One of my absolute favourite things about exploring a new country and culture is trying the local cuisine. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Indonesia’s most popular island twice (and will be going back for the third time in May) and I can’t get enough of the rich and bold flavours of Indonesian food.
I’ve previously written a Bali Travel Guide & Tips post if you’re heading there for the first time yourself and would like more information on Bali.
This post is specific to places near Seminyak as that is where I have spent the most time and where the majority of my favourites happen to be. I have only spent two full days in Ubud and less than that in the Canggu, Uluwatu and Nusa Dua areas.
For visitors, finding Balinese food that’s done well isn’t always easy. The heavily Westernised southern parts of the island have swapped most of their local eateries for Australian-owned beach bars and fast-food chains. You can be sure to not miss out on your smashed avocado toast or flat white if that’s what you’re after.
There is also a large influence from all across Asia so you can easily find really good Indian, Vietnamese and Thai food for example, as well as plenty of other options such as Italian and Mexican.
While there are a few restaurants bringing traditional Balinese flavours into a fine-dining setting, for true authenticity you need to venture beyond the popular tourist haunts and into the traditional warungs (small family-owned restaurants) to explore the local delicacies.
Bali is Indonesia’s last remaining Hindu island and its cuisine is unique and laden with ceremonial significance. The spice pastes that form the base of most Balinese dishes- loaded with coriander seed, galangal, turmeric and candlenut- are echoes of India and Java, remnants of the Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit kingdom that ruled the island from the 13th – 16th century.
Pork, chicken, duck and fish take the centre stage, cooked over wood fires, grilled over coconut husks or slow-braised. Being Hindus beef is never or rarely consumed.
Fruit and vegetables are usually raw, chopped with coconut in dishes such as lawar, or pan-tossed in coconut milk and stirred through broths and light curries. Rice is almost always the centre of the meal, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Balinese person who doesn’t fire up their plate with some form of sambal (spicy chilli sauce) or fresh chillis.
Starting with suggestions of traditional dishes that are a must-try that I personally love, followed by top places to eat and then places to drink- as there are some fabulous spots to enjoy a cocktail or two as well.
One of the most popular Indonesian dishes- Nasi goreng, literally meaning “fried rice” in Indonesian and Malay, is simply a meal including stir fried rice. But it’s so much more than a typical rice dish- the flavours are so bold and tasty. I particularly love mine with freshly chopped chillis added. Usually, you can choose it to be stir fried with seafood, chicken or just vegetables. A typical Indonesia meal comes with all sorts of extra accompaniments, as below- prawn crackers and a side of vegetables are very common.
Sate or “satay” are marinated, skewered and grilled meat and served with a spicy or peanut sauce. Bali’s own speciality is sate lilit, made from minced beef, chicken, fish, or pork which is mixed with coconut, coconut milk and a strong blend of vegetables and spices.
Babi guling is a local favourite- a spit-roast pig stuffed with rich traditional spices and vegetable mixes and slowly rolled over a coal fire. Once a communal treat served only during special celebrations and ceremonies, it can now be found widely served at many local warungs specialising in this dish. Served on top of rice, the meat is juicy and tender and the crispy brown skins are prized.
Pepes and Tum
Pepes is an Indonesian Sundanese cooking method using banana leaves as food wrappings. The small package is sewed with thin bamboo sticks at both ends, and either steam-cooked, boiled or grilled. It is most commonly used to prepare fish, chicken, tofu and vegetables. Tum takes on a different form, with the wrapping folded and stitched at one top end, and usually steam-cooked. The banana-leaf wrapping provides a special flavour which is incredibly aromatic and tasty.
Below to the right is a grilled Pepes of fish from a Balinese cooking class I did.
Technically in Legian- the area between Seminyak and Kuta, Warung Padmasari is still very close to Seminyak, being only two kilometres away. Friendly and fast service together with all local and traditional Balinese food is the emphasis of this little warung and the prices are unbeatable. There are some great selections on the menu including traditionally fried and grilled chicken with sambal varieties to go with them, as well as spring rolls, samosas and curries.
My partner and I ate here three times in a week, it was that good- and the average price for a two-course meal and two beers and water each was literally around $12 AUD all up… we gave them a very good tip!
Another excellent warung we loved was Made’s Warung which is located in both Seminyak and Kuta (although in my opinion, the Seminyak location is much bigger and better).
