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Asia Gili Islands Indonesia Lombok Travel Guide

Gili Islands Travel Guide

Dark blue waters fade into turquoise up to the white beaches of the Gilis of Lombok, Indonesia. Made up of Gili Trawangan (or just ‘Gili T’ for ease), Gili Meno and Gili Air, these islands are the perfect combination of the different styles of island life to be experienced in a short space of time. Or, as many do, for much longer than you intended (I have a fair few mates who rocked up for two days and never left).

With stunning sunsets, no cars and dive shops every five metres, the Gilis is not a destination to be missed. Gili T, the biggest of the three islands, leads the way with raucous nightlife (make sure you try a Vodka Joss – I take no responsibility for your heart rate afterwards, proceed with caution) and this combined with the great diving and lazy way of life means that this is the island I have spent most of my time on. If you’re looking for a quieter time or want to island hop between them all, Meno and Air are a mere 10 and 20 minutes or so by boat respectively.


Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Ubud


Kafe and The Garden Kafe alike are a part of the extremely successful and pretty famous Yoga Barn in Ubud. Offering a wide range of different yoga classes every day from early until late in this sleepy town, The Yoga Barn has many loyal customers and as a result their café outposts get pretty busy. Kafe is further toward the centre of Ubud on Jalan Hanoman, whilst The Garden Kafe overlooks The Yoga Barn studios within grounds of tall banana trees and even taller coconut palms in a mass of green. Set far back off the road, the latter is a peaceful place, away from the sound of scooters hooting.  The staff are friendly and attentive, and as you may have guessed by now, the food is seriously healthy. Mostly vegetarian with an extensive vegan and raw menu, Kafe caters excellently to the health conscious yogi crowd.

Whilst you couldn’t pay me to turn vegan, the few times I did grab food here during my time in Ubud left me impressed with the quality and freshness of ingredients, and I enjoyed knowing I was eating something truly healthy to go with my side of yoga class. And frankly it made me feel like I’d really earnt my evening Bintangs.

The wide range of different meals on the menu is impressive for a mostly vegetarian and vegan café, as well as inventive. There are a huge amount of breakfasts and mains to choose from, not to mention a large list of salads and raw desserts. The grilled veggie and feta salad I had at Garden Kafe one day was delicious and pretty sizeable at that. Kafe and the smaller outpost at The Yoga Barn do have slightly different menus, and the former is slightly more expensive. Kafe serves dinner in the evening whilst Garden Kafe closes at 6pm.

The juice menu is extensive and there’s no alcohol served, so forget it if you’re after a cold Bintang with your lunch. Kafe’s juices (18,000 – 30,000 IDR) are highly popular of course (because this is Ubud); each juice designed to help your body in some way by aiding digestion, energizing, detoxifying – I could go on.   My personal favourite was the Energy Drink: pineapple, apple, ginger and cucumber blended together, and I actually liked it so much I would go to Kafe simply for it, which I’d consider a pretty strong accolade from a staunchly non vegetarian patron. These two hangouts are the perfect healthy option to help you immerse yourself in all things Ubud.

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Asia Food From Travels Gili Islands Indonesia Lombok


The first time I ever went to Scallywags I had to take myself off to bed at 9.30pm after having eaten myself into such an uncomfortable state that I couldn’t do anything other than lie horizontal and rub my tummy. And I mean that in the best possible way: I couldn’t get enough of the food. Never tell a hungry backpacker that a buffet is All You Can Eat.

Along with my friends Hannah and Adam, I had spied Scallywags on Gili T due to its beautiful décor – all rustic wood features, blackboard menus and candle lit lanterns overlooking the sea. Heading back from beers over on the Sunset side one evening, we were further lured in by the piles of fresh fish and meat set up for the evening’s BBQ. We’re already picking what we want, but it’s out of our price range and we know it. I say ‘out of our price range’ – it’s literally around £6 for a meal with a beer, but when you’re backpacking your relativities change. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself though, so in we go, and I haven’t looked back since. Scallywags is one of my favourite restaurants in the world, and I always go back without fail when on the Gilis.

