Aug 14 2012

Review: Black Pepper Cafe & Food Circus

Published by at 5:42 am under Food

UPDATE: Black Pepper has been closed. We’ll fill you in on what opens in the now vacant space, if anything.

A name like Black Pepper Cafe & Food Circus is likely to conjure up images of waiters on unicycles, or perhaps juggling barmen – our curiosity got the better of us, so we decided to try Seminyak’s new kid on the (Sunset Road) restaurant block.

It’s hard not to stare at that TV.

Black Pepper replaces the more upscale Sip that shuttered its doors here a few months ago. The original Sip Wine Bar around on Legian however is still there, but the owner has thrown the dice again here on Sunset Road with a restaurant that has more of a bistro, breezy feel. According to Sip’s website, owner Christian Vanneque was raised in a circus, by a mother who was a debutante ballerina and a father who was then a trumpet player and conductor of the only French circus at the time, the Radio Circus — the name must surely be a nod to that, as there wasn’t a unicycling waiter in sight.

The night of our visit was not particularly busy, with only a handful of other diners. A sign at the entrance announced, “This month’s special: 2 drinks for the price of 2 drinks!” Boom tish, that ought to bring the punters in. The decor has a bit of a gastropub feel, although it comes across a little staged. Seating is comfortable with wooden tables and padded chairs or booths. Diehard news followers will enjoy the strategically placed TVs with mainstream news channels screening. The outside seating area, although attractive with its white and acid green colour scheme, does overlook the road so there is a fair amount of traffic noise.

Now that’s a good deal.

Walk through a deli-cum-wine shop to get to the seating area, where baskets of what at first glance appear to be perfect veggies are artistically arranged on the floor and shelves. On second glance, half of the “fresh” produce is plastic – more of the staging. The deli offers cheeses, breads, as well as fresh pasta sauces to take home (all real), and the shelves are stocked with wines to either enjoy with your meal — a good idea — or buy for later.

Can you tell which are real?

The menu is vast, with a great selection from breakfasts through to lunches, dinners and cocktails. The chef here has reportedly worked for El Bulli in Spain and Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Atheneé in Paris — and the menu really is quite something special and makes for an interesting read. On offer are pizzas, pastas, Mexican dishes, brochettes, crepes… It’s perhaps a little like Arena in Sanur but properly updated for 2012 and with less of an emphasis on meat; and the prices for the quality are good — most of the simple mains are under 100,000.

We selected a Caprese salad to share as a starter (59,000). Good quality mozzarella, firm tomatoes and fresh basil were used.

Let me take a photo before you start!

For main course I selected a pizza of goats cheese, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes (69,000 rupiah). It arrived with a crispy base, laden with topping, and was delicious. Ms Travelfish selected fish and chips from the Bling Bling section – siphoned carbonated tempura, malt-fish gel covered gindarafish filets, potato chips and tartar sauce (75,000 rupiah). It sounded very fancy and although it was tasty, the batter was a touch oily and I couldn’t really see how they were too different from ordinary fried fish to be honest; the accompanying freshly fried crisps were great though.

Yum, and yum again.

To end the meal, we shared a quartet of creme brulee – coffee, chocolate, pistachio and vanilla (35,000 rupiah). The flavours were good, texture creamy and real vanilla was used.

Which is your favourite brulee?

Our server was attentive, always on hand to top up our wine glasses, and top marks for replacing cutlery between courses. Prices were fair, but as it goes in Asia and particularly Bali, one bottle of wine made up half the bill (a bottle of Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc is 79,000/385,000 rupiah glass/bottle). We didn’t try the cocktails, but there’s a good range at 75,000 rupiah each, while a Bombay Sapphire gin is 125,000 rupiah — ouch! On the other hand, the brulees, for instance, were a bargain. We have a feeling this place may do better among the expat scene than tourists due to its slightly out of the way location.

Ms Travelfish popped back again for breakfast a few days later. There was only one other table here so there was a bit of the hovering-waiter-syndrome you sometimes get at well-staffed places during sleepy times. The coffee was decent and the eggs benedict, though on very small muffin rounds, were yummy (40,000 rupiah). The breakfast menu is wide-ranging and interesting, with examples including a “fit” range such as a veggie skillet of skinned baby potatoes, roasted red peppers, caramelised onions, mushroom and broccoli, with two scrambled egg whites. Most brekkie dishes are around 35,000 to 60,000 rupiah range. A latte will set you back 29,000 rupiah, juices are 23-35,000 — all prices plus 10% tax, and 7% service.

While there’s good free WiFi, there are no power outlets, so unless you have a longlasting power source, don’t add this to your list of Seminyak WiFi workspots. We wouldn’t travel across the island to get here, but if you’re after something a bit different and have had enough of the Legian crowds, this might make a good little escape.

Black Pepper cafe and food circus
Sunset Road No 88X (corner near Jalan Kunti), Seminyak, Bali
T: (361) 847 5830
F: (361) 847 5828

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