Kzu is hands down the best warung in Bali. A warung is a local easy "cafe" offering up a rotating daily selection of mostly Indonesian dishes. My introduction to this hidden gem came through ex-pat Danish fashion designer Birgitte Rabens. Lucky her she spends part of each year in Bali designing and producing her Rabens Saloner collection, and she was kind enough to show me around. Birgitte has the most impeccable taste. Japanese chef Kazuya Takami has created a complete experience. Beginning with the contemporary industrial open-plan space that is designed yet welcoming. The highlight of Kzu waits for you behind the giant perforated metal door guarding the entrance. On offer, you will find a rotating daily selection of about fifty healthy, delicious and largely vegan dishes. Chef Takami counts Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, and Indian cuisines among his influences. Combining these influences with his intense focus on local produce he masterfully balances ingredients, spices and preparations. If I were lucky enough to be a local, I would find a reason to be here at least once a day. The food isn't foodie gourmet; it's just really good and good for you. Opening hours from 11 am to 7 pm mean you really can fit in a meal and a snack in if you are industrious. Full disclosure I ate here every day I was in Seminyak. Grab a Bintang and a full plate of nourishment for what amounts to less than seven US dollars at the current exchange.
Filtering by Tag: Island
The sexy, chic, and relaxing island of Formentera was high on my list of places to visit while I was based out of London last year. It is a small island that is part of the Islas Baleareas sitting off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. The beauty of Formentera is an underexploited secret sitting just south of Ibiza. There is no airport. You fly into Ibiza, taxi to the port, and then ferry to the island. That is an adventure in itself. I recommend renting a car for your time on Formentera. They are reasonably priced and prove necessary to freely see what you want to while you're in residence. The island is small but not walkable if you want to partake of the many beaches, experiences, and sites to be seen.
IN-RESIDENCE / Dotted throughout the island and almost all out of sight from the main roads are small luxury resorts, bo-ho chic party spots, and bungalows on the beach. There aren't any large properties on the island. Below are my three picks for places to stay on the island. Two a bit more lux, posh, and chill and one a bit more affordable, with an authentic beach party vibe. All good, and all worth going back to again.
Es Mares Hotel & Spa • A 20 room luxury boutique property situated in the main city of San Francesc. This enclave of breezy chill is very centrally located and makes for easily jetting to any part of the island. The property is pared back with a beach decor that feels very mediterranean. The restaurant and spa are excellent so even if you're not laying your head here I recommend dropping in for an afternoon or evening. Book here ∞ hotelesmares.com
Es Ram • With just 8 double rooms and 4 villas this is definitely an exclusive luxury eco-resort. A gorgeous property that is completely secluded a mile down a sand road a thirty minute drive from the ferry. This is the kind of property you can stay put at for an entire stay. You will feel like you live here from the moment you arrive. This is small footprint luxury at it's best. The staff is welcoming and the common areas, rooms and villas are stunning and stylish. The grounds make you want to meander for hours. With pools and lots of lounging bungalows, the days will slip away. Book here ∞ esramresort.com
Las Banderas • Located directly on Mitjorn beach a 20 minute drive from the ferry in one of the most historic buildings on the island this bo-ho chic 8 room property is an enjoyable place to stay. The rooms are basic but well maintained and have the kind of character you want. Each room has an outdoor area with ocean views and you're just steps from the sand. The food and drink are good but not stellar and the outdoor bar area is a great place to watch the sunset. I stayed here and left having had a great time and feeling like it was a great value. Book here ∞ hotelresidenceformentera.com
FOOD / I didn't have a bad snack or meal while I was on the island and there are ton's of small spots that sit right on the water. As an island just off the coast of one of the most foodie nations on earth with mostly Italian visitors. The expectations for food and beverage are lofty.
People • The chiringuito (aka beach bar) sits directly on Platja de es Pujols is where you will end up often. No matter where else on the island you are if you're like me you will find a way to be there for lunch or cocktail hour on more than one occasion. The libations are divine - think huge delicious refreshing adult beverages made with fresh ingredients served over crushed ice - and the snacks are above par for beach food.
