Karma Beach is my first restaurant review from Indonesia. In fact, it’s been over seven months since I have reviewed a restaurant as I’ve been busy travelling around South East Asia. Luckily mum has become an exceptionally good web-savvy food critic (like mother like daughter!) and continues to provide you with her honest reviews back in England. I’ve been living on Gili Meno for nearly a month now and still haven’t got round to exploring the island’s many eateries. I spend the majority of my time off in Gili Air eating at my favourite hangout, Mowie’s. So when Karma Beach invited me in, I jumped at the chance to sample some of what the island has to offer.
Karma Beach is adjoining to The Reef Resort which is part of the Chakra brand. It is the first ‘fancy’ place you see as you hop off the boat at the harbour. In fact, I noticed it from the sea before I arrived and wish I had the budget to stay on our of their luxury beach-front bungalows, going for one million rupiah plus. The restaurant has become my “office” when I am doing the marketing for newly opened Gili Meno Eco Hostel and I enjoyed a couple of delicious Ily latte’s there. A real treat when travelling for sometime. The fact that everyone thinks I’m the manager when I’m sat on my laptop makes my day as I enjoy helping people with their queries and even gave an Aussie couple 50,000rph when they were a little short to pay the bill.
On this occasion it was a different story as I packed my laptop away, put on a casual dress and even took a shower (twit woo!). Conscious not to overload the chef during peak dining hours, I arrived around five and apart from a few couples having a drink, I was the only one sat in the restaurant. The ambience is relaxed with great chilled out music (Joss Stone I think) and like always, the staff welcomed me with a smile.
Within seconds of sitting down my food arrived, which I thought was a little odd considering I hadn’t been asked whether I wanted a drink, but I never say no to food so I happily tucked in. Frederick, the French manager on duty, explained that he had given me a sample of two of the starters; Grilled Octopus, Roasted Garlic, Oregano, Lemon and Mykonian Meatballs, Tzatziki (a yoghurt-based sauce), Coriander, Mint.
Both the starters were hot, nicely presented and of decent size, especially for a sample portion. The octopus was nicely BBQ’d but a little too fatty in parts, but after sampling freshly cooked seafood straight from the sea in the Philippines I am pretty hard to please! It is clear the menu holds a strong Mediterranean influence and these types of flavours came through in every dish, especially the meatballs which could have been mistaken for falafel.
I had finished my starters in almost record time but there was still no sign of a drink and I was starting to get thirsty. It was an incredibly hot and humid night which meant the flies were swarming and to make things even more uncomfortable I was slipping and sliding off my chair due to the baby oil I had used to moisturise (that’s not the restaurant’s fault of course!). I was beginning to wish I had requested a table on the beach.
My main course arrived just as fast as the starters, giving me little time to take a breather and let the first course settle. Again, this may be personal preference but if I am dining out at a nice restaurant like Karma Beach then I certainly don’t want to rush it and would want to enjoy the whole evening there. I was presented with two main courses; Paella Valencia, Seafood, Chicken, Chorizo and Penne Rigate, Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Tomato and Feta.
Unfortunately I had to ask for the menu to guess what each dish was – these little details to service seem to be scarce in Indonesia. Like the starters, both dishes were ones I wouldn’t normally choose on a menu, but I enjoyed them all. Surprisingly, the Paella was my favourite dish with it’s curry-like seasoning and a good selection of seafood. The fact that I dislike rice didn’t matter one bit and I asked for the rest of the decent-sized portion to take home. The pasta was also good and although it had slightly less flavour than the Paella, the feta was a welcomed addition. I thoroughly enjoyed both my mains although I was still never offered that glass of water or something to drink.
Luckily Davide Bianchi, a gentleman I had met earlier, saved the day by asking if I would be kind enough to share a bottle of wine with him. WINE I hear you say? I have been gone nearly seven months, with a travelling budget not fit for wine so I was oozing with excitement at the thought. We enjoyed a nice crisp white from Spain which was nicely chilled, the way it should be. It was here I learnt of Davide’s hospitality background with himself owning a number of eateries back in Perth. As the wine went down we chatted about the restaurant and the attentive staff who were friendly, but not up to scratch with standards of service found at restaurants back in Australia and the UK. We cut them some slack as they were all local lads and Indonesian culture is just so different to that back home. I’ve since learnt that the manager Fredrick has recently left to go and work at the original Karma Beach in Bali, which may have played a part in the disappointing service experienced that evening.
After a long wait for dessert which I requested, a Panna Cotta arrived in front of me. I was so disappointed that it wasn’t the delicious sounding Apple Pie or Chocolate Fondue which I had seen on the menu earlier, but one can’t be ungrateful now, can one? I don’t think I’ve ever ordered Panna Cotta in my life but hey, it’s good to try new things so I happily tucked in. The Panna Cotta was pleasant but myself and Davide agreed that there was a bit too much ‘wibble wobble’ as being Italian, Davide told me Panna meant cooked and Cotta, cream. It was delicious none the less, but I had hoped Davide would order something different so I could sample one of the other tempting desserts on the menu (maybe it’s a sign I have to return!). My first Bailey’s in five months ended what was an enjoyable meal, a real treat from the usual backpacker bites I have become accustomed too. It was like I was back home reviewing top-class London Restaurants, tasting a little bit of luxury.
Ok, so Karma Beach isn’t up to the standard of high-end restaurants in London, but as Indonesian standards go, it certainly raises the bar. Karma Beach is a great place for a romantic meal or a glass of champagne with the girls and I would happily return, especially to sample that apple pie of theirs! I have yet to explore Meno’s food scene in full but so far, Karma Beach has been the best this tranquil island has to offer.
Living life, loving travel,