Think you know Bali? Of course, there’s the face we know well: downtown Kuta with its hordes of bargain-hunting, hair-braided, Bintang singlet-wearing, pina colada-sipping tourists.
Then there’s its Zenside, made famous by the international best selling novel and subsequent blockbuster, Eat Pray Love: the densely jungled mountain area of Ubud is paradise for soul searchers, lovers and those just desperate for a little solitude.
But what about the trendy traveller?
What’s there for fine food-loving party people who choose quality over quantity? If you don’t mind paying for it (and sacrificing some of Bali’s gritty authenticity in the process) you’ll find plenty along the chic streets of Seminyak, just north of Legian and south of Bali’s up and coming playground for the rich and famous, Chenggu.
Once a small seaside rice-producing community, just far enough away from the frenetic energy of Kuta, Seminyak still offers a slightly slower pace of life. Its brand of sophistication is less ritz and more laid-back beach club. In fact, its beach clubs are among its best attractions. Potato Head, Ku De Ta, Mozaic – with exclusive beach access, a multitude of onsite restaurants, seriously good food and rotating rosters of international DJs – are places to see and be seen.
Savvy travellers are also being catered to by a throng of fashionable five-star resorts and restaurants, owned in the main by international restaurateurs familiar with the needs of demanding patrons. Metis, Starfish Bloo at the W Hotel and Sea Circus (among countless others) don’t just look good; they also dish out near faultless food and offer perfect, typically smiley Balinese hospitality.
And it’s not just pretty hip things that are well catered for here. Seminyak is also an ideal family getaway. Hidden off piggledy laneways and behind compound walls are lush villa oases. Safely guarded day and night, they’re often fully self-contained, multi-roomed and come complete with private pools and an army of staff to cook, clean, straighten out the cabana or simply take a coffee (or cocktail) order when needed.
The roads around here are still dusty and filled with a continuous conga line of honking cabs and spluttering motorbikes, but take a side step off the grimy streets and you’ll stroll into any number of fabulous Seminyak finds.
Overlooking eerily beautiful rice fields, Metis is simply a must. Its French Mediterranean cuisine is masterfully executed and delivered with some of Bali’s most refined service. Try ordering the steamed black cod with linguini pasta, bonito flakes, lobster bisque, tomato jam and layu oil; the trio of fish “a’ la plancha”, or anything from the dedicated fois gras menu.
Be it in the bar, the informal indoor dining room or in the balmy outdoor pavilion, when you dine at Sarong you’re joining the Seminyak in-crowd. The five-star restaurant offers original Asian street food in anything but street style. From the tuna tartar salad to the mindboggling choice of fragrant curries and dishes from the tandoori (you can’t go wrong with the traditional tandoori chicken leg), you’re sure to be impressed.
This place is plain fun. Its colourful surf-shack décor and moreish Mexican-slash-western nosh makes it a buzzing little spot morning, day and night. Suffering from a hangover? This is the spot to recover – the coffee is refreshingly good and breakfast comes with a side of Panadol and Berocca - seriously! Free wifi and popular tunes add to its edginess. Find it between Ku De Ta and Potato Head.
Set overlooking the beach, Starfish Bloo is the W Hotel’s signature restaurant. Lounge indoors in plush six-metre high booths, or sink your toes into the sand in the al fresco area while chowing down on innovative east-meets-west cuisine. Highlights include the signature beef carpaccio, crispy oysters with shaved scallions and duck breast smoked with green tea and rice.
Also worth checking out: Hu’u Bar, Cocoon, La Luciola, Grocer & Grind and Mama San.
Through the heart of Seminyak runs Jalan Laksmana (also known as Jalan Oberoi) the area’s premier shopping strip. Long enough to keep you busy for hours, but short enough to be able to walk from one end to the other, it’s home to interesting art galleries and boutiques selling fashion, leather and homewares (buyers note: prices aren’t dissimilar to those at home). Nestled between the stores are champagne bars, cafes and restaurants, all great places to refuel during your day of retail therapy.
