It Feels Like Tropicola

Think ice blocks and coconut oil, summer songs and blue-tiled pools. Yes, the Da Maria crew has done it again, this time turning our heads beachside with a splash of colour and a patina of style at Tropicola.

There is no doubt that the multi-layered beach club and restaurant, decked out in brilliant white with bold primary colours, is going to set heads turning. The inspiration is a little bit Hollywood, a splash of Miami, shaken with some Acapulco and stirred with burst of Bondi.

Centre stage is the deep blue-tiled pool with staggered bleachers dressed in stripes. It’s easy to imagine taking residence here, sipping cocktails and ordering from the all-day grazing menu, soaking up the rays with friends while the super cool soundtracks sets the mood for days of sunshine and good times.

The art of making something look blissfully simple is a skill this crew has mastered. Years of thought, research, travel, planning and design have preceded this anticipated opening. Every element, from the sounds to the sizzling outdoor grill, the meticulously pre-mixed blends of curious and creative cocktails to the carefully curated food is managed in minutiae. This ensures that the customer never sees or feels the back end, it flows as it was designed to flow.

“We do what we love, create places we want to hang out in and we make the food we want to eat. That’s the recipe,” explains Group Executive Chef Steve Skelly, who headed up one of Sydney’s most revered seafood restaurants, The Pier in Rose Bay, before coming to Bali and joining the group. Here he plays to his strengths with a menu that sings with fresh seafood dishes, a nod to Mexico, and the best of beach club classics.

“We travelled extensively through amazing beach clubs in Miami, Acapulco, Palm Springs, Tulum and Playa Del Carmen and then wove all our favourite elements into a “drink and dine” beach club unique to Bali,” continues Skelly.

Tropicola rises above the sandy beachside like a giant lifeguard tower. With layered decks and outdoor kitchens, bars and bleachers, verandahs and sparkling white woodwork like something out of Malibu or the Hamptons.

Primary colours in blue, yellow and red evoke memories of seaside piers and ocean pools. It’s nostalgic yet fresh and playing in the background the history of these boys from Oz peeps through with tones from the days of public pools and kiosk classics.

The menu is loaded with fresh seafood, raw dishes, crisp salads and classics like burgers and hot dogs that are as fresh as the decks are white. “We’ve played with this menu to make it a lot fresher and healthier with organic dishes, crunchy salads and wood-fired grills,” says Skelly. “Amongst it all are spit-roasted pork stuffed into fresh tacos; ‘dude food’ but decked out with loads of fresh vegetables and spiced sauces. It’s classic but fresher and lighter,” the British-born chef says.

Skelly explains his menu is going for light flavours with tartares, ceviches, prawn cocktails, cold and warm salads, hand-picked vegetables for the plant-based plates, licked by the grill and dressed to dance. Fresh bread, brioche and bagels, from Skelly’s own Farine bakery, will add tang and interest to burgers and hot dogs while a range of dressings from sambals to jalapeño salsas are the perfect pick me up.

The feeling throughout is bold and contemporary, from the menu, to the latin-inspired soundtracks and the cocktails. With Beverage Director Denny Deluca Del Paso curating the drinks and Argentinian DJ Juan Ego creating a ‘left of field Tropicola’ soundtrack, the venue is designed as a space that flows from day into night without missing a beat.

Speaking of beats, Ego brings a ray of sunshine into his tunes; no house, just a lot of good vibe music. From NYC clubs to Big Day Out, and sunset sessions in Tulum, DJ Juan will set the tone for a day at the pool. As the sun edges closer to the sea, the music follows the sun, finally settling into a post sunset dinner mood.

Beverage Director Denny plans to play on classics with cocktails like the Tropicolada, using jackfruit in place of pineapple, the Arak N Roll, a blend of the finest Bali arak mixed with Kintamani coffee, rum, and tequila-based cocktails loaded with exotic fruit and spices alongside a cooling mix of coolades, freezies, shakes and jugs of icy cocktails.

There are lots of fresh, fruity flavours that are a perfect match for sunny days, choose the non-alcoholic version, or add a chaser.

Not to be underplayed is the fabulous beachfront location. Nestled along the golden shoreline, along from the W, Alila Seminyak and stretching beyond to La Laguna and, rumour has it, a Bali-based Café Del Mar, Batu Belig beach is long, wild and unspoiled.

Staff decked out in red and white, the open kitchen hums with energy, the bars are loaded up with vibrant fruit and even the bathrooms are special; with a green and white theme scented with fresh peppermint.

This is just phase one. Where food, music, good times, pool moments and cocktails all merge into one experience. Open daily from 11am, lunch is served from 12-3pm, dinner from 7pm until midnight and in between, an all-day grazing menu is available.

“We know that sunset is going to be peak time for us. Times when we expect to be pumping, we want to keep it simple but it will be fresh, creative and delicious. During more traditional dining times we can really focus on the quality of the food,” concludes Skelly.

Phase two will be an upstairs restaurant, and phase three will culminate in a multi-storey hotel offering affordable seaside luxury.

With designer James Brown behind this project, who also designed Motel Mexicola and Bondi’s Bucket List, there is a confidence in the design that resides in the human experience. It isn’t all show – there is a lot of substance. The design avoids any awkward moments and wherever you choose to sit, on loungers, at tables on the decks or surrounding the pool, you still enjoy views across the ocean and an experience that is as cool as it gets, by design. Tropicola is what it feels like.