Monday, September 15, 2014


To get to Bali I flew on Jetstar, Australia's favourite low-cost, no-frills, no-self-respect airline. One of their tricks for saving money is to use the least popular timeslots for arrivals and departures at the airport. Hence my wonderfully cheap flight to Bali departed Perth at 4am.

This wasn't too onerous - I just got a taxi out to the airport around 1am and after the usual check-in and security rigmarole I just had a couple of hours to read before the flight. However, the flight got in to Denpassar airport at 8am, and my hotel room would not be available until 2pm. So I took a taxi to my hotel, left the bags at the desk, then wandered off to find breakfast. Fortunately my hotel was right in the centre of Seminyak, within strolling distance of most things I wanted to do. Or, more specifically, to eat.

One of my priorities on this trip was to visit the local foodie hotspots - every celebrity chef in Australia and New Zealand seems to have a restaurant in Bali, producing Rockpool food at Red Rooster prices. Bali has also recently acquired a small but bustling coffee culture, with snazzy little espresso bars popping up between the surf shops and the massage spas.

With this in mind I set off for the first cafe on my list: Sea Circus, a relaxed hippie surfie hangout famous for its breakfasts.

I had ricotta pancakes with banana and palm sugar caramel, and coffee, because it was now around 10am and I had not slept for more than 24 hours. I took a selfie at this point, and my face and posture both scream, "I am currently being held together by caffeine, grime and willpower!"

I got back to the hotel just after midday and parked my grimy, caffeinated body in the lobby. Soon after, the staff either took pity on me or decided that I was lowering the tone, and let me check into my room early.

Like all good four star hotel rooms, mine had an enormous bed with crisp white sheets, a spacious bathroom, cool tiled floors, and a view out over the frangipani-fringed pool.

And the worst painting ever committed to canvas, possibly by Satan...

...assuming that the Prince of Darkness was both colourblind and feeling very depressed that day.

After a good nap, I was ready to resume my foodie experiences. My travel buddy and I had drinks at Ku De Ta, then set off north trying to find a famous restaurant called Sarong. But the map was hopeless, it was getting late, I was getting hungry, so when I noticed a sign for another restaurant on my list, I decided to go for it.

It turned out to be the best meal of the entire trip. Salt Tapas, housed in the Peppers Sentosa Resort, is part of the empire of Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan. It's way off the main street, down several hundred metres of dark and twisting laneways, but once you get there it springs up with that solid wall of luxury that characterises all of the best places in Seminyak.

As the name suggests, the menu is modern Australian tapas with a local twist. We had mushroom and feta arancini balls, fried potatoes with truffle oil and parmesan, beetroot and asparagus salad, tomato and mozzarella salad, and, as a highlight, tuna tartare with lime and wasabi on homemade tortilla chips.

It was incredible, and unlike many tapas places, there was no skimping on the plates. And at the end of the evening, huge amounts of fine food in a stunning high-end poolside restaurant cost $30 a head.

Just one more thing to love about Bali.


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