Photo: Padang Bai scenes.

Eat and meet

Goa Lawah

Warung Mertha Sari
Jalan Pesinggahan, about 7 km southwest of Padang Bai on the main through road to Kusamba (heading from the south, turn left a few hundred metres before Goa Lawah, and it’s 500 metres down to the right)

This is the sort of restaurant any traveller likes to stumble upon: it’s out of the way, serves just one thing, and does that one thing well. At Warung Mertha Sari, there’s no menu, with diners ordering simply by the number of portions they’d like of their specialty, sate lilit ikan, or minced fish sate. But this isn’t all you get; thrown into the deal is chunks-of-fish sate, barbecued... Read our full review of Warung Mertha Sari.

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Padang Bai

Most of the best eating is to be had on Jalan Segara, immediately to the east of the port. Inland from Jalan Segara and further east are cafes that border the market square. Restaurants that are part of the more upmarket hotels along Jalan Silayukti are located towards the far east of the bay.

Warung Sinar is a small, basic warung that serves a mixture of Eastern and Western foods at good prices. Also on offer are juices, soft drinks and beer. The decor is a step above a normal warung with solid wood tables and chairs and consequently it draws a distinctly Western crowd.

A comprehensive Western-style menu at Alola Cafe sets it apart from most others, with better-quality options than the faux-Western usuals of burgers and spaghetti. Serving vegetarian, fish, steak, pizza, juices and milkshakes, most visitors will find something to their liking. The furniture is colourful, the vibe is relaxed and the staff helpful. This place is popular among travellers and is located at the edge of the main market square.

Just off the main square, Rumah Makan Pendawa is a good choice for those seeking cheap local food. This small warung serves a selection of dishes presented nasi campur-style for 15,000 rupiah. Dishes include grilled fish, fried and marinated tempe, sate, mixed vegetables and shredded chicken. You will be sitting on solid wooden chairs under a tarpaulin which gives a slightly more dignified feel than can be the case with some eateries.

Catering to Western tourists, Cafe Papa John tries to please everyone by having a comprehensive menu, but it unfortunately specialises in nothing. Meals include Indonesian favourites such as nasi goreng and cap cay, Western meals such as burgers and pasta and an assortment of soups and salads. You pay a little extra here to sit on comfortable wooden chairs, eat off large clean plates and be served by uniformed and trained staff. Despite the vast menu, many of the items at the time of review were unavailable.

Across the road from the beach, Grand Cafe exudes style of an order not found elsewhere in Padang Bai. Neat rattan furniture, ambient music and a menu heavy on seafood mean that this cafe commands higher prices than elsewhere. Choose from a vast array of seafood options as well as traditional Western fare such as hamburgers and pasta. This place is perfect for those willing to spend a little extra for something a little classier.

The main reason to visit the popular Padang Bai Cafe on the beachfront is to enjoy the grilled fresh fish. The fish selection includes tuna, barracuda, mahi-mahi and snapper, all of which are smeared in a turmeric-based marinade before being grilled over coals by the old guy across the road on the beach. Accompaniments include rice, chips and vegetables plus a mild sambal. Also available are a range of curries with pork, chicken or beef, but the main game is the fish.

Zen Inn provides a small modern menu which focuses on quality dishes and fancy drinks rather than trying to please everyone with an expansive menu. Items include quality burgers, soup, pasta and fish. A regular barbecue night on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays costs 48,000 rupiah and includes fish, kebabs, prawns, steaks and an array of fresh salads — super value. Also on offer are mixed spirits, beer and wine. A big draw here is the free WiFi which sees hordes of young people with laptops drinking the cheapest thing on the menu just to use the internet — muddy Bali kopi.

Alola Cafe: Jalan Silayukti
Cafe Papa John: Jalan Segara
Grand Cafe: Jalan Segara
Padang Bai Cafe: Jalan Segara
Rumah Makan Pendawa: Jalan Silayukti
Warung Sinar: Jalan Silayukti
Zen Inn: Gang Segara

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Padang Bai? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Indonesia.

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