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Monday 15 July 2013

The London Foodie Goes to Bali - Lovina

Having enjoyed the cultural hub of Ubud (reviewed here and here) and then relaxed and dived for a short while in Amed (reviewed here), we drove for around 3 hours north-west along the coast road to reach the northern town of Lovina.

Lovina is a relatively new name coined in the 1950s by the last Raja of Buleleng with an eye to future tourism-based development. It started with a small lodge built on his own land, named Lovina. Today, Lovina (pronounced 'Lobina', there being no 'v' in the Indonesian language, Bahasa) is used as the name for seven villages, which merge into each other along a seven mile stretch of the main road running along the north coast to the west of Singaraja: Temukus, Kalibukbuk, Anturan, Pemaron, Tukad Mungga, Banyualit and Kaliasem.

Kalibukuk is the main hub of this area and makes up the town centre. The whole stretch of coast here is fringed by quite narrow black sand beaches which are generally safe for swimming. The waters of Bali's north coast, in contrast to the crashing surf of the south, are relatively calm with a dream-like quality at sunset.

The Most Beautiful Sunsets of Bali at Lovina Beach

Diving, snorkelling and dolphin watching are the main activities, but perhaps above all else, this is an area in which to relax and take in a very slow, traditional pace of life. I am told it can get a little crowded in July and August, but outside that peak season, this is a quiet part of the island.

Where to Stay

The Damai

We stayed at The Damai. A stunning hotel, The Damai has 14 villas, varying in size from the intimate to the palatial, each set in a lush tropical garden and decorated with stylish furniture, fabrics and artefacts from Bali. The Damai is owned by a Danish hotelier who is, I am sure, behind the hotel's elegantly refined design.

Ours was a deluxe villa, with a small veranda surrounded by a fragrant herb garden. The rooms had  fine hardwood furniture and local antiques, creating a simple, elegant tropical style but also including all mod cons such as TV, DVD and Wi-Fi. The large open air bathroom had a stone jacuzzi filled with water from a local stream, and an outside shower in a private walled garden brimming with lush greenery.

The grounds were extensive, and tastefully lit in the evenings.  There were several different gardens and a spa, as well as water tanks to keep live crayfish.  Near the reception area and bar, the swimming pool overlooked the hillside leading down to the beach far below.

We also had a look at the magnificent Umah Raja Villa, the estate's largest at 310 sq metres, with  a master bedroom and 2 junior bedrooms, all connecting to their own en suite bathroom. The living room with dining area was luxuriously decorated with antiques from Bali, Java and other parts of Indonesia, as well as having fine locally crafted furniture. Outside, there was a large veranda, balcony, covered pavilion and two private swimming pools.

Table for Two Please!

The hotel is set into a hillside overlooking Lovina, and it is approximately a two mile journey to the beach area with its bars and restaurants. This was not a problem for us as we had a hire car, but otherwise any trip into town would require a taxi (not a big expense in Bali, where most short trips cost £1).

We enjoyed the tranquillity and beauty of the hotel's grounds, and mainly lounged around by the large swimming pool, reading, enjoying a few cocktails at the bar and relaxing. The Damai is one of the most elegant hotels we experienced in Bali, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Lovina.

Where to Eat

Le Jaenzan

We ate at this very good restaurant on the coast road in Kalibukbuk. We were met by the head chef and owner Ketut Tangkas Adnyana as we entered the restaurant. He trained in many restaurants (including at The Damai), as well as spending several years working in cruise liner restaurants in the USA, before setting up his own business in 2010.

After an amuse bouche, we had pan fried scallops with tomato tamarillo chutney, and dill butter sauce (£3.30), and homemade pork sausages - served with green salad, tomato, fried peanuts and honey/oyster dressing (£3) which were both equally delicious. The presentation of the dishes was also noteworthy, like nothing I had seen in Bali thus far.

The Tuna Carpaccio - yellow fin tuna, beetroot mayo, green salad and pickled vegetables (£3) was next, the fish was perfectly seared and then encrusted in green salsa, it was a refreshing and well made dish.

For main course, we had a baby fillet of red snapper served on a bed of roasted aubergine, garlic bread and a herby honey sauce (£5.30). Dr G decided to go for the pork ribs marinated in miso, grilled and served with yellow rice, aubergine, vegetables and pork jus (£5.30).

The sea lobster flambéed in Pernod with grilled tomatoes, new potatoes, salad and lobster sauce (£8.70) was also magnificent, and a real steal at that price tag!

This was an excellent meal, made even more special by the attention and care that the owner showed us by coming to chat to us and explain each dish in detail. Ketut, the owner, is obviously a very passionate and skilled chef and I hope to return one day.

The Damai Restaurant

The award-winning restaurant at The Damai is said to be Lovina's best restaurant, and indeed one of the best in Bali. It serves organic vegetables and meats from its own small farm, together with a fresh catch from the sea and imported delicacies.

