Luiz Sanchez samples the goods on offer at Nusa Dua’s latest beach spot.
There are plenty of beach clubs in Bali that have an amazing PR team behind their social media, who produce content that gives a false sense of quality to their venue. I’ve been to places where the prices are sky high and the food is subpar at best, but their Instagram game is on point.
Manarai is not one of those places.
I had been to Manarai once before prior to their soft opening and when I was given the opportunity to go back and spend a day there, I jumped on that like Tom Cruise on a sofa. I’ve sat on this text for a while trying to find the right words to describe my experience, and am honestly having a hard time. This place needs to be experienced to properly understand the level of quality Manarai brings to the table. It is, after all, a brand aiming ti be the premier lifestyle destination in the south of Bali.
Manarai is a subdivision of the Ismaya Group, a lifestyle brand that owns and operates dozens of high-profile restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels in Asia. Their vision for Manarai was to combine all the best aspects of their individual properties into one massively luxurious beach club, with an emphasis on food. Well I’ll be damned if it didn’t work.
I have had the pleasure of sampling virtually every dish on the menu between both my visits, and each dish is not only impeccably presented, but also prepared with a lot of care and effort. Their food is globally inspired, featuring amazing local dishes such as ayam betutu to sticky pork ribs that melt in the mouth. Every plate is in and of itself a work of art, combining flavours, colours and textures in ways that I haven’t seen before in any beach club in Bali.
The chefs are all world class cooks who really understand the nature of the food they make. Chefs Philip Mimbimi and Stefan Poyet are both highly qualified and acclaimed professionals that have made my visits to Manarai unforgettable. Mimbimi serves as Ismaya Group’s corporate chef, and has worked in the field for nearly two decades. Poyet meanwhile serves as the executive chef and has been cooking professionally for 15 years. Both have brought together flavours from across the world and in doing so created their own fusion of eastern and western cuisine that does not disappoint.
The menu is highly varied and its contents are changed every few months, ensuring there is something new for you to try every time you return.
Beyond food, Manarai also makes amazing cocktails and mocktails for the alcohol-averse. Each drink carries its own aesthetic meant to capture the feeling of island life. A word of warning however; they are very easy to drink so stay sharp and don’t get too carried away under the Bali sun.
So ok, food and drinks are great, what else? Well, for starters the beach is very clean and optimally suited for families. Manarai has dozens of beach chairs scattered across the waterfront and two great swimming pools surrounded by lounging areas. The space is also surprisingly green, which I was told is part of the company’s efforts to reduce their ecological impact. They separate waste and have done extensive in-house testing to find alternatives for plastic products, and plan to expand on their social and environmental responsibility over the coming years.
All of this however wouldn’t work without a team of highly trained staff. Manarai works because their staff spend months training for the job before they even begin. They do not hover over Manarai’s guests, peppering them with canned lines, but are also alert and quick to respond to darting glances in search of service. From their mannerisms to their clothing and gestures, their staff exude professionalism blended with a welcoming demeanor, something often found lacking in even some of the nicest places around Bali.
Manarai is situated in Nusa Dua, alongside the Sofitel hotel. This area resembles more of a gated community, and is certainly not aiming for the typical traveller to Indonesia. Much of the clientele in this region come straight from the airport and spend most, if not all, of their time in these highly luxurious resorts. Manarai itself has certainly earned its place among the exclusive hotels, and provides their guests with a great experience.
All of this comes with a price of course, and it is not cheap. I have been to places that are far more expensive than Manarai, but none as pleasurable and satisfying an experience as this. If you have the time, and desire, Manarai is a trip worth taking.