My first foray in search of Sanur’s watering holes was with Jill my editor and Carlos the photographer. We rendezvous at Arena Pub on the Sanur Bypass road. It has a well stocked bar, excellent food with a soft interior that lends itself to being slightly up market though the price of drinks are surprisingly reasonable. Well-intended advice by a geriatric at the bar who gave us a “how to and where to go” on the bars in Sanur turned out to be truly disappointing.
However, there were a few that stood out – Double Dutch and Cat & Fiddle. DD is about a year old so the freshness of the ambience; the live band and the tables laid out in the open at the entrance presents a stylish picture. Henk, the manager, offers us the two popular cocktails but not before Carlos and I have had our shot of Jim Beam each. Double Dutch Illusions is made with vodka, coconut liqueur, melon liqueur (Bali moon), lime juice and pineapple juice. It was served in a special glass that looked like an out of shape body builder with a sagging bottom. I asked Jill her opinion as she sipped the cocktail. “Too green” she muttered. The DD Mojito concocted with Bacardi rum, limejuice, lime wedgies and brown sugar was tempting. Jill, the connoisseur, tasted the drink glanced away and uttered the words we were waiting for “Nice”.
The night dragged out sitting in Cat & Fiddle, the quiet evening broken only by the gentle strokes of the guitar by Carlos playing Hotel California and a tattooed man dressed in black wearing dark gogs with the air of a war vet from the sixties who was grooving it with a local. Jill bored after eating her Guiness Pie decided we needed to move on. So off we went to Wayan Bali and Jazz Bar & Grill. No joy just an over anxious singer screaming into a microphone. It was late so we all headed home to nest. Carlos on his scooter, Jill in her classic VW and me in my Feroza of ten thousand rust spots held together by a coat of paint.
Reaching Ubud and still in the mood to play I dropped by Flava Lounge which was swinging. It was Flava’s mid week high jinx. Here I met a few friends and the piss started rolling to the tune of Clapton, Steppenwolf and the thumping sound of gyrating hipsters on the dance floor. Oh Ubud ! The last refuge for the “movers and shakers” when all other venues were closed!
The following day I got a call from Jill who promptly instructed me to revisit Sanur. To walk the streets again in search of the elusive Bars for that drinking experience that went beyond the Pale Ale. Maybe I would find what we were looking for in the curious mix of Bars, Restaurants and places called Flashbacks (wonder who comes up with these names?).
So here I am traversing the streets and what do I chance upon? Lazer Sport Bar and close to it Zoo. These Bars are quintessential classic hang outs for those wanting to sip the nectar of the island, Arak, and the other drinks that satisfy the soul to the rhythm of live bands. The feel of the place is one of relaxed enjoyment with soft lighting, wooden tables and chairs. It is like a cross between a French café and a Bombay Iranian teahouse. The girls at Lazer quickly fix me a Lychee Sensation, a soothing blend of Bali Moon, pineapple liqueur, lychee juice, grapefruit juice and fresh lychees. Tiredness retreats and I feel alive again to someone singing, “You can’t always get what you want”.
A short walk down Jalan Danau Tamblingan I come across a quaint outlet, Ana’s Warung, with a few tables and a homely bar. The beer luggers hanging around greet me with “Hey you in the panama where the f…k are you going?” followed by “Give him a beer he needs a break”. I get a beer courtesy the barrel chest Neanderthal. Wayan who hands me the beer smiles coyly and asks to be photographed. I oblige her. A large TV screen at the end of the Bar is showing a live football match. I gulp down the beer, burp and leave the place. Further down the road is Gasoline Ally a place similar to Zoo and Lazer Sport Bar. It’s very entertaining with a good mix of customers, staff, drinks and music.