Juan y Andrea • A posh beachfront restaurant that has evolved from a small bar founded in 1972 into a see and be seen hot spot today. The food is good, the drinks are classic and it's an experience worth having for the people watching alone. Situated on a secluded beach almost at the end of Playa Illetes the journey is almost as good as the place itself. juanyandrea.com
Can Dani • A true foodie level experience in the middle of the island. Eating al fresco in the courtyard makes this a great dinner choice and you will certainly have a memorable meal. The chef works primarily with local ingredients, and with those simple beginnings she makes magic happen. I recommend the tasting menu, a luxurious value. candaniformentera.com
BEACHES / The beaches are the number one reason to visit Formentera, While they are all gorgeous my favorites were:
- Cala Saona
- Platja Migjorn
- Platja des Canyers
- Platja Tramuntana
- Platja de Ses Illetes
LIGHTHOUSES / There are three on the island, two that I visited primarily because they offered vistas that I wouldn't be privy to. They were breathtaking cliffs on both occasions with interesting surrounding areas.
La Mola • the highest lighthouse on the island it sits atop a 1200 ft cliff. The best part about visiting this spot was the scale it gave to the island. I ventured out my first late afternoon and ended up dropping into the "Hippie Market" which is really more of and artisanal market. Situated on the main road in El Pilar de la Mola and open Wednesday and Sunday afternoons this is a must do if you're in the area on those days. Please while you are there pick up some leather bracelets from the charming leather worker. I bought two and have much to my dismay lost them in my travels. I loved them so much I sometimes daydream about heading back just to procure some more.
Es Cap de Barbaría • this lighthouse is a bit more off the beaten path, but it's worth the drive. The views are stunning and you get a chance to hike a bit further and see a watchtower that was used to protect the island in century's past. The watchtower is stunning up close. (there is a photo at the top of this story with people providing scale)
Formentera is a magical place not far from civilization geographically but very far in reality. It is a part of the world that still moves slowly most of the time. The air is fresh, the water is sparkling, and you breath. Really breath when you are there. The cultures of Catalan, Spain, and Italy collide to protect what it means to be living completely in the moment. The residents are welcoming and the tourists I encountered were all relaxed, mostly Italian and there for the same reasons I was. While it's not an easy location to get to from Los Angeles or New York where I spend most of my time. I know I will be back to this tiny piece of the world again in this lifetime. I'm counting down the days.
Marie-Galante is a small island in an out of the way corner of the world. Hidden a day trip away from Guadeloupe which is a days travel from most places, it delivers on what you imagine the Caribbean was like before it is now. There are no large hospitality companies playing on the island, only local hotels and restaurants with expanses of postcard ready beaches that you'll have mostly to yourself. The tourists I encountered the day I was there were mostly people escaping from other islands, with the highest concentration being made up of those that live and work on St. Barths, but can't afford to relax there. They come to Marie-Galante for holiday. The island is part of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe and it's about as calm and chill as you can get this close to the USA.
I was lucky enough to have a local to guide me around. Eric Luc Bade was a perfect host. He's lived abroad but also knows everyone on the island, and half of them are his cousins. We explored all day, stopping at various sites and meeting many makers. Yes there are still makers of things on this island. Sugar and rhum are the primary focus. Pere Labat was my favorite distillery, we toured the in's and out's of the buildings and the distilling and packaging processes. Then we topped it off with a shot of gorgeous aged rhum and a Panache at 10am. Onward into the rest of the day where we popped in and out of sugar syrup makers, beekeepers and a wood carver who all impressed upon me the idea of using what is near. They have no choice due to geography and they're doing an amazing job of making top quality products that are personal. One great example of this is that by the time we left the sugar syrup stand there was a line of locals outside the make-shift storefront waiting for it to open so they could clean out the days stock in less than an hour just like they do everyday.
I pushed Eric to giving me the local tour in addition to the tourist tour and it paid off. We stopped at one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen and then turned the opposite direction away from the beach which lead to us climbing up a small hill and down into the mouth of a cave. BATS..lots and lots and lots of them. It was really exciting and something I wouldn't have seen otherwise. We drove down unpaved roads to see vistas and sites, sped thru the mountains, along the way spotting historical slave homes from long ago, we sat at the mouth of the massive river that flows from the mountains and watched as kayakers took off for th e day and then made our way further afield to Capesterre the second "city" of Marie-Galante where we relaxed sipped beer and hung out with a few French ex-pat's that mind a great beach bar called La Galette. As we departed for the ferry back to Guadeloupe I promised I'd find a week of my time on this planet to make it back to this patch of peaceful paradise.
- Catch a ferry from L'Express des iles or book a private charter from Charter World Guadeloupe or Dominica and land in Grande-Bourge.
- Hire a great guide. Contact the Board of Tourism for advise. I usually don't want a tour but in this case it's the key to seeing the magic of the island.
- Speaking French is a big plus, I spoke and heard very little english in my time in Guadeloupe and the surrounding islands. It was refreshing!