Bali. Land of tropical jungles, surf beaches, extinct volcanoes, cheap massages and shopping bargains. It’s also the land of thousands of taxis and scooters all tooting and hooting for your attention as they trawl pasts the bars and restaurants, seeking out business. It’s loud, vibrant and non-stop and sometimes, it gets a little wearing. Seminyak is a district that is well known for its family friendly atmosphere and Jalan Oberoi—or as most people know it, ‘Eat Street’. There’s something on offer for everyone on Eat Street. You could eat out for every meal for a month and barely make a dent. But there are smarter, more elegant and quieter alternatives out there too. At the end of Jln Oberoi as you head towards Canggu, there’s a side street named Jalan Drupadi which offers a secret side of Seminyak.
Zibiru Cucina Italiana
There’s plenty of Italian food on offer in Bali, but not much that is actually made by an Italian. At Zibiru, owner/chef Luigi Calcagno has been able to be recreate a little piece of Italy in a hidden courtyard. Three cheeky porkers leading you down a cobbled laneway, twinkling lights and small tables set for romantic dinners are all indicators that this is not your usual bar serving giant bowls of pasta. Yes there’s pasta, but it’s handmade and features traditional flavors such as wild rabbit and duck ragu sourced from the mountains and thinly sliced octopus or fish tartare straight from the waters of Jimbaran Bay. Whilst eating out in Bali is incredibly cheap and you can get the most fantastical cocktails for a few dollars, the same cannot be said of wine. A good glass of wine may set you back $10 at home, a cheap quality wine is likely to hover around $20 a glass in Bali. That’s if you can get it by the glass at all—most places do not even offer wine, or only serve it by the bottle. This is where Zibiru comes into its own, offering a happy hour every day from 5-7 p.m. with discounted wines by the glass. They also offer a selection of complimentary aperitivo including tomato bruschetta on chewy Italian bread (decent bread being another thing that is difficult to come by). Zibiru is the real deal with a restaurant and a bottega where you can pull up a stool for a glass of wine and enjoy some authentic locally made charcuterie. They also offer live jazz towards the end of each week. There are definitely worse ways to spend an evening! zibiru.com
With so many Australians on the island after a coffee fix, there are plenty of places serving good espresso, but it should be noted the many of the cafés are cookie cutter versions of each other. Umakopi offers an alternative that’s much more in keeping with how I like to enjoy my morning coffee. Enter through the traditional stone carved gates into an oasis. Tables and chairs sit under a massive banyan tree that shades the courtyard, so ancient that its roots are entwined into brickwork. There’s a range of coffee options using Kintamani beans that support local Balinese farmers. It is named after the extinct Kintamani Volcano that has created fertile soils on the slopes of Mt Batur. For those that are game, there’s a chance to try Kopi Luwak, the famous coffee produced from ripe beans that have been eaten and passed by a native civet cat. This selection is a little more costly but how often are you going to get a chance to try this? Kopi Luwak is sweet and floral with no hint of acidity and definitely worth a punt. If the effort of ordering is all too much, there are lounges to recline on as you check your email on the free wi-fi and wait for your order. Unhurried, in the company of local birds and the world swirling past outside, this is serenity in the midst of madness. umakopi.com
Lacalaca Cantina Mexicana
Seminyak has plenty of Mexican food on offer, but Lacalaca goes beyond the family favorites of burritos and enchiladas. Leveraging off the premise that Bali and Mexico have a warm climate and laid back vibe, the leafy courtyard, chilled soundtrack and bright decor do a good job of emphasizing the similarities. Lacalaca offers their take on a range of Mexican dishes such pollo en pippian (chicken with a seed-based sauce) with a roasted pepita seed sauce, carnitas with a roasted pineapple salsa, and twists on tacos such as mixed wild mushroom tacos with shaved almonds and spicy adobo sauce. If it’s too steamy for a large meal, there’s always the option tor order up a round of cocktails with some fresh tortilla chips and freshly made salsa. Fridays are a celebration of Frida(y) Khalo with 2-for-1 margaritas and live music. No nachos were harmed in the creation of Lacalaca’s menu. lacalacabali.com
There are plenty of little secrets hidden down lane ways and in concealed courtyards wherever you head in Bali, so make sure you stop and take a peek.