Ubud, Bali • The Food Edit
After what has felt like a strangely long first week or so back in blighty, I’ve just about managed to reset my body clock and get over a series of jet-lag induced 4am wake ups. Despite travelling to Indonesia a few years ago, it seems that I had buried the memory of just how much travel time is required to reach such distant lands – but oh boy, is it worth it.
As 2017 began with a series of unexpected events (hello unemployment, single life and relying on friends and family to let me live rent free whilst I try and figure out what it is I’m doing), I can safely say that life has never felt so uncertain during my 26 years on this beautiful planet. However, the great thing about having every aspect of life as you know it removed from beneath your feet is that you suddenly have a lot of time. It’s funny because I seem to recall spending most of my business-owning career stint battling with my grasp of time as the weeks seemed to rapidly slip into a chaotic blend of making coffee and running around like a mad woman, just praying for a tiny slither of time to dedicate to other ventures, or perhaps more honestly to just sit down for a little while. I have to smile in retrospect, as I sit here knowing that I haven’t worked for about 2 months and all I crave is that manic excitement of being too busy.
Life lesson - you really should take a moment to truly enjoy your present situation.
Even so, I’m a strong believer that if you ever find yourself with a lot of time on your hands that you absolutely have to dedicate it to travel – you never know when this opportunity of time might open itself up to you again, so do whatever you can to make it happen. You’ve got to get out there and open up your eyes, heart and mind to something completely new at every given chance. So with this belief held solidly in my heart, I temporarily abandoned all job-hunting prospects and found myself embarking on some solo travel to Bali – a place that has been on my adventure hit list for some time now and ultimately exceeded any vision that I may have ever previously had.
After a couple of lengthy flights and some serious time-zone confusion, I ventured out of Denpasar airport and into the dark night skies of Bali to be welcomed with an incredibly warm sense of nostalgia for the thick air that kisses your skin and makes you feel at home, as the sweet waft of incense totally alights your spirit. I’ll say it again - it is so unbelievably detrimental to your well-being to place yourself in front of beauty at any given moment, because it opens up new parts of your soul that may otherwise remain untouched or potentially undiscovered. Now, I don’t know if it was caused by the jet lag (that seemed just as merciless travelling in both directions) or perhaps the series of unexpected events that I previously mentioned to welcome in my new year, but as I peered out of my window on that following morning and caught the first glimpse of sunlight casting over the green canopy that awaited me outside, I couldn’t help but cry.
The world is So. Darn. Beautiful. I can’t handle it sometimes.
Anyway, I’m procrastinating through words and day dreams from the intended task at hand, which is to give you guys some pointers about some of the BEST delights I got to devour during my time in Ubud. Pre-arrival, I had every intention to spend my three-week trip exploring other areas of Bali, but with so much mind-blowingly colourful food to taste and an infectious sense of unity and spirituality to immerse oneself in, I didn’t actually leave Ubud at all. My furthest retreat from the area was to a ‘secret’ white sand beach which ended with being chased half way up the beach by a poisonous snake.. But that really is a tale for another time.
One of my favourite things about travelling to well-trodden hot spots such as Bali is the eclectic blend of culinary treats that awaits you, which ranges from traditional local food to worldwide influenced firm favourites such as Mexican, Italian and an always present offering of pancakes (and it’s always important to sample as many of these as possible, right?)
Monkey Cave Espresso
As a self-confessed coffee fiend, I knew when I spotted the sparkling La Marzocco coffee machine perched on top of the counter that I was in for a treat. Choose between settling into one of the bar stools to chat to the friendly and super smiley baristas or hang out in the open-top upstairs area and make the most of the great wifi connection. A very generous portion of avocado on sourdough toast and an iced latte will set you back approximately £5, but will be enough to set you up for a whole day of exploring. With a convenient position on Monkey Forest Street, this is the ideal brunch spot to grab some shade before taking a wander around the monkey-inhabited forest.
Price range: A coffee will set you back approximately £2.50
Top pick: An iced latte certainly hits the spot to cool off from that humid air.
