It wasn’t so long ago that a holiday in Bali meant somewhat limited dining options - stomach-filling but generally uninspiring buffets at your resort or a cheap and cheerful (and often tasty) nasi goreng from a roadside warung.
These days, as barefoot-Bondi types put down roots on the island, the food scene is more than a little reminiscent of home (smashed avo, anyone?). Combined with a newfound appreciation of local delicacies, Bali has emerged as a bonafide star on the culinary stage. Here are the best restaurants to sample proof.
The Slow Restaurant
Slow by name, slow by nature; this multi-function space perfectly captures the mood of sleepy, up-at-10 am Canggu. Dining at The Slow (which is also a hotel and art gallery) is like finally being admitted to a club you’ve been hankering to join: a quietly confident DJ fills the space with retro tunes as you dig into piles of grilled octopus with cauliflower and X.O sauce or burnt leeks on a pillow of whipped feta. Do your duty and order a cocktail, too.
Pantai Batu Bolong Street No.97, Canggu
You’ll have trouble separating the casual roadside café The Loft from your regular coffee spot back home; there are, after all, reliable menu items such as the Bondi ‘BLAT’ Sandwich and the ever-present smashed avocado on toast. Pull your scooter over for one of the fresh, hearty meals on your way to your favourite surf break. (Echo Beach is your best bet for that, by the way).
Pantai Batu Bolong Street No.50A, Canggu
Milk and Madu
Families and influencers alike flock to Milk and Madu, an outdoor garden-style space off Berawa Road, just back from the beach. The meals are ‘grammable, sure, but they’re also generous and tasty. It’s the reigning spot for boozy brunches, digital nomad coffee fixes, casual lunches while the kids play in the grass and dinners powered by happy hour cocktails. You’ll always find an expat (or several) getting a taste of home here.
Jl. Pantai Berawa No.52, Tibubeneng, Kec. Kuta Utara
The thing that sets the seafood at Fishbone Local apart is that it doesn’t just taste good, it does good, too. Founders Dominique Brett, Isabella Rowell and Brant Bauer created strong ties with local social enterprise Bali Sustainable Seafood when they set up shop in 2018, ensuring fresher produce and jobs for the area’s fishermen. The resulting menu depends on the catch but could include black cod cooked over coals served with kaffir lime and chilli paste or a ginger and peanut oil laced coral trout.
Bali No.:99, Pantai Batu Bolong Street, Canggu
Canggu leans heavily on Australian food culture for inspiration but at the atmospheric Dandelion, a warung that has half of its tables set in a lush courtyard garden open to the skies, you’ll get a taste of real Balinese hospitality. Staff become friends within minutes – enquiring after your name, your tastes and guiding you helpfully through the menu – and when the sun goes down, the place truly comes alive, with tealight candles set among the nooks and crannies of the jonglo setting. The food? It’s great – pick a fish steamed in a banana leaf and admire the rice fields from your table.
Pantai Batu Bolong Street No.10, Canggu
SEE ALSO: The Slow – Hotel Review
With a menu offering food from Latin America by way of Australia, the Sydneysiders responsible for this buzzy eatery know how to please hungry holidaymakers. There’s more than enough on the menu to satisfy the carnivorous; lamb from home or pork from the island, all cooked over a combination of charcoal and coffee wood. Sides include cabbage gratin and Spanish-style potatoes slathered in garlic aioli but it’s the view over rice paddies that makes the best accompaniment to your meal.
Jl. Petitenget No.14, Kerobokan Kelod, Kec. Kuta Utara
Ijen at Potato Head Beach Club
Ijen at Potato Head Beach Club was the first zero-waste restaurant in Indonesia when it opened in 2018, outfitted with recycled materials and stocked with inventive alternatives such as chopsticks crafted from plastic bottle tops and terrazzo plates studded with (smoothed) shards from old glass bottles. Its menu is just as environmentally ethical, featuring line-caught whole snapper or mackerel, the latter dressed with tamarillo and gooseberry.
