Ibiza in Bali? Sarah Douglas arrives with reservations – and leaves wanting to make one. Welcome to a new classic in Jimbaran.
Ibiza in Bali blazes a bright white trail to a beach rarely visited by tourists and delivers a fresh and fantastic destination to Bali’s hedonistic world of food, wine and azure sea.
Located on Kelan beach in Jimbaran, the fresh and intimate beach club and restaurant is so unexpected it takes a moment to adjust. A bumpy road with no name leads to what is essentially a fishing village, at the airport end of Jimbaran beach. The detailed concrete façade gives nothing away but once you walk through the door, the view changes dramatically.
A sea of white and turquoise leads the eye to one of the prettiest seascapes Bali has to offer. The restaurant interior is scattered with tables surrounded by white chairs and deeply cushioned sofas, a long bar looks out towards the bay. Terraced steps lead to the sandy beach, interrupted by a turquoise pool that reflects the stunning colours of the water beyond it.
This is a beach club and restaurant where you can swim in a beautiful clear, calm sea, and its just steps away from the sun deck.
“This is where Paris Hilton chose to swim when she came to Bali,” announced Franklin Firdaus, part of the Ibiza in Bali team and owner of fashion label Franksland. I can see why she chose to swim here; I just wonder how she discovered it? Despite my decades on the island, this delightful slice of beach has eluded me.
Owned by a group of Spanish friends, mostly from Barcelona, with ties to the UNESCO protected Balearic island Ibiza and its world famous mega clubs, are behind the venue. The chic design and the obvious commitment to music – the DJ booth overlooks the entire venue – says a lot about their style and background, but it is the food that wins out.
“A beach club should first of all be on a beach, there should be food, drinks and good music. In the early days of Ibiza people went to the beach to swim but once music, food and drinks were introduced they found themselves staying on,” explains one of the partners Alejandro (Alex).
“They would eat some lunch, share some wine, the music gets them dancing, cocktails follow and before you know it day turns into night and you’re still there, dancing in your bathing suit, making friends and it turns into a party. This is what we want at Ibiza in Bali,” he continues.
Joan is another founding partner. A development consultant, he discovered this little slice of Bali that even residents didn’t know existed while here on a stopover.
“I was staying in Jimbaran and I realized there was nowhere to really go, to eat lunch, to hang out, to swim. At night there is very little to choose besides the seafood barbecue restaurants. There was nowhere to get a nice cocktail or have a dinner outside of the five star hotels,” he tells me.
He stumbled across this spot and convinced a few like-minded friends to get involved. It’s quickly apparent that these guys are no slouches when it comes to the business of beach clubs. Ibiza in Bali was created and it is both unexpected and refreshingly different.
Despite its many levels, Ibiza in Bali is intimate by beach club standards. It comfortably holds 150 people on the decks, in the restaurant and on the mezzanine floor. A rooftop bar will host events and parties overlooking all of Jimbaran Bay and the graceful aircraft taking off and landing.
The chef Ruben Orti is also from Barcelona and he has jumped hurdles to create food that tastes so authentic you can feel Spain in every bite. Ortiz’ illustrious career to date includes Four Seasons in Ibiza. The restless, talented chef is constantly tweaking his classic dishes, working on new dishes, rarely satisfied and striving for perfection, according to his partners.
We start with tapas; four dishes that are a clear indication of how Ortiz interprets traditional dishes with confidence and skill. Patatas Bravas, a standard on every Spanish menu, is served as bite-sized potato gems, tender inside and crisped outside, with garlic aioli topped with a hint of spicy tomato sauce. The flavours are bold and the different textures make this take on the classic a winner.
The croquettes, another standard, were anything but. The creamy chicken filling is breaded and fried perfectly. With not a hint of oiliness, everything perfectly seasoned; you could eat these all day. We also try a crisp vegetable salad, shredded like coleslaw but without the cloying, thick mayonnaise. Instead it’s lightly dressed and topped with dehydrated tomato skins. It’s modern but it’s Spanish through and through. The fourth tapa is the Spanish take on a Russian salad, Ensalada Rusa, sandwiched between two thinly sliced croutons. These are simple, rustic dishes that are perfectly executed.
The menu offers three versions of paella; the popular version with seafood and chicken; Arroz Negro, a black rice version with squid ink; and a simple Aroyo seafood, which we were served. Brought to the table in a classic paellera, it’s a picture of rustic perfection.
This paella is pared back to the basics; the rice is baked in the large flat dish over a flame. A flavourful seafood stock is poured over and left to absorb, producing a sticky, caramelised base. Jewel-like pieces of fresh prawn and octopus stud the plump, gleaming rice to create a dark, earthy and delicious dish. Clams are added at the last minute to open and cook just before serving.
Unlike so many paella, this one takes 12-15 minutes to cook and wow, if you haven’t fallen in love with the food of Spain, this will convert you. “In Spain beach clubs and bars are for everyone, and we want to have a mixed crowd here. It’s not designed to be stiff or pretentious, we want to bring the spirit of the old Ibiza here where everyone is welcome to come and have a good time,” continues Alex.
The partners hope to create a destination at Kelan. Perfectly located between Kuta and Nusa Dua, it’s an easy trip from Sanur along the bypass and perfect for those coming down from Uluwatu.
In the spirit of the Spanish they plan to open early and close late; long lunches, late dinners followed by a party, or a quick stop for a glorious sunset and tapas. It’s designed for all day grazing, swims in the sea or the glass-fronted pool, lazing on day beds, dancing through sunset and chilling out with the family.
As this is the first in what they aim to be other destinations clubs across Asia, they are happy to let the customers dictate what flows and what doesn’t. “We chose the name for the associations,” explain Joan, “for many people Ibiza is more than a place, it’s a lifestyle.”
Before leaving the desserts arrive on two wooden plates crusted with caramelised sugar, one a take on the classic crème Catalan, the other a pineapple jelly floating in a flavoured custard.
I arrived with reservations, I left wanting to make one. Without any expectations, Ibiza in Bali, a little white jewel sitting on a calm turquoise beach with a flotilla of colourful fishing boats on the horizon, looks like a slice of Bali mingled with the free spirit of Ibiza.