We also ate here three or four times over the two trips we’ve done so far and I’ll certainly be going back for the next trip!
It’s one of the most established warungs on the island and is frequented by the prime minister as well as a global range of clients. The kitchen is enormous and when you see the menu you’ll see why- it covers every single taste from traditional Indonesian to Thai, Malaysian and Western and they have dedicated chefs for each.
We only went during the day for lunches, but in the evenings they have free shows of Indonesian dance for you to enjoy.
In particular, I recommend trying babi guling here, the red and green Thai curries are the best I’ve had outside of Thailand and a freshly squeezed watermelon juice always goes down a treat on a typical sweltering hot day.
|Thai red curry|
Again in Legian, but still near Seminyak, Kopi Pot “coffee pot” is one worth dining at.
Set in lush Balinese gardens, it offers a retreat from the bustling Legian main road.
On the menu you can find a selection of tasty dishes from around the country together with international selections if you prefer. Besides having delicious food for a good price, it’s also a great place to sip some Balinese coffee or an ice cold Bintang.
In particular, I highly recommend the deep-fried spring rolls, the sate lilit (charcoal lemongrass fish skewers) and the tongseng kambing (spicy lamb stew originating from Java). Prepare for flavour explosions in your mouth!
For a special occasion or those wanting a more upscale dining experience, there are plenty of highly impressive restaurants, especially found around the Seminyak area.
The following listed below I especially enjoyed the experience of each. The menus offer traditional Indonesian dishes in a fine-dining context as well as fusions of other Asian cuisines.
There is a dress code and you have to usually book in advance by at least a couple of days. Each place has a fantastic atmosphere and stunning surroundings, so it is of course, a lot more expensive than you would find at a local warung (but still cheaper than you would find in the likes of Australia and New Zealand). However, for the great service, cleanliness, top quality food and experience, it’s worth it and it’s always nice to treat yourself if you’re away on holiday and to have at least one fancy meal out in my opinion.
If you’re after that the following are all fantastic options:
Ku De Ta
(Also a great cocktail, sunset and nightlife venue).
(One of the top rated restaurants on the whole island).
(Amazing food and service with an incredible ambient setting).
(You have got to try the ginger espresso martini- it’s to die for).
|Delicious feast at Sarong|
Top places to drink
One of the most popular spots to catch the sunset with a cool cocktail- the Potato Head Beach Club has fast gained popularity as one of the most happening venues in Seminyak. The signature main venue resembles a stadium, it’s home to three restaurants, two bars, an infinity pool and an enormous lawn perfect to view the infamous sunset overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Get in early to bag a lounger or beanbag by the pool or head to the second floor with plenty of table and chairs available. Sip on unique cocktails from a coconut husk or a giant shell and sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquil views.
The latest addition to the ‘most unique’ bars in Bali is Frankenstein’s Laboratory, where you can experience the Halloween atmosphere throughout the year- not only in the month of October. Zombies, vampires, monsters, mummies… and humans, all mingle together in this ghoulishly themed spot for fun. It’s decorated like a freaky lab and has nightly entertainment by the Dancing Dead Cabaret which is always amusing.
It’s a whole lot of fun where you can enjoy ‘eyeball’ martinis, cocktails that come in IV bags, and shots in the form of injections.
Motel Mexicola is a colourful and quirky Mexican bar and restaurant which hosts regular house parties with live Latin music that will transport you ‘south of the border’.
There’s a laid-back upstairs area where you can take a cosy seat, sit back, and enjoy the view over the courtyard below. If you’re craving a margarita, a lively atmosphere and even a taco or two before (or after) some tequila shots- this place is for you.
This place is especially cool as the venue’s interiors and overall design is like a Gothic cathedral, but with glittery mosaic-like wall decor. Mirror Bali Lounge and Club is a hip place to party on Seminyak’s main Petitenget route. The stained glass windows and towering ceilings along with the laser lighting all add to a fun party vibe to dance the late evenings away to industrial, deep bass, house and hip-hop music.
Recommended for party-goers and night owls.
There we have my top places to eat and drink near Seminyak in Bali, and particular foods to try while you’re there. I hope you found this post helpful and do let me know in the comments if you have any top places of your own to add- I’d love to read them!
Writing this has got me so excited for my next trip to Bali, which I have no doubt will be filled with more new excellent places and delicious dishes to try.
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