The quality of food here is excellent, and really, the value for money is great too, even if it’s not quite backpacker budget. The staff are friendly and efficient, the menu is large, the setting is idyllic and as a result, Scallywags is busy every night. Should you choose the BBQ, you simply choose your fare (the steak is excellent, as is the tuna – and they know how to cook to specification here – my tuna steak is always as rare as I like it) and grab a plate to pile high with the salad buffet that comes included in the price, plus a jacket potato or rice. Learn from my mistakes and mind not to over eat though – you don’t want to miss the fun Gili T is famous for later in the night.

The a la carte menu is just as delicious (I’m told the butterfish is off the charts), and the tapas dishes they offer are perfect for lunchtime. The menu ranges from salads and sandwiches to pies, lamb shanks, steak, local Indonesian specialities and of course – fresh fish dishes. Scallywags has an extensive range of international wines starting from 350,000 IDR for a bottle (or 80,000 – 95,000 IDR per glass), as well as being one of the only places on the island that serve pints of Guinness.

My last visit to Scallywags was for a boozy lunch on my birthday this year, where my friend and I shared a huge sharing platter (140,000 IDR) which included their excellent salt and pepper calamari and chorizo with aioli dip, as well as the seared tuna tataki and rocket salad with ginger, soy and wasabi dressing (85,000 IDR) and a side of creamy mash potato, because it was my birthday and mash potato is probably my favourite food in the world. Once again defeated on stomach space, I’ve never made it to dessert, but the blueberry ice cream (20,000 IDR per scoop) I used to get from the Scallywags outpost on Gili Air holds a special place in my heart.

Scallywags has long been my number one recommendation for dinner on Gili Trawangan, and even with serious competition cropping up all the time as the island develops, it’s still my favourite place for fresh seafood BBQ. Oh also, if you’ve got a bit of money to spend, you can even stay at Scallywags, both on Gili T and Gili Air. But don’t tell me if you do as I’ll be eternally jealous, okay?

Scallywags Resort, South Beach, Gili Trawangan, Nusa Tenggara Bar. 83352, Indonesia
+62 370 6145301

Also at: Scallywags Beach Club, Gili Air

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Ubud

Atman Kafe

Salivating. That’s the first thing that happens when my avocado and feta on ciabatta is placed in front of me. Two slices of thick ciabatta toasted perfectly and piled precariously high with chopped up ripe avocado and big chunks of crumbly feta. The kind of bruschetta that falls apart as soon as you prod it with your cutlery – messy, but excellent, because you have so much to cram into your mouth whilst carrying out a balancing act on your fork. A tomato sambal was served on the side, which added depth to the avocado and feta, though for me could have done with being a bit spicier. But then, I am a girl who will sprinkle a whole chilli on her smashed avocado for breakfast, so I’m perhaps not exactly what one would usually cater for.

The cafe has a distinctly chilled atmosphere – a hippy vibe, if you will – with plenty of backpackers and yogi expats using the free wifi and whiling away the day on rattan mats and cushions. The quality of ingredients used is clear, the standard high and the service friendly, if a little slow at times. But hey, this is Asia and you’re on Bali time.

Everything that comes out of this kitchen you wish you’d ordered. BLTs (53,000 IDR) made on freshly baked ciabatta bread from the bakery down the road. Plentiful gado gado accompanied with a big bowl of extra peanut sauce that saves you the embarrassment from having to ask for more. I suspect they got fed up of having to go back into the kitchen, hence why it is now standard. Chicken satay sprinkled with fresh chillies (45,000 IDR). Bite sized fish cakes with lime and tomato sambal. A vegan Balinese curry (57,000 IDR) that was so brilliantly balanced in flavour that I barely missed the meat, let alone realise it was (whispers)…vegan.

