Hello Bali, April 2005
Editor, Hello Bali, April 2005
“As you approach through the highly-carved Balinese doors, you know you are in a place dedicated to the finer things of life…”
One evening recently, I decided to meet up with my old friend, Renée, and dine in Ubud’s oldest restaurant; Murni’s Warung. It’s above the sacred Campuhan River, just beside the old Dutch suspension bridge, facing a spot-lit wall of tropical trees. There is a real Murni and old Asian hands know her well. I was hoping she would be there.
As you approach through the highly-carved Balinese doors, you know you are in a place dedicated to the finer things of life. We resisted the almost irresistible temptation to go into her shops, which are on either side of the doors and which house her treasures. Murni is a well-travelled collector, who brings back amazing things.
Walking past the famous cakes, and making a mental note for later, we made our way to the little-known, comfortable Lounge Bar for cocktails: a Mojitos for me (tall, minty, thirst-quenching) and a Melon Colada for Renee. This is a great place to unwind, listen to great music, perhaps meet an old friend passing through and take in some amazing art. I particularly admired the primitive stone statues from East Sumba.
We both like gardens, ponds and shrines, and the sound of running water, so, after the drinks, we made our way down to the bottom level, through the third floor, which is often used for banquets and which we’ve named The Elephant Room, because it has so many Ganeshas, the God much loved by the Balinese. I would really like to get the new bronze one, commissioned by Murni five years ago and which has just been finished. It’s almost 6 feet tall and a whopping 500 kilos. I’m saving up for the deposit.
We sat down and spotted a few famous people. I think they recognized me too!. The menu is extensive and has not only the Indonesian favourites, but also a very good selection of Western dishes. There are also a number of Thai-inspired dishes, which tend to be specials, and change daily.
I decided to go Indonesian, opting for the mini-lumpia (delicious, crisp spring rolls served with sweet and sour and peanut sauces); an excellent choice – light and tasty. Renee ordered a creamy pumpkin soup, which was nutty and full of flavour. Murni was in the restaurant, presiding lovingly over her creation. She came over, smiling, to our table and explained that the pumpkins were organically grown on her property, Murni’s Villas, in the foot-hills of Mount Batur.
For the main course, I ordered the Bebek Betutu, traditional Balinese smoked duck and Renee chose Western fare, the Chicken Dijon. This proved to be a tender, juicy chicken breast, sautéed in white wine and finished with a cream and Dijon mustard sauce, steamed green beans and honey-glazed carrots on the side. My duck was perfect – meat falling off the bone, not at all fatty like ducks in the West, steamed saffron rice, vegetable lawar and a tasty duck consommé.
I’ve forgotten to mention the small but perfectly sufficient wine list. I chose an Australian Chardonnay, which was very reasonably priced and perfect with the duck. Renee wanted to try a local tipple and went for the Brem Merah, home-made Balinese rice wine, served with a squeeze of lime. The brem was hailed as “delicious!”
A quick look at the menu confirmed that deserts were a must. Murni has always been well-known for her baked on the premises cakes and pies, but I couldn’t get past the cheese cake with fresh strawberry coulis. Tangy lime and strawberries made this the perfect finish for an already memorable meal. Renée chose the Balinese Black Rice Pudding, creamy rice cooked in coconut milk, pandanus leaf and topped with grated palm sugar. Renee loved it. And the rice really is black!
What else? Well, we returned to the Lounge Bar to complete the night with espressos, served with sweet spice and vanilla biscuits. Settled back on the sofas, who could resist a liqueur? Not us! Two Benedictines please.
Oh yes, the bill. The three-course food bill for both of us came to Rp. 201,500 before tax and service, which was very reasonable. I’ll not mention the drinks bill as we had some I haven’t told you about!
After all that feasting, we really appreciated the free transport back to our hotels and a great night’s sleep.
Hello Bali, April 2005