In a sea of relatively expensive shopping, Seminyak Square offers a taste of Bali’s famous bargain culture. Every weekend locals move in and set up market stalls selling everything from cute hand-made children’s clothing and casual beach cover ups to batik sarongs, souvenir t-shirts and leather goods. During the week there’s also plenty to find – a decent bookstore, gourmet market, surf store, fashion boutiques, hairdressers and middle of the road restaurants.
The W Hotel
So sizzling it made Conde Nast Travelers Hot List for 2012, the W Retreat & Spa Seminyak is a Mecca of style and prides itself on offering outside the square experiences. This neon-lit, ultra-hip Ibiza-style property is home to achingly trendy bars, a highly acclaimed beachside restaurant (see above) and a range of immaculately dressed rooms, pool villas and retreats. This is one for both the young and young at heart.
If you’re looking for peace rather than parties you’ll find it at The Legian Bali. Recently receiving a total overhaul, this Zen-like property has long been a luxury lover’s favourite. Set on the beachfront, its 68 suites all face the sea, as does the spa, and its restaurant serves authentic Asian cuisine.
Villa Suar One
Travelling families will find nowhere better than this private paradise. Set in the thick of it, just off the main retail drag and within arm’s reach of popular café Grocer and Grind, Villa Suar is a five-bedroom, five-bathroom oasis set on 1,200 square metres. There’s a guest kitchen, separate galley kitchen where the in-house chef cooks up a storm, air-conditioned media room, open plan living and dining area and free wifi.
The best bit for families, however, is the 12-metre pool. Completely contained by a permanent Australian standard glass pool fence (the only one we can find in Seminyak), it’s surrounded by manicured lawns, tropical gardens and an inviting poolside cabana.
Oh, and if that’s not enough, there’s always a butler or two on hand to fulfil your every fancy.
Amadea Resort & Villas
If you want to stay in the thick of things, this is the place. Set back off fashionable Jalan Laksmana – Seminyak's high street – it offers a peaceful oasis, despite its bustling location. Better still, in this part of town Amadea is a refreshingly affordable option offering 86 rooms, seven suites (including a unique rooftop suite with private garden), seven two-bedroom pool villas and one fully equipped, luxurious four-bedroom villa with its own pool and garden. With an onsite spa, restaurant and two swimming pools, this place is both stylish and truly great value for money.
Mozaic Beach Club
Great food, fine wine, seamless service and a great location – this place has it all. At Mozaic Beach Club spend the day poolside, snack on tapas (manchego cheese cromesquis, mini wagyu burgers and Iberian chorizo) on the terrace, or head upstairs for an elegant dinner with unbeatable ocean views. The six-course degustation is hard to beat.
Ku De Ta
Iconic Ku De Ta is one of the original, and still among the best, fine dining restaurants and adult-only playgrounds in Seminyak. Although 10 years old, its design remains cutting edge and the venue continues to draw big name international performers. The oceanfront terrace is still the place for evening cocktails.
It sounds insane and even looks a little crazy from the outside, but inside Potato Head is anything but. Opened in 2010, this modern-day Coliseum is home to a multicultural blend of restaurants, a trendy lounge bar with one of Bali’s best cocktail lists, a rotating line-up of incredible international musical acts, a sweeping infinity edge pool and the hottest poolside lounges this side of Ibiza. While the Asian restaurant, Lilin, is hard to beat, even the fries seem tastier here.
At the W hotel’s Woobar you can literally go from pool to cool. Set overlooking the ocean and the resort pool, Skydeck is a stylish spot to suck on a cocktail or a refreshing beer while watching the sun dip behind Seminyak Beach. It regularly features hot international DJs making it one of Bali’s most popular nightlife destinations.
WATCH THIS SPACE…
Luxury lovers, hold on to your hats. Set to break ground in coming months is The Stairs, Indonesia’s first fully designed Philippe Stark boutique hotel.
Located in Seminyak’s Petitenget neighbourhood, the property will feature a village of 12 limited edition villas with signature floor to roof glass facades by internationally renowned artists JonOne; and public areas with a café patisserie, restaurant, bar lounge, boutique, mezzanine bibliotheque, signature spa and workout facilities.
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