Jl. Petitenget No.51B, Kerobokan Kelod, Kec. Kuta Utara
In the tourist hub of Seminyak, there’s a discernible lack of Indonesian-inspired eateries beyond homestyle warungs. Chandi bridges that gap. A long-standing favourite, this pan-Asian spot is committed to populating plates with only organic greens and spices from local farmers. Another great reason to take a seat and call over a portion of the beef redang envelopes, wrapped in banana leaves.
Jl Laksmana (Kayu Aya) No. 72, Seminyak
If you’ve come to Bali with friends, Mama San is where you should secure a table. The share-plate friendly offering of Indonesian, Thai and Chinese dishes are all given a slick reworking by Australian chef Will Meyrick (also of Hujan Locale, see below). Rely on someone in the group to order the caramelised wagyu short ribs with a green mango salad and have your fork at the ready.
Jalan Raya Kerobokan No. 135 (Jalan Sunset Road), Seminyak
SEE ALSO: The Best Wellness Retreats in Bali
Forgot nose-to-tail – this Ubud eatery is top-to-toe, meaning that everything from menu items to dinnerware has been carefully gathered from nearby suppliers. Locavore is sensitive to its surrounds and its craft and both show on the plate, with elegant inclusions such as petai salt cured prawn with a chilli gel and mud crab with pickled young mango and bonito garum emulsion. Diners can choose from the ‘locavore’ and ‘herbivore’ menus, the latter a vego affair. It won't matter which you land on as each is superb.
10 Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud
The name references freshness (Hujan translates best to “rain”) and it’s a concept owner Will Meyrick takes seriously. Freshness bursts through the elevated-street-food offerings; it’s evident in everything from tuna betel leaf morsels with green tomato sambal matah and the green papaya salad with dried shrimp and chilli lime dressing.
Jl. Sri Wedari No.5, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud
Among the galaxy of starry newcomers, 27-year-old Casa Luna is practically a red giant. Although simple, quick bites remains its modus operandi, it still keeps in step with the younger eateries, evident in the inclusion of oh-so-now smoothie bowls laden with dragonfruit and chia seeds to its list of breakfast items. It hasn’t forgotten its roots, though – the Balinese-tinged paella remains legendary and anything from the Honeymoon Bakery is a perennially good idea, especially on Sunday (Donut Day, that is).
Jl. Bisma, Ubud
Another creation from the minds behind Locavore, you can’t miss the double doors of Nusantara from the dusty roadside. Enter and you’re treated to unique dishes picked from across the Indonesian archipelago (hence the restaurant’s name) from a North Sulawesi beef brisket to a Central Javan sambal of tamarind, coconut sugar and chillies. Calm the heat with a refreshing cocktail – also spiked with local ingredients.
9C Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud
Babi Guling Candra
Despite Bali’s large Muslim population, the suckling pig dish of babi guling retains an island-wide reverence. Babi Guling Candra has been serving this delicious dish, generally turned over hot coals (“babi guling” means “turning pig”) and rubbed with garlic, turmeric and ginger, to the salivating masses for forty years. If there are other menu items, we don’t want to know about them.
Beraban, Jl. Teuku Umar No.140, Dauh Puri Kauh, Kec. Denpasar Bar., Kota Denpasar
Forget being the best in Denpasar – this unassuming warung is frequently touted as one of the best in Bali. There are no extensive menus here, just three types of rice dishes and several sides, or nasi campur, to choose from. The chicken is an unfailing option, with the lunchtime crowds attesting to its deliciousness.
Jalan Yudistira 2, Denpasar, +62 361 224 398
Bodhi Leaf Eatery
While coastal towns may be well-versed in vegan visitors, the island’s capital is a little behind the times. Bodhi Leaf Eatery stands out in the traffic-clogged city for its clean and vibrant vegan fare and fresh snacks in the form of juices, sandwiches and salads.
Jalan Letda Made Putra No. 2B