Breakfast was very good, with Indonesian, Continental, American and Japanese options.  We sampled all four during our two days, and all were very good although the American was the weakest, Japanese (mahi-mahi smoked in green tea and smoked, miso soup, omelette roll, fish cake and steamed rice ) and Indonesian  (nasi goreng or mie goreng and tropical fruits) the best.   There was a chef who would prepare and cut whichever tropical fruit guests selected and present them very temptingly - dragon fruit, star fruit, snake fruit and guava among others.

Japanese Breakfast at The Damai

We also had dinner at The Damai one evening. There are several set and à la carte menus, but we opted for the 3 course Balinese set menu (£25 per person) which was excellent.  This started with Sate Burung Dara - sweet basil marinated pigeon grilled on a lemongrass stick, with young fern tips and long bean salad, and fresh lime.

We then slipped in a dish from the  à la carte menu - young jackfruit steak, peppered and pan-fried, served with roast beetroot, red wine braised shallots, and pommes allumette (£10).

The main course was Kare Be Siap - a fragrant coconut curry with chicken, oriental squash and pak choy served with organic Balinese rice and fried garlic.

Dessert was a spectacular Dadar Gulung - thin pancakes rolled around coconut and palm sugar, coconut ice cream, vanilla tuille, snake fruit salad and lemon grass syrup.

Singaraja Street Food Market

East of Lovina Beach, Singaraja is home to a night food market, renowned in the area for its sates and other Balinese muslim favourites.

We sampled a few savoury local dishes including goat soup, stuffed roti canai and a selection of sates.

They were all quite delicious particularly the chicken sate with a creamy peanut sauce which cost us only a few pennies!

It is a very simple market, amenities are minimal but it is a good opportunity to eat with and like the locals.

What to Do

Visit the Bedugul Region

Set in the mountains around 90 minutes' drive inland from Lovina, this is a very scenic area to visit, with terraced rice paddies, lakes, waterfalls and temples all worth a look. We visited Munduk to have a look at one of its several waterfalls. It is also possible to arrange guided treks to many of the sites through the Puri Lumbung Cottages in Munduk. A few miles further south, there are two large lakes, Tamblingan and Buyan, which are worth a look.

Lovina is known all over Bali for its early morning dolphin watching boat trips.  There are many in the town centre who will offer to take visitors on such trips.  It seemed, from various sources, to be pot luck whether this resulted in a trip of a lifetime among a school of friendly dolphins, or the reckless pursuit of a possible sighting in the distance, in which a series of boats chase each other rather than dolphins.  We decided to give it a miss.

Travel Essentials

The Damai
Jalan Damai, Kayuputihlovina
E mail: info@damai.com

Le Jaenzan
Jalan Serirt Lovina, Kalibukbuk, Bali, Indonesia
E mail: info@restaurant-lejaenzan-lovina-bali.com

Puri Lumbung Cottages
Munduk Village 81152
North Bali
E-mail : info@purilumbung.com


  1. I'm really enjoying your Bali posts - I'm heading there myself in September so keen to pick up some suggestions!

    1. Thanks Elly, hope you found some useful information in these Bali posts!

  2. Dear LondonFoodie

    I am a British/Australian living near Seririt which is 12 kms west of Lovina

    I have been to the places you mentioned except for the waterfall and the night market in Sgrja (I usually do not venture out at night)

    I want to thank you for presenting such a good quality 'travel guide' based around Lovina and I agree with your food descriptions

    There are a few more mention-worthy eating places in the North

    In Singaraja, Restoran Kartika has an excellent Asparagus Soup (chinese style)
    Next door to Kartika (Indonesian for movie star) is Restoran Gandi - very popular with the locals and good eating as well
    There is also Beatrix Patisserie not far from Hardy's

    A little to the west there is Ranggon Sunset at Pemaron - fantastic location and beautiful building

    West of Lovina is Bebek Tepi Sawah - part of a chain of beautiful places to eat

    The best Mie Goreng I have ever had is in Kalianget, just before Seririt - at Khanti Putra

    In Seririt, there is Sederhana Jaya - great local versions of food to eat and they have the best Ayam Goreng Mentega (fried chicken in butter sauce)

    Way out to the west in Pemuteran there is Amertha Bali Villas - you can eat from a wide menu and sit right at the beach in an uncrowded kind of a way with great service

    Happy Travels

    P.S. You forgot to mention the Es Kelapa Muda - that is a coconut juice and young coconut flesh drink with honey that is quite delicious, and they are available roadside and cost $0.40c - they are more of a treat than a thirst-quenching drink

    Your background and description of yourself is very interesting and thanks for 'sharing' that with us all

    1. Thank you so much for taking your time to write your recommendations here, it is always fantastic to have some expert local knowledge and I will definitely refer to this when I return to Bali. Thank you!


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