They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but at beachside Allspice, the in-house restaurant at the Royal Santrian, quite the opposite is happening: Three accomplished Indonesian chefs, each with their own special focus, are creating five-star cuisine worthy of attention.
Let’s start with the setting: A restaurant with views of both foam-topped Tanjung Benoa surf, parasails curling in the distance, and the Royal Santrian’s own shimmering pool. A separate teppanyaki bar is perched closest to the beach. Allspice is decorated in tasteful, sumptuous, breezy Asian style. It’s a good beginning.
Then there’s the food. Jakarta-born Andreas Kindangen is the Western sous chef, Javanese-born Budyono focuses on Japanese cuisine, while Sirdha, who hails from Bali, whips up French and Mediterranean dishes. Together they create a truly international menu.
“It is not common in a restaurant to have three chefs; this is a unique thing that we’d like people to recognise. We are a new place and we are going to be happening,” promises the Royal Santrian’s general manager Bagus Mustika.
“They each have their own strengths. Though we have only one restaurant, we have several cuisines and this is what’s significant about Allspice restaurant,” Bagus says. But perhaps even more significantly for a hotel of this stature in Bali, all three chefs are Indonesian.
“I dare to compete because these people that I have here, their knowledge is very good and they also make good food. This is a locally managed hotel and we are showing the world that this is what we can do. Nothing is coming through expatriates.” And let’s also mention the drinks: “We call it the 100 Martini Bar,” says Bagus. I sip on a“Royal”, a vodka, orange and apple concoction infused with kaffir lime leaf, which adds a compelling level of complexity to the elixir.
The Royal Santrian, which opened last September, is comprised solely of villas, each with their own private pool, creating something of an opportunity for Allspice: They want to welcome day guests to their pool and restaurant, as in-house guests typically swim in their own pool and take breakfasts in their villas, meaning there’s plenty of space for us lucky mortals living or staying elsewhere on the island.
Daytrippers can swim in the pool for 100,000 rupiah, else dine at the restaurant and swim to work off the calories for free – but with such an enticing menu on offer, nobody is going to be paying the day rate.
Breakfasts alone sound worth a drive across the island. Choose from between a comprehensive Japanese or Royal set menu, else go a la carte: eggs benedict, poached egg on toasted english muffin with spinach, grilled ham and hollandaise (65,000++) or a sirloin minute steak with hash brown, sauteed herb tomato and grilled mushroom (120,000++).
But Andreas and Budiyono are in the kitchen today, whipping up a special set menu for us. We begin with a delectable amuse bouche of a tender sea scallop on the shell — I pick the shell up to slurp the juices when hopefully no-one is looking.
A tender morsel of grilled salmon follows, married with an avocado wasabi blend, pop-in-the-mouth salmon caviar and a Japanese green salad. The second entree is an innovative take on sushi – the rice is coloured with saffron and wrapped around tuna, avocado and caviar.
Budyono, who hails from a town near Yogyakarta, has worked at hotels as varied as the Kempinski in Jakarta and the Ritz Carlton, as well as cruise ships, and says cooking is his life. “This is my life,” he says of cooking. “It flows like water. I like to be an artist and I like perfection.”
The main course of a classic “surf and turf” is spectacularly presented, with two king prawns and soft shell crab towering over a thick piece of succulent wagyu beef. The pepper sauce is piquant and the potato gratin a rich side, cut with the crunch of vibrant vegetables nestled alongside: yum!
The meal sums up Andreas’ food philosophy, which is all about simplicity.
“With the surf and turf, I can see the wagyu, I can see the seafood, I can see the sauce. That’s just me, that’s my philosophy: keep it simple and straghtforward,” says the chef, who spent 11 years in Australia, originally studying multimedia design.
By the same token, Andreas likes to mix things up a bit when it comes to inspiration.
“In my dictionary there’s no such thing as okay that’s French cuisine, that’s Japanese cuisine. You think outside the box — really there are no boundaries.”
A job in hospitality turned Andreas towards culinary studies in Melbourne and he worked his way up from being a dishwasher in a Thai restaurant to now making his own creations at Allspice.
“I’ve got a lot of opportunity here. I have a good general manager who says if you have something on your mind, then express it. When it comes to ideas, you’re given the freedom to express them here.”
While he can sometimes be frustrated by the time it takes to get imported produce to Bali – it has to come via Jakarta – Andreas is appreciative of the fantastic local produce that comes from the hills of northern Bedugal.
“It’s top class. All our fruits and vegetables come from Bedugal, so in terms of supporting local produce, we do. And the seafood is grade A. If I go to the market at 5 o’clock, everything has just been freshly caught from the sea. That’s something I’m lucky to be given, that opportunity to be able to play with such fresh ingredients, seafood wise.”
Among Andreas’ influencers are Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver, though he doesn’t swear quite like Ramsay: “I don’t swear but I speak French because then people don’t understand,” he quips.
Dessert is an apparent homage to Bali’s beautiful array of fruits, a selection piled into a half dragon fruit, soaked in a wasabi mint dressing, served with Bedugal strawberry ice cream with passionfruit-Grand Marnier sauce.
The only problem now is I most certainly don’t want to be seen in my swimmers by the pool. Ah, there’s the boutique! Kaftan, pronto!