And THEN they do this thing were they offer you melted Belgian chocolate to be poured over what is commonly recognised as Ubud’s best gelato (shout out to the panna cotta flavour) and you say yes and then you’re fighting to fit as much of the thick chocolate with ice cream in your mouth at once and before you know it, it’s disappeared. So get at least two scoops.

Atman is a great option for a healthy breakfast, lunch or a quiet dinner and a firm favourite and frequent haunt of mine whenever I’m in Ubud, ideally situated across the street from my usual homestay. Highly recommend. And seriously – do get the chocolate smothered ice cream.

Jl. Hanoman no 38, Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia
+62 361 8620505

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Asia Food From Travels Gili Islands Indonesia Lombok

Kayu Cafe

Warning: food envy – high risk. This is the place to come on Gili Trawangan if you’re looking for a great salad to help counteract all the damage you’re doing with the day-long Bintangs that merge into one big haze of making friends whilst drinking in the sea, sundowners at sunset and a night of the debauchery that Gili T is famous for.

Breakfast runs all day at Kayu, which is perfect for edging off the effects of the night before with omelettes, eggs benedict, full English and pancakes alongside healthier options such as granola and oatmeal. They have drinks fully covered too, offering a vast array of coffees: hot, iced, blended, flavoured (the creme brûlée made with ice cream, caramel and vanilla was delicious); plenty of health juices made with fresh fruit; smoothies and herbal teas.

Salads are a speciality of Kayu’s, with a wide range on the menu. The halloumi and quinoa salad is excellent, made with fresh ingredients and decked out with fancy cucumber ribbons. The yoghurt mint dressing was perfectly complimentary and there was plenty of it. Its the perfect size for lunch and generous on the halloumi, which I think we can all agree is the most important thing when it comes to halloumi, or indeed cheese in general. They also do an excellent quinoa and feta salad with honey and mustard vinaigrette, amongst plenty of other options, as well as a good range of paninis and a few pasta dishes too, so there really is something for everyone here.

After you’ve made attempts to fix your body with a juice and a salad (if you haven’t opted for a strong coffee and Full English, that is), there’s a big glass cabinet full of amazing looking cakes to undo all the good work: three layer chocolate cake, brownies, banana cake, apple slices and if you are aiming to be more health conscious, raw energy balls. This is one of the only places on the island that take care to offer some of the healthier options usually found in Ubud, and the café even sells some products from some of Ubud’s more famous health cafés for the islanders.

The food at Kayu Cafe is high quality, and you do pay a little more for it, with food coming in between 55,000 – 70,000 IDR and healthy juices at 39,000 IDR. The good news is tax and service is included, unlike many places in Indonesia, so in effect you’re not paying much more than elsewhere anyway. Wifi is free and strong – when it works! (The island is well known for its regular power cuts.)Service is a little slow, but you’re on island time, and I can think of worse places to wait for my food that overlooking the waters of Gili T.

Kayu Cafe, Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia. To the left of the jetty in front of the night market as you look out to sea.
+62 (0) 878 6239308

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Seminyak


Oh this place is nice. Suddenly very aware that I look like a beach bum backpacker; with my Bali shorts tasselled with pompoms and my hair chlorined, unbrushed and pulled back into a low ponytail. Seminyak’s Petitenget has an air of France on a summer’s day about it, with comfortable wicker chairs, big glass doors, huge mirrors and a bar lined with Veuve. All this in dovetail grey and with a beautifully patterned tiled floor. Within minutes I was already trying to work out when I could fit in visiting Petitenget again, and that’s just based on the bruschetta and chicken club baguette with bacon and avocado I’ve seen being passed to the table of young hipster Australians across the way from me.

