In Bali’s hippest locale, the dining and creative scene continues to blossom.
A large expat population and an influx of remote workers from Jakarta helped Canggu weather the pandemic better than most of Bali, fueling a restaurant boom as Indonesia’s borders reopened. Now, travelers returning to this hot spot on the island’s southwest coast will find an exciting new crop of top-notch eateries, bars, and galleries to visit.
Front-row views of the surf beckon at Skool Kitchen, a months-old upstairs venue at The Lawn beach club that offers an elevated barbecue experience in more ways than one. Restaurateurs Tai Buddha and Adam McAsey recruited talented chef Vallian Gunawan, whose résumé includes stints at Michelin-starred Singapore restaurants Saint Pierre and Odette, to create the menu. The result? Knockout dishes such as charred octopus in a tangy tomato-and-shallot sauce, wood-fired bone marrow, and perfectly grilled oysters from the eastern Indonesian island of Flores. The best seats in the house are those at the kitchen-side counter, where you can watch Gunawan and his team sizzling wagyu steaks and cooking equally tasty sides like pecorino-laced potatoes au gratin.
Just a few steps away, modern Japanese izakaya Yuki occupies a thatch-roofed bamboo pavilion with a tiled bar and hefty black tables where patrons can graze on fusion-y bites while looking out at Batu Bolong Beach: think ahi tuna tacos in nori seaweed shells, striploin wagyu skewers brushed in kombu butter, and tuna truffle maki rolls with shiso jelly and a hit of yuzu. In the mood for a drink? Try Off to Tokyo, a furikake-dressed cocktail that melds cucumber, seaweed, and wasabi on a base of sesame oil–washed gin.
Oenophiles cheered the arrival of Mosto earlier this year. Billed as Indonesia’s first natural wine bar, the 70-seat Italian bistro on the road to Berawa Beach stocks an impressive range of organic and biodynamic vinos from small producers all over the world. Choices here include Lazarus Pulp’s the Alter Ego, a Bali-bottled sparkling wine made from South Australian sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Across the street, Sababa serves up sharing plates of shakshuka, couscous, and Levantine meze in a peach-hued dining room.
Not far away, the hyper-local ethos of Ubud’s Locavore has been applied to the cocktail menu at intimate speakeasy Club Soda. Drinks here play with the likes of rambutan, moringa leaves, and andaliman pepper; the zingy fermented Nutmeg Fruit features tequila and made-in-house orange liqueur.
A former villa on the main strip in Batu Bolong was recently converted into Luma, where antipodean chefs Cameron Emirali of London’s 10 Greek Street and Kieran Moorland (known for mod-Indonesian venues Sangsaka and Merah Putih in Seminyak) take turns heading the kitchen. Expect an ever-changing menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. Arancini and decadent pizzetta are staples, and seafood options might include meaty tiger prawns with chickpeas and mojo verde or coral trout fillet, potatoes, and meltingly soft peperonata. Save room for dessert: the raspberry and kenari nut tart is a crowd-pleaser, and Flores honey sings in the panna cotta with nutmeg fruit crumble. While fine wines can be ordered by the glass, stronger tipples await upstairs at Segno, the moodily lit sophomore bar from mixologist Yutaka Nakashima. His Jakarta outpost, Koda, is regarded as one of the best speakeasies in the capital. Segno’s inventive cocktails make use of arak and other island libations: Surprise Me! fuses dark rum with brem rice wine and azuki beans for a sublime balance of depth and sweetness.
That kind of artistry in Canggu goes well beyond the culinary front. British designer Daniel Mitchell, ex-creative director of Potato Head, struck out on his own during the pandemic to establish the Space Available design studio. Garments of recycled cotton and a selection of furniture and home accessories made from upcycled plastic waste are on display at the two-story Museum of Space Available, which launched this June in a once-derelict building inland from Echo Beach. The current exhibition, “Radical Fungi,” charts Mitchell’s experiments with mycelium to create durable, biodegradable products. The zero-waste concept is evident on the facade, too: its bluish tint comes from 200,000 pulverized plastic bottle caps.
Also worth a visit is Sound Vision Library down the road. Founded by Korean- American abstract calligraphy artist Romon Kimin Yang and French ceramicist Magali Bénézet, the gallery and concept store showcases pieces by their respective studios, plus limited-edition wares from global creatives, reconfirming the allure of Canggu as a testing ground for new ideas.
This article originally appeared in the December 2022/February 2023 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“What’s New in Canggu”).