Sarah Douglas rides shotgun on the back of a blogger’s bike to sample up-and-coming Batu Bolong. Photos: Lucky 8.
Riding bitch on the back of a shiny, red scooter as we eat up the tattered tarmac beneath us . . . it seems the perfect way to see what’s happening now in what may be Bali’s hottest new destination of the moment.
Lined with trendy boutiques and street cafes, the road that leads to the beach in this area of Canggu is as bright as Seminyak once was. Surfers, digital nomads, families and a new breed of restaurateurs and designers have set up shop here, and in many cases, made it their home.
Bali has changed. The trendy Seminyak area is suffering under the weight of over development and traffic jams. Batu Bolong feels fresh and alive and those that come to live and work out here find they rarely have to leave.
Recruiting the services of local blogger and coffee enthusiast, Masha Mozolevskaya of The Bali Chronicles, for a tour of what’s new in Batu Bolong, we discovered some of the hottest new recruits and a clear sense of what the locals love about this little area. There’s surf and sand, there’s a hipster vibe that feels a little Byron Bay-like and there is a sense of freedom that harks back to the early days in Seminyak.
While the area has become intrinsically tied to smoothie bowls and burgers, beers and flavoured kombucha teas, there is a level of sophistication that is creeping in. With mornings here being a peak of the day, it isn’t only the surfers who are getting up early.
The little cafes and bakeries, warung and restaurants are getting up early to produce much of their menu items in-house. Proving and polishing, sourcing and saucing, there is a groundswell of activity that is like a breath of fresh air for the street that is Jl Batu Bolong and the tiny arteries that feed from it.
Rosmarina Bottega Italiano
A crisp glass of white wine is the perfect compliment to a bright sunny day and a plate of perfect pink slivers of roast beef dressed with a rucola salad and polished with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing. The whirlwind that is Masha rocks up and dives into a refreshing glass of the locally produced Isola wine, a crisp Italian if ever there was one. She spots an octopus carpaccio on the menu and declares it refreshing and delightful with a bite of fresh fennel and a hint of pineapple.
Our host, Luigi, is the real deal and has cooked his way out of Italy via Paris and New York City before opening Zibiru in Jl Drupadi. There he creates much of what is on the new bottega’s menu, from the fresh bakery items to the house-made salumi and pastas, the sauces and brilliant gourmet items that bring this menu into the sunshine, like the pressed octopus for the carpaccio, the 10-hour sous-vide beef for my salad and so much more. His mates in the Italian community are creating fresh, soft cheeses and the wine we enjoyed to bring a taste of authenticity to this little street-side gourmet eatery.
Intimate and industrial, Rosmarina brings a bright culinary light to the area that is filled with la dolce vita. Open for breakfast, lunch and soon for dinner, as well as catering for special events and take home meals, this chef looks very at home in Jl Batu Bolong, which he declares, “changes my mood, I feel more free here.”
Ji At Tugu
Moments down the road, towards the beach, The Tugu is an iconic part of the landscape in Jl Batu Bolong. Filled with stunning art and antiques, it brings a sense of style and history to the area. Hence, it’s no surprise to see the final touches being made to their latest restaurant and bar, Ji at Bale Sutra 1706.
Housed in an ancient Chinese temple (Bale Sutra, built in 1706 and transported here from Java), the restaurant’s interiors are dramatic and stunning in detail. Ji has a street entrance to seduce the passing crowd, as well as a door from the driveway that is overlooked by stone lions and an imposing golden Buddha. As the menu advertises Japanese fusion, fine wines and sakes, the décor clearly echoes the past, the future and the melting of cultures.
Tip this one to be a hot new favourite in Jl Batu Bolong with a rocking bar offering Japanese inspired cocktails with a New York swagger atmosphere and a menu filled with surprising east-meets-west flavours.
Well, well, who’d a thought that a former two Michelin-starred chef would be showing up in this little beach enclave and performing culinary acrobatics on a shoestring budget? There is a lot to fall in love with at Gypsy, apart from the dreamy chef with the brilliant blue eyes who has the ladies of Canggu hypnotized.
Once again we are seeing bright and airy industrial themed interiors, a trendy bar with a dreadlocked Marley-esque bartender, cool tunes and an incredibly affordable menu.
Chef Robin is a Montreal boy who went to Europe to hone his craft and loves an adventure. He rarely stays more than a year in one place and currently he is playing to appreciative crowds in a little street near Deus.
The coffee crowd loves it here, as do the happy hour bar crawlers, mostly though the star here is the menu. Robin is another one who gets up early, when he is seen haggling at Jimbaran markets for the freshest fish. He does a star turn with gravlax that he creates from local snapper as he prefers a locavore approach to food; keeping it local, fresh and light.
Almost everything is made in-house, ‘very Batu Bolong darling’, from breakfast items to the textured soups and vibrant salads. He invites people to order a custom-made degustation for dinner, “name your budget” with up to seven courses starting from as little as Rp150,000 (this I have to see).
This is a chef who clearly loves a challenge. The menu is small but loaded with flair and flavor, from the crispy Vietnamese sandwich which features his slow cooked pork belly and appears at lunch and dinner, the brilliant pea soup spiced up with confit orange, tuna tartare topped with a poached egg, octopus salad, juicy roasted chicken served with roasted potatoes and sour cream with dill and a seafood roll with a touch of Gypsy. The menu changes daily according to what’s fresh so prepare for the unexpected.
The name translates to ‘the world’ and La Dunia has high expectations. The large, airy two-story restaurant has been designed by Zohra of Balquisse and has a shabby chic attitude. A French chef in the kitchen is creating what is billed as world cuisine, so expect a little Franco flavor alongside some South American dishes, African influences and a whole lot of celebrating, as the owners plan to play, exhibit, host and add something new to Batu Bolong.
Carving out your own place in this worldly café/restaurant will be easy. With a large outdoor terrace overlooking the road, an airy dining room overlooking the kitchen, open to the rice fields behind, and a mezzanine where an eclectic mix of furnishings and lounge areas makes for a perfect hide-away. In its early incarnation, La Dunia has a lot to offer and the promise of lots more to come.
The complex isn’t yet full but the plan is to open a gallery upstairs, a dedicated coffee shop, a playground for the kids and host music nights and parties.
La Dunia offers a world of possibilities beyond dining but the menu says a lot about the direction they are taking. This is a stylish dining and hang out spot where the prices remain affordable and the hipster vibe is alive and kicking.
Other Top Picks in Batu Bolong
While Old Man’s has hit the thirsty spot overlooking the beach, neighbours include The Lawn, a perfect sunset spot with a kiosk selling sandwiches and cold drinks and Motel Mexicola has plans for an exciting new destination restaurant (more on that later).
Fika is a bright and clean new coffee shop on Jl Batu Bolong combining coffee culture with a Swedish vibe.
Further up the road we discover Eden Café where an expansion of the kitchen and dining areas has been brought about by demand. Owned by a young food lover who studied cordon bleu cooking in Australia and has a definite macrobiotic stream, Eden café is small, thoroughly wholesome and inspirational.
A small artery road behind Deus is quickly picking up the pace with The Shady Shack transforming vegetarian food and raw cakes by the Betulnut crew and La Baracca bringing their famous Italian flavours, including gluten free pizzas and pastas, to the strip.
Gypsy lives here as well.
Also soon to open is a new café by fashionista, Anita Horn, stay tuned.
A special thanks to our tour guide du jour, Masha. Stay up to date on what’s new with her blogs, The Bali Chronicles and The Canggu Chronicles.