Stephanie Mee talks to Potato Head honcho Ronald Akili about the PTT Family’s new hotel, Katamama, restaurant MoVida, and centre of mixology, Akademi.
Since you opened Potato Head in Jakarta in 2009, you and PTT Family have gone on to open successful institutions including Potato Head Beach Club here in Bali and Potato Head Folk in Singapore. What is it about PTT Family projects that make them stand out from the rest?
Simply put, we invest a huge amount of thought and passion into all our projects and work with the best people in their fields on everything from the architecture to the overall look and feel to every single dish and cocktail we produce. When we create our concepts, we always strive to create something that hasn’t been done before, while always keeping a timeless quality. We also tailor each project to its surroundings and make them truly site-specific and unique.
You’re no stranger to the hospitality scene, but Katamama is PTT Family’s first hotel. What made you want to open a hotel?
Katamama allows us to express our creativity on another level and in a different way from the rest of PTT Family. It’s a different and bigger canvas for us to show our creativity and our vision. We want to showcase our own definition of bespoke luxury through the design, cultural programming and service, and to be a contemporary interpretation of the Indonesian culture.
When you and architect Andra Matin first started coming up with the plans for Katamama, what was the inspiration behind the architecture and design?
We were inspired by Indonesia’s rich culture and we wanted a way to best show the finest aspects through our contemporary context. We combined beautiful aspects of Indonesian culture with a timeless innovative design and the result is Katamama, a completely unique hotel and experience in Bali.
Your website says that every aspect of the hotel has been personally designed, and then crafted by Indonesia’s finest craftsmen. Can you give us some examples?
It’s going to be hard to narrow it down to just a few examples as nearly everything was bespoke and made by hand in Indonesia. Starting with our timber and wood furniture, we worked with a Surabaya-based carpenter and used only Indonesian Grade-A teak, sourced from certified forests. Our team was very involved in the development, from timber selection to prototyping to extensive quality control to final installation.
From south of Gianyar, Tarum textiles created Katamama’s carpets, bed throws and bathrobes. Tarum is a textile workshop that specialises in natural-dye manufacturing as well as hand-weaving their own fabrics.
One of Katamama’s visual themes is indigo and ombre dying and a lot of it that you will see at the hotel is the work of Tjok Agung Indigo, a husband and wife team, who run a workshop on the outskirts of Ubud. They specialise in the traditional method of dying and stamping fabrics. They created the table runners, ‘fukoshiki’ wrapping textile in the snack boxes and an impressive art piece in the penthouse.
Then there are the more than one million bricks handmade in Bali that we used to build the hotel. This traditional product was then used in our modern geometric design, unexpected and so beautiful. I could continue all day pointing out all of the great Indonesian-made products at Katamama…
We sampled some amazing cocktails at Akademi, Katamama’s ‘centre of mixology’. Can you tell us a bit about the unique concept behind Akademi?
Created by the award-winning Dre Masso, Akademi is so much more than just a cocktail bar. As a centre for the craft, it focuses on the exploration of Bali’s indigenous ingredients. Every month will be dedicated to a new Indonesian ingredient and Akademi’s mixologists will study, experiment and create with it. Akademi will also invite the world’s best mixologists to experiment with Indonesian ingredients and to pass on their knowledge to other bartenders.
We’ve already sampled the innovative Spanish cuisine at MoVida in Australia. How does the MoVida at Katamama differ from its Australian ventures?
MoVida at Katamama is the brand’s first international outlet and a really unique collaboration between MoVida and us. The menu takes inspiration from its new island location and climate, whilst still retaining the authentic Spanish flavour that MoVida is known for in Australia. On the menu you can find MoVida signature dishes recreated with local ingredients, lighter options that reflect the island atmosphere, and a variety of goods imported directly from Spain.
What’s also impressive is that MoVida co-founder Frank Camorra and MoVida Bali head chef Jimmy Parker worked with local island producers to develop the menu in Bali and currently even have local farmers growing ingredients native to Spain especially for the restaurant. The new restaurant definitely has surprises in store for both MoVida fans and Bali diners.
In addition to Akademi and MoVida, Katamama has built up a tight community of like-minded establishments with whom you work closely, like Potato Head Beach Club, lifestyle boutique Escalier, and Alchemy, Bali’s first 100% raw food restaurant. What’s the common thread that ties you all together?
The common thread in the neighbourhood, which is our informal name for the grouping, is the high quality of their work and their dedication to bringing people the best of the best, whether it be food, drinks or design. Every business has a strong creative ethos like us and we enjoy being surrounded by like-minded people. We are working with amazing people like One Fifteenth coffee, for example.
What other exciting plans does the PTT Family have for the future?
For our existing establishments, we always have exciting plans and ongoing projects. To continue being a leader, you always have to adapt and innovate so we never rest on our past achievements, instead we’re inspired by the need to always stay ahead and break new ground. We regularly collaborate with local and international groups from the realms of architecture, design, music, fashion, art and craftsmanship, so there is something exciting always happening at PTT Family.
In addition to our hotels, we are busy preparing a brand-new Potato Head outpost for Hong Kong, and we plan to introduce Kaum, a revolutionary Indonesian culinary concept. Kaum will take undiscovered or not-often-used native ingredients and not-often-used cooking methods, such as fire pit or bamboo and coconut husk smoking, to create innovative takes on Indonesian cuisine. We have further businesses coming up in Jakarta, Bali and globally, so watch this space!