A few days of partying in the beach clubs of Seminyak and you start to crave some goodness, which Petitenget can certainly help with. The restaurant has an organic farm nearby from which 80% of the produce used in the kitchen is farmed. The focus is on sustainable methods and the quality of the fresh, local ingredients used are evident in the dishes served.  I ordered the pineapple, green apple and ginger juice (30,000 IDR)- which is deliciously refreshing – along with the pearl barley salad with marinated feta, chickpeas, tomatoes, roast pumpkin, green beans, chilli roasted cashews and a blossom honey vinaigrette (70,000 IDR). The salad was large and filling, beautifully presented and with a good kick of spice to it. I did expect and wished for more feta than was presented dolloped on top, and although the rest of the salad was delicious,  I missed that extra saltiness coming through. That said, it was certainly  one of the better salads I’ve eaten in all my months in Bali. Dessert was a dark chocolate, espresso and salted caramel tart (65,0000 IDR) topped with glossy pecans and served with a raspberry sorbet that cut through the rich and dense tart well.

The menu here is big, with a wide range of salads – choose from yellow fin tuna, Vietnamese duck, poached chicken, goats cheese, barbecued tiger prawns; risottos and pasta with wagyu meatballs; along with other mains such as fresh snapper, steak and a chicken and seafood laksa. Prices range from 80,000 – 110,000 IDR and whilst a treat if you’re backpacking through Bali, is a steal if you’re on holiday – especially for food of this quality.

Breakfast is just as good if not better than lunch when I return, though I am notoriously biased towards a decent brunch. Smoked salmon, asparagus and scrambled eggs fill a buttery croissant (67,000 IDR) and serve as the perfect filling breakfast to tide me over until I reach next destination hours later. The coffee is strong and the bite sized sample of granola with fruit and yoghurt assures me their healthier offering is strong.

There are a lot of people who seem to know each other here, and you can swiftly tell this is a favourite of Seminyak’s large expat community. An excellent option for breakfast, lunch or dinner and just a stone’s throw from some of the area’s best shopping. The perfect pit stop.

Jl. Petitenget Raya No. 40X, Seminyak, Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
+62 361 4733054

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Ubud

Melting Wok Warung

Simplicity is key at Melting Wok: two curries, one made with coconut cream, one made without; served with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, tempeh or tofu; plus rice or noodles. Not spicy, medium or spicy. Bar two specials that are offered every day, this is the menu. You wouldn’t usually expect somewhere with a menu this basic, to be that in demand, but making a reservation here is a must unless you’re willing to eat dinner at 5.30pm. Because the food at Melting Wok is anything but basic. My chicken coconut cream curry (spicy, always) served with rice was ridiculously good. Full of flavour and texture from the peanuts crumbled over the dish, I didn’t want it to end yet simultaneously couldn’t shovel it in my mouth quick enough. The portion is generous and costs 39,000 IDR, which is around £2. In short, I’m furious I didn’t go sooner, seeing as I was living in Ubud for a full month. Which is why I went again two days later, this time opting for the noodles. Again, I could not fault it. It’s some of the best food I’ve had in Indonesia, and it’s as cheap as you could hope for.

Owned and run by a friendly French woman, Melting Wok offers a dessert menu inspired by her native country, with creme caramel, chocolate fondue with fruit and crepes with ice cream, the latter of which could have been served to me in France itself, good as it was. The staff are friendly, explaining the menu well and service is quick. They will warn you if the table needs to be turned over, which it will, because Melting Wok is almost always fully booked, so be sure to make a reservation. Nothing is worse than food disappointment.

Jl Gootama no.13, Ubud, Indonesia
+62 (0) 361 9299716
Open Tue – Sun, 10am – 11pm.

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Seminyak

Lilin at Potato Head Beach Club

Bali has a few famous places readily recognised as ‘institutions’ and Potato Head Beach Club is one of them. Set back from the sands of Seminyak, overlooking the ocean and a prime spot from which to view the sunset, Potato Head comprises three beautifully designed restaurants surrounding an impressive infinity pool with swim up bar.

The choice of restaurants at Potato Head range from the chandelier decked out Tapping Shoes with French cuisine, the international Potato Head Bistro where I’m told there’s a particularly good smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel on the menu, and Lilin, the Asian arm of the beach club. Tables are long and communal, the restaurant covered but without walls, allowing patrons to enjoy an al fresco experience – which in Bali could just as easily be dining in the middle of a tropical rain storm as the baking sun.

