different and interesting dishes for us to try and to once again expand our taste palette for all things Indonesian…it was not hard.

Merah Putih came a close second behind Bambu and when discussing it with Trevor it hit most of the same marks that Bambu did but there was just that extra attention to detail at Bambu that got it over the line.

The taste of Indonesia tasting menu was however a real delight. We started with Bluefin tuna, green chilli and pickled radish; Borneo lobster, sambal matah and acer; chicken soup, coconut, turmeric and vermicelli which were all served together for us to share.

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Each dish presented its own subtle flavours and was the perfect way to start the meal. Chilli sambals were again served on the side so you could add some heat to the dishes if you desired. I really wanted to let the dishes originally intended flavours to come through so did not use any of the sambals for the first course.

We were then served scampi pangsit served with tomato and kemangi; Sulawesi kings prawns that were grilled and served with a torch ginger sambal and Wagyu beef cheek “bak pao”sambal hijau. These were three very different dishes that each had distinct and interesting flavours. The king prawns were simply delightful and the beef cheek was melt in your mouth perfection.

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Next we were served Kimberley Angus beef loin with colo colo; Balinese pork belly served with a sambal kerumbar; fried duck rendang curry and side dishes of rice, vegetables and more sambals. The Angus beef loin was full of taste and lovely. The pork belly was a real highlight of the meal for us. It was cooked perfectly and had both a delightful sweet taste to go with the complex pork flavours. The fried duck was not too spicy and allowed for the flavour of the duck to come through.

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Then it was time for the Rambutan sorbet served with hibiscus and it was just a perfect palette cleanser before the share dessert plate that consisted of a peanut ice cream, brandy crisp, chocolate ice cream and a chocolate brownie. All of these were light and delicate and the perfect way to end a meal.

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As with Bambu we chose to stick with cocktails for our meal and once again enjoyed some delightful margaritas and martinis through the night.

This was a wonderful experience and like Bambu a must dine at next time you are in Seminyak.

3. Chandi

Jalan Kayu Aya 72 | Bali,                                                                                   Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia   

+62 361.731.060

Chandi is located on ‘Eat Street’ in Seminyak and it made my top 5 restaurants on our last trip to Bali and once again it sees itself on the list!

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It is one of those gems in terms of Seimyak restaurants that offers good service, a great menu and good staff, although they can be a little too attentive if you arrive before the restaurant is full and they feel the need to ask you every five minutes if you are enjoying your meal or need anything else. This can detract from the overall joy of eating here and is the reason that it is number 3 on our list this trip.

The food however is just as sensational as it was last time and the wine list is comprehensive and compared to other restaurants in Bali is not that expensive. We began with a cocktail at the start of the night be then chose a delightful French Rose to go with our meal.

We shared the tasting plate to begin with that consisted of Mini Beef Rendang Envelopes, Spicy Tenderloin Lettuce Cup, Black Pepper Crab Dumplings, Salt & Green Pepper Squid, Seared Scallops in Tamarind Peanut Dressing , Crunchy Tofu Squares in Pecel Peanut Sauce, Crisp Tempe Manis and Chilled Spiced Watermelon Soup.

Each of these dishes offered something special in terms of taste, composition and presentation and was the perfect start to our meal.

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I then had the Chandi Seafood tasting plate which consisted of Slipper Lobster, Giant River Prawn Scallops, Squid, Soft Shell Crab, Watercress, Mango Salad on Roti Canai in a Light Tamarind Dressing, accompanied by Chandi’s 6 Sambals. As a lover of grilled seafood this was a real delight for me. The grill flavour shone through all the dishes and the salad was a lovely fresh accompaniment to go with it.

Trevor chose the Wild Balinese Duck, braised, flash fried and deboned served on a bed of baby spinach, watercress, bamboo shoots and spring onions. Trevor loved the tastes of this dish and it was served with a complex and tasty sauce that just added another dimension to the duck whilst still allowing for the duck flavours to come through.

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Finally we both chose the signature Chocolate Fondants with Trevor choosing the dark chocolate and I chose the white chocolate fondant and they were served with a home made vanilla bean ice cream.

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Another perfect end to a perfect meal. This was a stunning dessert (I had tried it last time we were at Chandi and it was a first for Trevor who loved it!) that we both really enjoyed.

