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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 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 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 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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