At lunch Lilin is focused on sharing plates with classic Asian flavours and plenty of spice. We each chose two sharing dishes plus the chilli crab with steamed buns and were left impressed by all that we sampled, although not for the faint hearted if you’re someone who doesn’t really enjoy their food spicy. The food was bold and rich in flavour, particular favourites included spicy shredded chicken with fresh kafir lime leaves and baby aubergine with shallots and chilli. However the real star of the show was the chilli crab with steamed buns, which was a relative bargain for the equivalent of around £15.

Undoubtedly one of my favourite parts of dining at Lilin  is their sangria menu, which uses inventive and locally sourced ingredients. There are six different concoctions, from Lemongrass and Mango Sangria made with white wine and amaretto, to the ‘Zen’ – blush rose with melon liqueur and pomegranate. We sampled two or three and all were just as more-ish as they sounded on the menu, whilst the Prohibition Iced Tea my friend had was novel in its presentation in a teapot with dry ice and suitably potent for a drink reminiscent of the 1920s, complete with vodka injected oranges.

Even if you don’t fancy dining at Potato Head and instead simply go for the pool and the cocktails, you must go. As is the case with any beach club worth its salt, the drinks menu is not only a work of art (literally, it’s hand illustrated) but each cocktail reads like miniature poem. You will unfailingly see the espresso martinis being passed out of the bars en masse, and with good reason too – these are among the best espresso martinis I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a fair amount. Ok, a lot. I’ve had a lot. What’s more, each is served with a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

Lounge beds by the pool are available, though you may need to go on a waiting list for the privilege. There is a minimum spend requirement, and though I cannot recall how much, it’s not too hefty, all things considered. This sort of place in Ibiza or Marbella would set you back a lot more.

There are a few nights in which Potato Head hosts DJs and from evening until the early hours a big party ensues, and on the flip side there are nights that are distinctly chilled in comparison, so time it right and do your research beforehand if one or the other is favourable. Either way, Potato Head remains a definitive must do in Bali.

Jl. Petitenget No.51B, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 83061, Indonesia

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Seminyak

The Fat Turtle

Red Velvet Pancakes? That’s a thing. That is A Thing at Seminyak’s The Fat Turtle cafe on Jalan Petitenget. Red Velvet Pancakes with cream cheese mousse, chocolate soil, honeycomb, ice cream…if you’re a fan of a sweet brunch, this is a dream. If Red Velvet doesn’t swing it for you in the sweet stakes, there’s banana bread French toast with caramelised banana, ginger walnut crumble and vanilla ice cream.

For the savoury among us, The Fat Turtle offers the usual suspects of eggs with bacon, omelettes and Eggs Benedict with a twist of pulled pork, pickled green chilli and lime hollandaise. On top of this all-day breakfast there are a few sandwiches and lunch mains to balance the menu, along with an array of healthy cold pressed juices, milkshakes, teas and coffee. There’s even a Brekky Pasta which sounds much like a Carbonara with a poached egg on top – a great choice if it’s more lunchtime than breakfast when you stumble into Fat Turtle to aid the hangover from a day at Potato Head.

My first visit calls for Kaffir Lime Leaf Sweet Corn Fritters with crispy bacon, tomato relish, poached eggs and avocado hollandaise because a) bacon and b) avocado. The eggs are perfect and the bacon crispy, just the way I like it, though I’d probably prefer smashed avocado with it rather than the hollandaise.  With that in mind, the smashed avocado on toast with poached egg ordered with bacon as an extra becomes order of the day some weeks later, and it’s kind of great. I wish it was twice as big, but that’s purely down to greed and not because I leave the café hungry. The juices are fresh and the coffee is strong, as is the wifi. The owner is friendly, recognising me on my later visit. A solid option for a quiet breakfast when in Seminyak.

Jalan Petitenget No. 886A, Seminyak, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia
+62 813 3737 4766

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