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4. Brunch at Star Fish Bloo at the W

Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak,                                                                                Kerobokan, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia  

0011 62 361 4738106

Now for something completely different but something that makes the list for the location, the food options and the service. Another dining experience that is really gaining ground at a number of the top resorts in Bali as the Sunday Brunch and one of the resorts that started it all and in my opinion really does it well is the W and their Star Fish Bloo restaurant.

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This has become a really popular way to spend 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday in a perfect location. We had a table overlooking the ocean and the ambience was laid back, relaxed and really enjoyable, the perfect Sunday treat!

It is a buffet but the W has taken it to a whole new level with the range of food on offer, the presentation of the food and the many and varied options to taste and enjoy.

From the foi gras to the whole suckling pig and the freshly shucked oysters to the home made sorbets there really is something for every taste.

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When you add the blue skies and the location you get a really enjoyable Sunday afternoon. They offer their brunch both with and without drinks packages attached and we chose the wine and sparkling package that saw beverages flow all through the time we were there and just added yet another dimension to the day.

This is a sophisticated Sunday brunch with a local DJ spinning great music in the background at what has become a popular brunch destination for people staying in Seminyak and beyond who want to experience all that the W has to offer and it is not as expensive as you might think it would be, although for Bali I suppose it is not cheap but we paid $80 per head including drinks. If you can get a table over looking the beach you will have the best Sunday Brunch.

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5. La Lucciola

Jl. Kayu Aya | Petitenget Beach,                                                                  Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia                                                                        

+62 361 730838

My final choice for dining in Bali as a restaurant that has now been around for many, many years – La Lucciola. It has almost become a dining institution on the Bali fine dining landscape and it was the first time that we had been back there for nearly 25 years.

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Offering Italian food with an Asian twist La Lucciola is in the perfect location overlooking the beach (as long as you have an upstairs table, which we did) and is in a lovely setting. It was a very warm night when we were there and the one thing they have missing when there is no breeze blowing is ceiling fans to help circulate the air a bit. It made for an uncomfortable experience until the breeze did start again to cool us down slightly.

The service here is also a bit over the top, unlike Bambu where the staff are not pushy and over bearing the staff at La Lucciola tend to be just that little bit too attentive. They do not understand that when you are deep in a conversation that you can just come up to a table and interrupt the diners to ask how the meal is.

But now to the food.

It was really a delightful surprise and we enjoyed each dish we had. I started with the zucchini flowers stuffed with prawn farce. It was perfectly fried and there was a real crisp crunch and along with that was the delightful red pepper sauce that added another level to the dish.

Trevor started with the fish soup that was served with crusty garlic bread. It was full of flavour and it was filled with lots of succulent fish and shellfish. Trevor really enjoyed the complex tastes and it was a lovely start to his meal.

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For main course I enjoyed the duck risotto that was served with shaved parmesan on the top and the risotto was cooked perfectly and the tastes where just a real delight. Just a gorgeous choice really and I loved ever mouthful.

Trevor chose the tagliatelle with yellow fin tuna, semi sun dried tomatoes, chilli, garlic and pangrattato. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the chilli, garlic and sun dried tomatoes did not over power the subtle flavours of the yellow fin tuna.

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We chose to have as the side dishes with our main courses some roasted butternut pumpkin served with almonds and a very simple tossed lettuce salad with a rich balsamic dressing. They were both the perfect additions to our meals.

As I stated earlier it was a hot night and so we decided after 2 courses to head back to our apartment with a nice casual walk along the beach (we were only 5 minutes from the restaurant). Interestingly La Lucciola turned out to be one of the most expensive meals on this trip and we only had 2 courses and 3 cocktails each. But we did enjoy the evening, even without the fans moving the air around! 2

Honourable mentions:

Red Carpet Champagne Bar

Jl. Kayu Aya no.42C,                                                                                    Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia                                                                        

+62 812-3893-566

There are so many other great places to eat but on this trip these 5 were standouts for me.  The other spot that is not really about fine dining but is about laid back fun and great champagne and cocktails is of course the Red Carpet Champagne Bar.

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The thing that I continue to love about this spot is that it offers over 100 champagnes, great cocktails, free finger food whilst you enjoy your drinks of choice.  It also offers, when there are two of you, the chance to get free transport in the Moet motorbike and sidecar back to your hotel or villa, which is great fun.

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The menu is not extensive but they offer some great share plates and we had some great food whilst we sat back sipped and watch the crowds walk by.

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So there you have it my top 5 with an honorable mention along the way…when in Bali and in particular in Seminyak do yourself a favour and check out any of the above. you will not be disappointed.