Where to eat and drink in Seminyak and beyond in Bali

The cocktail bar at Kaum.
The cocktail bar at Kaum. Photo: Jenny Noyes

Australian restaurateurs have certainly found a receptive host along Seminyak's bustling tourism centre, dividing and multiplying like viral cells in recent years.

The team behind Bondi's Icebergs and Da Orazio began their Bali venture with Motel Mexicola, a neon temple to tacos and tequila. Their newest venue Da Maria opened last year; a slice of the Amalfi Coast via Bondi, within its whitewashed walls they're serving perfect Neapolitan pizza alongside a full Italian menu that's light and bright enough to wash down well in the tropics. The party crowd is serviced with disco and pizza into the small hours.

Double Bay restaurant Mrs Sippy has opened in Bali.
Double Bay restaurant Mrs Sippy has opened in Bali. Photo: Supplied

Former Longrain chef Will Meyrick has added one more to his cluster of Seminyak establishments, with Tiger Palm joining Sarong and Mama San as the latest, more Thai-influenced variation on his theme of offering top-notch pan-Asian fare.

Melbourne native Adam McAsey has also carved out a significant chunk of the Seminyak Monopoly board, having opened four adjacent venues along the main drag. The first, Sisterfields, is a cafe that does an all-day brunch that would be the envy of Bondi. Next door are BO$$ MAN burger joint, and EXPAT. Roasters for coffee addicts.

His latest offering, Bikini, is where fine dining meets fun – and which, having just opened, was also the name on everyone's lips when I arrived at Seminyak in March. (Think cocktails accompanied with "cigars" of foie gras and quince encased in crisp pastry, served alongside a "butter ash" tray for dipping.)

Motel Mexicola is a neon temple to tacos and tequila.
Motel Mexicola is a neon temple to tacos and tequila. Photo: Supplied

But while it wouldn't be entirely incorrect to suggest Australians are colonising the Bali food scene just as they're moving in droves into Seminyak's cruisier neighbour Canggu, that's certainly not the whole story.

While the likes of Sarong, Mama San and their various sister restaurants have firmly established themselves atop on the lengthening list of Bali's must-eats, one other name is ubiquitous to the Seminyak food and fun scene – and that's Potato Head. The Indonesian hospitality group behind the famous beach club is going hard with its vision of promoting and elevating all things local and good, both within its prestigious Petitenget precinct and beyond.

This time last year, they opened Katamama, the group's boutique hotel neighbouring Potato Head – an imposing, angular piece of modern Indonesian architecture built from more than 1.5 million local handmade terracotta bricks.

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It's home to the first MoVida restaurant to open outside Australia, but don't let that (or its fabulous tapas menu) take away from the fact that every inch of the hotel, tastefully decked out in luxe mid-century style, is a celebration of local craftsmanship, including the lobby cocktail bar Akademi which specialises in infused local araks, and where your margarita will come in a ceramic vessel with a sweet, salty mangosteen skin rim.

Inside the shutter-clad, beach-facing horseshoe that is neighbouring Potato Head, they've replaced the upstairs French bistro with Kaum, an Indonesian restaurant that is thoroughly modern in style and fitout, while at the same time obsessively committed to authentically reproducing the cuisine of the archipelago's innumerable tribes.

Like the gohu ikan tuna, reminiscent of Hawaiian poke, a traditional lunch enjoyed by fishermen from eastern Indonesia's Maluku islands. Cubes of fresh raw tuna are marinated in delicate virgin coconut oil and tossed with lime, pomelo, sour belimbi (a tangy local relative of starfruit) and toasted kenari nuts.

Fine dining meets fun at Bikini.
Fine dining meets fun at Bikini. Photo: Supplied

It makes for a fragrant yet soothing side dish to help with the burn of Kaum's curries and sambals – which, as brand director Lisa Virgiano makes a point of telling me, they do not compromise for the sake of fragile western tastebuds.

The kalio daging sapi, which most westerners will recognise as a beef rendang, is served with a spoon, which carves effortlessly through the large chunks of caramelised meat.

But the stars of the show for me were two fish dishes: a char-grilled barramundi fillet served with a fruity, bright sambal and sea salt for sprinkling (originating from Sulawesi); and a Javanese dish of trevally smoked in coconut husk before being braised in a mild curry. Both cooked to melting tenderness, neither like anything you'd find in your average Indonesian restaurant.

Maurice Terzini's Da Maria.
Maurice Terzini's Da Maria. Photo: Supplied

Although the food scene in Seminyak covers just about all the bases, there are a few places worthy of a day trip. You'll want to book well ahead for a table at Ubud's Locavore, which does contemporary fine dining, focused and inspired by local ingredients and environment, with a cocktail-matched degustation menu.

Or you could do a full 180 with a day at Sunday's Beach Club (formerly Finn's) in idyllic Uluwatu. It features a menu by Aussie hatted chef James Viles (Biota Dining) – go for one of the top-notch burgers, or a Hawaiian poke salad if you prefer to swim without sinking.

The writer travelled to Bali as a guest of Kaum. All other meals except for Da Maria were at the writer's own expense.