All roads lead to Murni’s Warung
All roads lead to Murni’s Warung, Mary, Martha, Murni’s Warung and Me
The Times, Lombok, August – September 2007
Mary is my wife, Martha is my mistress, Murni’s Warung is a famous restaurant and I am myself. It is a long story but we all found ourselves on the island of Bali in late 2006. A spur of the moment thing, as often the best – and the worst – of things in life are. Summer is a busy time in London for a jazz singer and I was dead beat, so I proposed to my wife that we take off to Bali in October. I remembered the wonderful mushroom pizzas in the late Sixties and Mary, an interior designer, remembered the fantastic art.
Little did I know that my mistress Martha would be there. Martha is a 25 year old blonde living in Greenwich Village, a beautifully talented poet. I was singing in Soho last year and noticed a book signing in Borders right close to the club. I went in between sets, lined up, told the young poet that I was a man in a hurry, a jazz man in a hurry, had to rush and could she write something poetic. Dear Bud, Harvey Wallbanger, 10.30 in the club tonight, Martha!
Hardly had we got over our jet-lag than Mary and I made a bee line for our favourite restaurant in the whole world: Murni’s Warung in Ubud. We both love good food and drink, but even more we love good food and drink in beautiful places, where the prices are reasonable. Murni’s Warung is one of the most beautiful places on Earth! You walk in, facing you are coconut trees, palm trees and betel nut vines. Suddenly a blue-winged kingfisher glimpses by and a second later his mate. It is no surprise that the Bali Bird Club meets there keeping beady eyes out for bird and butterfly life.
The beauty is not only natural. Murni is a well-known collector of fine arts from all over Asia. At the entrance are Balinese statues, all chosen for their fine carving and fabulous expressions. On the walls are antique shadow puppets: the tree of life, which starts and closes the Balinese shadow puppet play, and the expressive clowns, who explain the story to the audience. They are for sale and I have a fine collection of them. The restaurant is on four levels and all the rooms, and especially the Lounge Bar, are decorated with Asian textiles, tribal pieces and objets d’art. Murni is often at hand expounding on art and food in the same breath.
Mary and I went to our favourite part of the restaurant, which is on the lowest level, just above the river, which you can hear rushing by underneath. So romantic. The President of East Timor and his Australian wife were on the next table. Mary ordered the Balinese Smoked Duck, which comes with Balinese vegetables. President Gusmao leaned over and said, ‘Good choice. It’s really smoked. They don’t fry it here.’ I ordered Bali Guling, a spicy pork dish eaten at special festivals. When I’m in Bali, I can’t get enough of it, and it was especially great that evening. Jacobs Creek Chardonnay helped the food go down. President Gusmao’s wife told us it’s the most popular wine in the World.
Murni’s Warung is famous for desserts. I just love the cheesecake in a strawberry coulis – better than New York cheesecake, which is saying something – and Mary adored her Cashew Pie and ice-cream. We then went to the Lounge Bar to have a chat with Murni, who was preparing to go to San Francisco to exhibit some of her collection, and drink a couple of cocktails. They play rather good jazz in there too.
Nyoman, the bartender, discreetly handed me a note. ‘Dear Bud, Harvey Wallbanger,10.30 in the Lounge Bar tomorrow morning, Martha!’. It was the Readers and Writers Festival in Ubud and Martha was launching her latest book of poetry. Nyoman smiled and said, In Bali all roads lead to Murni’s Warung!
All roads lead to Murni’s Warung