Thursday, August 25, 2016


As the Bible wisely points out, man does not live by bread alone, although on a foodie tour of Bali it’s likely to be artisanal brioche rather than bread, and artisanal brioche is pretty awesome.

However, taking this tiny scriptural snippet completely out of context, my travel buddy and I have decided that we needed to do more than just shove carbs down our throats on this holiday. And thus today we went to Waterbom.

I have visited Waterbom on every one of my visits to Bali, and it never disappoints. Over the two years since my last visit, Waterbom has added a few new slides, mostly of the “stick a tourist in a plastic box and then drop the floor out from under them” genre. But it remains a glorious place of joyous laughter, whooping thrills, and getting water shoved up your nose… probably after some fat Saudi princeling has peed in it. Okay, so it’s not all delightful. But still.

In the evening we went to the more mature end of the fun spectrum, and slid into the sleek, opulent nirvana that is Merah Putih.

We shared entrées of Sambal Jamur (mushrooms, eggplant, deep fried tofu and sugar snap peas) and Betutu roast pumpkin with asparagus, green beans and smoked coconut. For main course, we shared Babi Panggang (pork loin and belly with cabbage and andaliman), and a duck breast rendang with cassava and radicchio. All of it was absolutely spectacular. In fact, the roast pumpkin dish was my favourite one so far in Bali, and, I'm pretty sure, the best pumpkin I've ever eaten.

Then it was time for dessert. Merah Putih divides dessert into two lists: standard desserts and liquid desserts. Clearly, we had to have both. I had a chocolate and peanut mousse with parfait and salted caramel, along with a large chocolate truffle that accompanied a Hibiscus Manhattan. My travel buddy had Borneo honeycomb icecream with chocolate and a ginger tuille, and a white chocolate martini with white chocolate truffles.

Beyond the wonderful food and the thoroughly stupendous notion of liquid desserts, Merah Putih is a magnificent establishment. It’s a cavernous, glass-walled cathedral, with the interior spaces defined by the beautiful, Gaudi-like columns of ribbed and stretched fabric. These columns aren’t structural, but they are lit from within to provide an ambient light. Throw in some palm trees, smooth jazz, innumerable candles and fastidious waiters in black uniforms gliding about, and you’ve got yourself a first class restaurant.

And that’s why it couldn’t happen in Perth. The interior space of Merah Putih is at least three stories tall, and most of it is empty air. Those soaring walls of patterned glass look out on nothing but bamboo fences and the sky. The idea of using expensive reinforced glass over cheap concrete would be laughable in Perth, as would going to all the trouble and expense of building a structure tall enough for three floors and only using the ground level. There’d also be an overwhelming temptation to cram in as many tables as possible, instead of leaving generous spaces around each one as Merah Putih does. Perth, after all, doesn't really do "palatial" - the best we can usually manage is "supersized suburban".


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