Words: Stephanie Mee. Photos: Frederic Doucout
DESPITE being surrounded by lush landscapes that beg to be explored, so many of us in Bali seem to gravitate towards climate-controlled environs. There seems to be a tendency to equate the outdoors with the wild and primitive; something we need to conquer in small bursts, while the slick modernity of sleek restaurants and villas calls to our more urbane side. But what if you could have both the natural beauty of unspoilt wilderness and the luxury of fine food, exquisite furnishings and exceptional service . . .
New and utterly unique to Bali is Dining Within Tent, an exclusive outdoor dining experience that allows you to delve deep into nature and live without walls, yet still indulge in the finer things in life.
The experience starts just outside Ubud with a leisurely trek through the jungle that takes you past vistas of terraced rice fields and lofty coconut groves. Upon arrival at the banks of the Ayung River, you are treated to a luxurious bain de fleurs foot bath and massage, followed by an afternoon or evening of authentic Balinese cuisine, cocktails, fine teas and coffees, in spacious air-cooled safari tents decked out with deluxe furnishings.
Founded by Dutch designer Anneke van Waesberghe and masterful chef Diana von Cranach, Dining Within Tent presents an environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional modes of fine dining and tourism in Bali. The luxury tents are produced by Escape Nomade, and are made with recyclable materials that include textile panels that can generate solar power, roof features that make it easy to harvest rainwater, and an integrated cooling system that makes air-conditioning obsolete.
Not only does Dining Within Tent leave a faint footprint on the landscape with its easily removable and recyclable tents with energy saving features, but Anneke and Diana also strive to give back to the local Balinese community by creating meaningful employment and offering professional training to their staff. Moreover, the dinners give guests a chance to experience Bali in a whole new light.
Anneke says: “The reason we do the dinners is to introduce our guests to simplicity as a new luxury. The tents have been designed to introduce an eco-friendly lifestyle and they are an expression of the basic guidelines I wrote in the ‘80s for Design for the Environment for the Environmental Protection Agency. The dinners launch the guests into a luxurious tented environment for a surprising and unexpected experience. The four-course dinners are Diana’s healthy take on local flavours, and each course reflects the main colours of the temple offerings.”
The meal begins with the ‘Red’ appetizer course consisting of a Mountain Salad with delicate ginger flowers and Java rose sambal dressing. Next up is the ‘Green’ course, which includes an aromatic Balinese Herb and Vegetable Soup and Steamed Sesame Greens with vibrant green chilli and pepper condiments, followed by the ‘Yellow’ course of Balinese Slow-cooked Chicken, Turmeric Fish and Prawns, and Pumpkin and Marigold Curry with yellow coconut rice and Balinese pickles. Each course also includes an appropriately hued vodka cocktail. And for the colourful grand finale, a Red Strawberry Sundae with Green Rice Flour Crepe drizzled in palm sugar and topped with Yellow Banana and Jackfruit Ice.
Dinner is served inside the main dining tent on tables decorated in linens, fine china, glassware and cutlery, all lit softly by lanterns and candles. From the moment you sit down, you begin to feel as though you’ve stepped back in time when the natural environment and all it’s grandeur were taken for granted; a feeling that is intensified as you dine listening to the wind rustling in the palm trees outside, the gentle bubbling of the river close by, and crickets chirping in the foliage.
For those who want to experience this idyllic setting under bright blue skies, the romantic Picnic Lunch is another experience within itself. Also on offer is the Royal High Tea, which begins with a sublime footbath and full body massage in a breezy covered tent pavilion next to the river. Relaxed and refreshed, you retire to the main tent for a divine spread of hors d’oeuvres and sweets complemented by high-quality teas made with local natural ingredients, including the Telaga Oolong, Lemongrass Green and Fruit Paradise. Your day ends with an invigorating yoga or dance session before you make your way back to the temple and depart.
Anneke says: “The reception has been amazing because the food and the location are so unique and there is nothing to compare anywhere on the island. It is a little like going to the theatre – you have an idea of what it is but did not expect your jaw to be dropping, your heart to be dancing and your soul to be melting.”
For reservations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Anneke van Waesberghe at 0812 384 9924.