The Australian Financial Review

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Worlds on a plate
A fusion revolution is firing up Ubud’s fine dining scene

Ian Lloyd Neubauer

The Australian Financial Review, 17-21 April 2014

“An hour’s drive, but a million metaphorical miles away from the crowded beaches of southern Bali, the village of Ubud has long been cherished by travellers as a place to tune in and drop out, practise meditation or yoga, recharge with spa treatments or immerse oneself in velvet green jungle surrounds. In sync with the zeitgeist, Ubud’s culinary scene has focused around neighbourhood warungs – curry houses, satay grills and noodle shops run by charismatic village women.

“The warung is an extension of the home, where the cooking is done by mothers and grandmothers, where the food is practical and the recipes have been passed down through generations,” says Janet Deneefe, the Australian author of the definitive Indonesian cookbook Bali – The Food of My Island Home. Warungs are still as popular as ever and eating at one is an indispensable part of every visit to Ubud. But, in recent years, the village has seen an influx of gastronomes such as Deneffe, who have paired European culinary techniques with the flavours of Bali to create a fine-dining scene writ large. Here are venues that stand out…:

Murni’s Warung

Set in a jungle-clad gorge overlooking the Wa River, Murni’s Warung was Ubud’s first real restaurant. “When tourists first started coming to Ubud in the 60s, there was nowhere for them to sit down for a meal,” says Murni, who like many Indonesians goes by one name only. “The warungs closed after lunch. But I thought I could offer more. So I made friends with an American girl who gave me the recipe for apple pie, cheesecake and guacamole. At first, I didn’t even know what these were. We never had this food in Indonesia!”

The cakes at Murni’s are still as comforting as ever, though for a real taste of Ubud, order the bebek betutu – Balinese duck. Marinated overnight in Indonesian herbs and spices, and served with finely chopped vegetables, a pyramid of yellow rice and confit sauce, the meat literally melts in your mouth…”

The Australian Financial Review