Along this stretch are Gita’s, Trophy Bar, Randy’s Bar, Kafe Aladin, JJs, Fat Tuesday and many more. Am advised by a helpful cabbie that I should visit the beachfront bar called Bonsai Café. After a short walk past the Bali Seamen’s Club I enter the sprawling grounds of Bonsai Café. The entrance has hundreds of bonsai plants neatly arranged. It’s has a large odd shaped Bar and seating for more than a hundred people that spills out onto the beach. The cool sea breeze wafting through the place with a barbeque sizzling away makes for a perfect picture of what a bar should be. The check table covers and the bilious green plastic chairs are surreal: Like Dali, high on Arak, who has gone berserk with his paintbrush.
Made Suardana who is one of the owners accosts me. He gently takes my hand and leads me to the bar. Politely he instructs the bartender to make the two cocktails that the place is famous for and then launches into explaining his favourite hobby, Bonsai plants and how he is world famous blah, blah, blah. Thankfully the first of the two cocktails arrives! I photograph it before tasting it. Big mistake. Made sends the cocktail back because he wants it to be properly garnished. Minutes later (which seemed hours) its back looking like a tart dressed for the night out on the town. I hurriedly sip the Bonsai Sunrise. I suggest he change the name to Bonsai Sunset. No luck. The drink is a combination of Arak, Bacardi, orange juice and grenadine. The second cocktail, Pinacolada, is presented with a flourish. It is served in a whole scooped out pineapple. It’s a concoction of dark rum, light rum, pineapple juice, and vanilla ice cream. It is too sweet for my liking. I desperately need a real drink. So I order another called Body Heat made from Malibu, banana liqueur, Bacardi, pineapple juice, orange juice and lemon juice. No joy, its too sweet and too sour. Kadek at the bar suggests I visit the two naughty bars located on Jalan Danau Toba a short drive away. So off I am to TKs and Limpling. The night is playing out well.
Tks is a very small bar. The bar takes up one third of the floor space. The rest of the area is decorated with two small divans and a few chairs. The pink and mauve walls glow in the light of the red Chinese lanterns. A few hostesses lounge around smiling at the customers. I ask for their special. Julia brings me a drink that looks like water with a lot of ice. I sip it and gasp. It’s like drinking gasoline. “What’s this” I ask her. She grins and replies that it is Tks Special, which is made of large pegs of Arak, vodka, a twist of lime and a hint of tonic water. Just then Dire Straits starts playing Sultans of Swing, I relax and sink into oblivion only to be rudely disturbed by a slap on the back and a “Hiya Mate”. It is Peter a long time resident of Padang Bai who has come to meet his friends who own the bar. Soon Fuji, the owner, and his wife arrive and we sit down to drinking the firewater that is liberally served out.
According to Fuji the numerous “special” local bars are called “Café”. The famous ones are Hello Bali, Ramos, Jegeg and Merpati. Here the blend of expats, tourists and locals coupled with pulsating music, flashing lights and spirits flowing freely across the bar makes it a place not frequented by the faint hearted. “Café” is a euphemism for having a good time. The timings are nocturnal and prices reasonable.
On my drive back to Ubud I stop by Merpati Café on the Sanur Bypass road. The entrance is lit up with purple lighting. The rhythmic beat of music emanating from the place is seductive and inviting. However I am refused admittance as am carrying a camera.
Sanur has a fantastic range of Bars and restaurants with some of the best live music in town. The exciting range of drinks and cocktails served by energetic staff makes it an entertaining experience. For your reference I have included a list of Bars that both my friends and I have visited. Am sure you will help us add to the list when you have come to Sanur to sample the delights.
Lazer Sport Bar, Jazz Bar & Grill, Gita’s, Double Dutch, Gasoline Ally, JJs, Bonsai Café, Zoo, Cat & Fiddle, G Point, Beach Cafe, Arena, Spirit & Jazz, Tropy Pub, fat Tuesday, Randy’s Bar, Wayan Bali, Kafe Aladin, Manggo Beach Bar, Toot Sie, Seven Seas, La Barracca, Made’s Pub, Corriander, Kalpatharu: naughty bars like TKs and Limling: and of course the ubiquitous cafes like Hello Bali, Jegeg, Ramos and Merpati.
Best days to Bar hop: Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm onwards.