Watercress has been at the forefront of healthy dining in Ubud since it opened its doors in 2015. And it keeps getting better, writes Ondy Sweeting. Photo: Lucky 8.
In the classic French café tradition of service continu Watercress Ubud delivers hill dwellers and guests a steady feast from morning to night from its buzzing hive in the centre of Monkey Forest road.
The boys from Bali’s unique F&B outfit – The Goodfood Brotherhood – easily transplanted their popular Watercress brand from Batu Belig to Ubud with a menu full of alternative eating choices.
Every day chef Braden White sources fresh produce from local farmers who share the brotherhoods ethical, fair trade and sustainable vision. Fresh vegetables come from the cool hills of Baturiti in central Bali and are lovingly washed in pure filtered water before hitting the chopping board. Meats come from Australia and New Zealand while organic eggs and chicken come from producers in East Java. Line caught fish and other seafood is delivered daily from Watercress Batu Belig neighbour Ibu Made, whose family linage is pure Canggu fisher folk.
These guys take food seriously and it shines through in the quality of each dish on the menu.
Given that breakfast has long been held as the most important meal of the day, Watercress serves it all day, everyday.
Think crunchy corn fritters with an avocado salsa, sour cream and topped with runny poached eggs or a signature Watercress omelet with salmon, asparagus, goats cheese, crushed fragrant herbs, lemon, crispy watercress on warm sourdough bread. The tangy Hollandaise sauce served with the ‘eggs Benny’ is an excellent rendition of this popular dish. Include some fresh spinach as a perfect side order and this long time favourite is nutritionally complete.
In fact, Watercress side orders make a multi-level meal should you choose. Say, throw together some grilled chorizo with roasted tomato, sautéed spinach crowned with marinated feta and mushrooms served with gluten free bread or pumpernickel. Other sides include granola, eggs any which way, yoghurt and honey, avocado, leg ham, jam, chocolate spread and that love-or-hate it Aussie product Vegemite – after all, the brotherhood boys originate from Byron Bay.
After a morning of roaming around the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and watching the amusing antics of the local macaques – or Balinese long tailed monkey – the café is a cool sanctuary of its own. While Watercress has a well-positioned and open streetfront perfect for people watching, it also has an upstairs dining room, which is fan cooled and off-street enough to present a space for some lunchtime repose.
Dive into big burgers. They come packed with juicy Angus beef, salty bacon, fennel and cranberry slaw, sweet onion jam, cheddar cheese, pickles and mustard. Pescatarians will love the mahi-mahi fish burger with the crisp lettuce, house-made tartare sauce, marinated capsicum, cucumber and capers. There is an interesting chicken sate burger with peanut sauce and a fiery sambal plus a veggie burger that is hugely dense with fresh carrot, beetroot and hummus. The shoestring fries are seasoned with salt and some coconut sugar, creating an oddball flavour that will have you wondering what the mix is.
Watercress salads have long been an island institution and famed for just how big and delicious they are. Roast vegetables and cous cous salad arrives with lush tzatziki, baby spinach and fresh almonds and herbs finished with lemon and olive oil, while the chicken cashew and avocado salad showcases just how well red cabbage pairs with tahini.
There are sourdough sandwiches stuffed with lemon roasted chicken and that hipster mainstay: smashed avocado. The lunch menu will fuel even the most determined trekker in need of physical sustenance.
Watercress arguably delivers Bali’s most authentic ‘cup of Java’ with beans a bespoke Goodfood Brotherhood blend produced as a double ristretto where a single shot passes through a double hit of ground beans. Incredibly the milk that makes the latte is from expat Australian dairy cows living in Java.
Perfect for cake and coffee, diners can expect tastebud tickling twists on traditional chocolate bar snacks. A Snickers cake is multilayered cheese cake with chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peanuts while the Wagon Wheel is a delicious gourmet take on the biscuit, marshmallow and jam chocolate-covered treat. For those who cannot tolerate gluten, try the GF chocolate nemesis and weep.
Juices, smoothies, ice tea topped with sweet fruit sorbet, fresh young coconut straight from the shell or frozen as a granita, probiotic kombucha and healthy herbal jamu shots sit alongside beer and cocktails tailored by superstar mixologist Jacob Sweetapple who sits on the judging panel for the World’s 50 Best Bars.
At night Watercress morphs into a dining destination staging Ocean, Land, Garden and Grazing plates that include delicacies such as beef cheek rendang, tempura spring veggies, king prawn pasta and kimchi friend rice. All illustrate the Watercress philosophy of wholesome holistic dining without a trace of taste compromise.