A fresh crop of design-driven cafés, restaurants, and boutique hotels is giving culture-seekers soft places to land when visiting the Indonesian capital, and—out of the norm for this sprawling southeast Asian metropolis—not one is located inside a shopping mall
By Rachel Will
Tucked among the modest homes and restaurants in the quiet suburban neighborhood of Gandaria, Jakarta’s first third-wave coffee shop, 1/15 Coffee (1/63 Jl. Gandaria; 62-21/722-5678), brews each cup with the ideal coffee-to-water ratio from which it derives its name. The spare, open-plan café is outfitted with communal wooden tables and cozy couches where, on weekends, kids are spoon-fed chunky pineapple cake and couples snap shots of their expertly poured lattes. Single-origin roasts hail from islands across the archipelago including Java, Sumatra, and Bali, and the shop’s taste for high-quality beans helps support small-scale sustainable growing methods among farmers.
Across town in the old-money enclave of Menteng, a Dutch telecommunications office dating back to 1923 has been transformed into The Hermitage (1 Jl. Cilacap; 62-21/3192-6888; doubles from US$240). The hotel’s 90 colonial-style rooms and suites feature touches such as handmade batik wall art, while the foyer sports an antique vase plucked from a keraton (sultan’s palace) in Cirebon. The dining room here, L’Avenue, is worth the trip alone for chef Guillermo Varela Mata’s haute French-Indonesian fare, which is matched with an exceptional wine list. The massive maps in the gift shop and check-in area give hints for continuing a historic jaunt through the city.
Nearby, the smaller, art-centric Kosenda Hotel (127 Jl. KH Wahid Hasyim; 62-21/3193-6868; doubles from US$96) has become a focal point of Jakarta’s contemporary design scene. Owner and creative mastermind Ruben Kosenda collaborated with local architecture firm Studio TonTon to create the facade’s eye-catching diamond-shaped recesses (inspired by ketupat, or woven palm-leaf rice wrappers) as well as with urban artist Sanchia T. Hamidjaja on her tongue-in-cheek Jakarta wall mural in Waha Kitchen, a Peranakan restaurant where the fish-head curry couldn’t be fresher. The hotel’s rooftop lounge, Awan, is another plus, with a canopied bar and plant boxes filled with tropical foliage.
Six or so kilometers to the southwest, behind the gleaming towers of the Sudirman financial district, a flurry of new venues has brought more buzz to the residential Senopati area. Leading the pack is Three Buns (90 Jl. Senopati Raya; 62-21/2930-7780), a burger joint from hip restaurant group Potato Head with an urban park–style setting. Lured away from London’s cultish Patty & Bun restaurant, chef Adam Penney serves six designer hamburgers including the Burning Man (with jalapeño relish and dashi mayo) and the Rambo, a lamb burger accessorized with feta, green chili, eggplant pickle, and cumin aioli. Behind the bar, mixologists bottle cocktails crafted from house-made sodas and locally sourced herbs and fruits. Unwrap your burger amid wooden stadium seating to a soundtrack of hip-hop greats from Jay-Z to Juvenile.
For three years, Turkuaz (32 Jl. Gunawarman; 62-21/7279-5846) has been serving the most authentic Turkish food in the city, and the recent addition of a baklava counter has made it a dessert destination as well. Tufan Göztepe, a young baklava master fresh in from southern Turkey’s Hatay province, creates his 24-layer filo confections in pistachio, walnut, almond, and chocolate-hazelnut variations, which are best accompanied by flourless pistachio cookies and strong cups of Turkish coffee.
Next door and four floors up, Fitzroy (30 Jl. Gunawarman; 62-82/1111-12410) was conceived by a pair of Melbourne university grads as a tribute to their school days. The star of the menu is gyutan don (ox-tongue rice bowl), inspired by a popular dish at Melbourne’s Menya Ramen noodle shop; other comfort foods run the gamut from bratwurst and fish and chips to dessert pizzas. Plastered in Melbourne memorabilia and psychedelic wall murals, the bohemian-style bar pours strong drinks like the ABC (a shot of absinthe, Bacardi, and citrus) and the Ginger Boy, made with triple sec and brandy.
Back in Central Jakarta, high-altitude hot spot Cloud (The Plaza, Jl. M.H. Thamrin; 62-21/2992-2448) confers expansive views from its 49th-floor perch, with outdoor banquettes overlooking the pulsing traffic of the city’s iconic Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Chef Victor Taborda’s Spanish-inspired tapas (broken fried eggs with Spanish sausage; sugar-dusted mini churros) provide sustenance between sips; ask for the off-menu wasabi martini—it’s the perfect complement to the dizzying vistas.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Jak Of All Trades”).