The Garden Kafe
During my first week in Ubud, I seemed to spend the majority of my time in or around The Yoga Barn (which certainly lives up to the hype) so that I could dip into as many classes as possible – especially during a particularly soggy stint of rain that lasted for a few days. The close proximity of The Garden Kafe to the yoga studios (basically one set of steps) meant that I got to sample a good amount of the surprisingly large, yet always efficient and fresh menu. I’m not even sure where to begin with my recommendations for this place – everything is good. The awareness of a plant-based diet that is no doubt influenced by the yogic lifestyle of the area is evident throughout Ubud, with colourfully inspiring vegan options finding their way onto most menus – and The Garden Kafe is certainly one of the leading establishments to find Instagram-worthy dishes that won’t disappoint. With pretty much every item (food + drinks) coming in at under £2.50, it is safe to say that The Garden Kafe caters for even the smaller end of budgeting - as well as being super flexible towards any allergy requirements. Hours could easily be whittled away whilst kicking back in this tree-top inspired café, sipping on pints (I kid you not) of stomach-warming hot ginger, lime and honey or thirst quenching coconuts, which will be split open upon request so you can snack on the extra goodness hidden inside. An all round great spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner with one of the tastiest nut milk coffees I found and a selection of smoothies to suit any craving. Be sure to check out the juice bar at the bottom of the stairs for an extra pick me up post-yoga class.
Price range: Most items below £2.50
Top pick(s): Super tropical bowl with added yogurt alongside a hot ginger, lime + honey to drink.
It’s easy to see why Mexican food is popping up in every corner of the world, and this place was no exception. Set a little further out of Ubud into the Penestanan area, you might need a taxi or scooter to reach this destination (unless you love a long walk, which can be a great way of getting a grasp on your navigation around Ubud). This is definitely the spot for a fancier, treat-yourself kind of dinner due to the seriously impressive décor and mood lighting, which is all topped off by a so-delicious-sounding-it’s-hard-to-choose-from menu. I initially stumbled into this place on my own, unaware of how great it was going to be (you can’t see the entirety of its glory until you walk down the small alleyway that sets it back from the main street) and ended up feeling like I was having a bit of a solo date with myself. The experience was so great however, I returned the following week with a group of nine ladies to enjoy an evening of live music, incredibly efficient service and some insanely tasty food. And the catch that makes this establishment particularly noteworthy? The menu is all-natural and plant based – everything is vegetarian and similarly to The Garden Kafe, very flexible in adapting to any food allergies or requirements.
Price range: Dinner with a beer + small dessert will set you back about £12-£15.
Top pick(s): The nachos – they have the ultimate solution to even toppings coverage. Also, the quesadillas are huge, super tasty and great value for money.
I can’t take full credit for this recommendation, as a dear friend of mine actually advised me to hunt this place out for the sole reason of their vegan milkshakes. Oh. My. Word. I went back no less than four times to sample each of the three choices on offer (and the fourth time because I couldn’t go home without having the vanilla shake one last time). This natural oasis of a restaurant offers a diverse range of cuisines from around the world, all of which is made even more delicious by the impressively modern, zen-inspired interior. Downstairs, you can even find a small stream, which homes some incredibly soothing and calm-inducing koi fish.
Price range: Slightly more expensive than other cafes in the area, but you can still expect to have a very filling lunch and unique drink for under £10.
Top pick(s): Each of the 3 vegan milkshakes. This is a must.
If you’re totally yoga-ed out and fancy winding down your day by treating yourself to a tongue tingling tipple, then you have to check this place out. The cocktails are short, strong and deliver a punch in flavour. With a similarly modern vibe to a lot of the newer restaurants in Ubud, the setting of Kismet is the perfect spot to sink into the calming vibe of night-time in Bali with it’s mega chilled out ambience and dimmed lighting. Do note however, that if your drink is described as having chilli or ginger as an ingredient, the talented bar staff certainly don’t hold back.
Price range: A cocktail will set you back about £6-£7, which is slightly more expensive than other cocktails around, but definitely worth the extra few pounds.
Top pick: The pirate punch – rum and ginger heaven.
The options for delicious food and drink in Ubud are endless, but a few other places that I would recommend checking out include Soma (the pumpkin spice pancakes are next level) and then also Alchemy or the Yellow Flower Café - both in the Penestanan area. Do also make a note to sample the local gado gado dish (steamed veggies with a peanut sauce), which you can find in most cafes and restaurants.