Bali's food scene has become a magnet for international visitors, with serious chefs converging from all over the world to open restaurants with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, quality cooking, dedicated service – and fun. Here are five of the latest and greatest on the Island of Gods.
1. The healthy way: Sprout Bali
Bali is ridiculously ahead of the game when is comes to healthy eating, and Canggu resort, on Bali's south coast, is where it's at, with more superfood menus than you can poke a poke bowl at, and smoothie bowls and salad bars on every corner. Sprout Bali serves up the tastiest salads in a garden setting – you'll also have a perfect cold-drip coffee and delicious breakfast omelettes and smoothies, from a menu bristling with ingredients such as activated almonds, charcoal, buckwheat, kimchi and jamu, a traditional Indonesian herbal tonic. And you can take most of it home with you from their pantry – yes, even activated charcoal toothpaste. There is also a kids' drop-off centre attached so you can have your elixir in peace.
Open daily 7am-6pm, sproutbali.com
2. Food with a conscience: Fishbone Local
An April arrival on the ever-expanding Canggu food scene is this light and airy seafood bar and restaurant with an eye on healthy, sustainable eating. Everything is caught locally – the menu changes daily based on that morning's catch – and cocktails are low in sugar (though big on taste – our margarita features homemade cucumber ice) and come sans straws. But it's not twee or lecture-y, just a restaurant trying to make a difference from the ground up. Nathan Sasi (ex-Mercado and Nomad) is chef, Benjamin Cross of Ku De Ta is owner, and charming Bella Rowell (ex-Icebergs) runs things on the ground, ensuring a super-relaxed, fun long lunch or night out. Think swordfish tikka skewers, tuna poke and succulent fish and chips, all served until late to a designer crowd, mostly expats and Sydney foodies when we visited.
Open daily noon to late, fishbonelocal.com
3. Farm-to-table dining at scale: Parachute
Channelling Grounds of Alexandria or Three Blue Ducks at The Farm vibes, this ambitious newbie features an all-day market, bakery, bar, vegetable garden, deli and restaurant. Recently opened by the husband-and-wife team of chef Jacob Burrell (ex-Michelin three-star Manresa, California) and Fiona Bond (a former corporate sustainability director), the centrepiece is a ginormous tent-like Australian army parachute, under which we dine on seasonal bites and bigger dishes such as roasted cauliflower with barbecued dates and sumac, wood-fired mackerel steak with local red rice miso, and slow-cooked lamb with curry and coconut. The open fire grill gets a good workout, as do the busy couple – the restaurant is open morning until night.
Open daily 6am to midnight, parachutebali.com
4. Sydney takeover: Da Maria
Maurice Terzini may no longer be involved (he split with partner Adrian Reed of Bondi's The Bucket List and Bali's Motel Mexicola over creative differences) but this remains the best place in Bali for really tasty Italian food for all ages. Kids are escorted into the chef's kitchen to make (and eat) their own pizzas, while the adults can indulge in delicious cocktails with their funky tunes. And the food? Floating parcels of pumpkin and lemon ricotta, a rich ragu pappardelle, and balanced salads such as beetroot and parmesan come under the watchful eye of noted British chef Steve Skelly (ex Pier, Sydney). There are also takeaway limoncello and negroni mixers to keep the party going.
Open daily noon to late, damariabali.com.
5. A cooking course with a difference: Canggu Cooking Retreat
A still and stylish sanctuary off the busy streets, Som Chai is a must-visit for delicious Thai street food under the guiding hand of former Longrain Sydney head chef Will Meyrick. He has a string of other restaurants to his name but it is his Canggu Cooking Retreat we are most excited about. Guests are picked up for a guided and peaceful cycle through rice paddies and villages, a tour of the food markets for ingredients as well as breakfast, before embarking on a hands-on cooking class with Meyrick or one of his chefs – and you can even select the dishes you want to learn! It's a bucket-list experience limited to 10 people, from $100 each.
Still in Canggu, vegans should head to Pelaton Supershop for their nasi campur (a mixed rice dish), while The Shady Shack is the business for quality vegetarian food. In nearby Kerobokan, the new Pokeh Bali is more than honouring Bali's poke bowl craze. Of course, if all of this healthy eating gets on your nerves, spend your calories wisely at Creamery, where you'll find "whimsical" ice-cream creations – think freakshakes, ice-cream sandwiches and chunky cups of frozen goodness. It's opposite the (really fun) Waterbom Park: perfect for a post waterslide chill.
Where to stay
If staying in a villa rather than a hotel is your thing, Good Living Asia has 360 properties all over the island, ranging from boutique hideaways through to luxury villas with full time staff attached. The Bali-based team will also recommend activities for you. We stayed in a villa five minutes from the beach, with a driver, chef, parents retreat and super-size pool. Destinations include Canggu, Seminyak, Uluwatu and Ubud; prices start at $200 a night.
To keep the feelgood theme alive, Karma Kandara is a luxe beach club resort with a healthy swagger. Think seaside spa with restorative treatments you'll be dreaming about for months, as well as around-the-clock meals, nightly entertainment for kids and adults, great walks and free yoga and other wellness classes daily.
Kate Cox was a guest of Good Living Asia and Karma Kandara.