One of the best reasons to visit Denpasar is to indulge in some authentic regional Indonesian cuisine. The melting pot of cultures from all over the archipelago is evident in the cooking pots in Bali’s capital.
Many warungs specialise in one dish, and everyone has their favourite. Look for the crowds (or the queue of GoJek delivery drivers), and you’ll know you’re on to a winner. Denpasar is also one of the most affordable places to eat in Bali. For more upmarket restaurant-style eating, head to Renon, where you’ll rub shoulders with embassy staff and Bali’s middle-class. Or take a break from sightseeing and stop for a coffee in one of the growing number of funky little cafes.
Around the corner from Museum Bali, just up the road from Inna Bali Hotel on Jalan Veteran, Dapoer Pemuda is set in a welcoming colonial-style building. Pale green shutters and traditional cement tiled floors along with tables made from old sewing machine bases gives a retro ambience. The first Dapoer Pemuda opened in Surabaya in Java in 1976 using family recipes that have been passed down through the generations, and the speciality dish is ayam goreng pemuda (18,000 rupiah).
We tried their barbecue version of the same dish, ayam bakar pemuda, (19,000 rupiah) with a side of lalapan (raw veggies with a spicy sambal) (10,000 rupiah) and nasi uduk (coconut rice) (6,000 rupiah). The chicken was fall-off-the-bone succulent and the spice mix it had been marinated in tasty right down to the bone. The pile of lalapan was enough to keep a rabbit going for a week, and the sambals and sauces were spot on. We spied some other diners eating the nasi bakar (23,000–28,000 rupiah), steamed rice rolled with a filling wrapped in banana leaves, then grilled, and were tempted. Others swear by their sup buntut goreng (seasoned fried oxtail soup), the priciest dish on the menu at 65,000 rupiah. And the toilets are really clean, too.
Next door to Dapoer Pemuda, the fun and stylish Voltvet Eatery & Coffee serves the best coffee we tried in Denpasar, and the presentation is top notch as well. Their cafe-style menu is a modern take on the usual pasta-burger-nasi offerings, with mains from 25,000 rupiah. They also whip up smoothies, desserts and offer Prost beer (small 30,000 rupiah, large 40,000 rupiah). Check out the quirky wash basin in the (clean!) bathroom made from an old gallon drum.
If you’re heading towards Taman Budaya (Bali Arts Centre), stop for some delicious-looking Balinese-style nasi campur at Rumah Makan Kedaton. At this simple local warung, point and pick from chicken, beef and vegetable dishes, but be warned: It’s spicy. Try the ayam sisit, a shredded chicken dish, and sate lilit, Balinese-style sate of mince chicken and coconut, or the beef with green chillies. A meal will set you back 20,000 to 30,000 rupiah. Rumah Makan Kedaton has a couple of other branches in Denpasar and Sanur, all with the same menu.
In the same part of town, don’t miss Pasar Malam Kereneng on Jalan Kamboja. This lively night market opens around 18:00, and offers oodles of eating choices. Popular are the satay kambing (goat satay) and babi guling (roast suckling pig) stalls. Business is brisk and food is cheap. You might catch some karaoke or other entertainment in the crowd too.
Nearby Gubug 21 opens late afternoon and attracts a young crowd. Stop in for snacks and drinks and sometimes live music, set in a pretty garden. Juices and milkshakes will set you back 18,000 rupiah, or try a bubble gum-flavoured sisha for 45,000 rupiah.
Warung Satria has been a local favourite since 1970, an excellent stop for Balinese nasi campur if you are visiting nearby Puri Satria. The white-tilled interior is clean and simple, and food is just the right balance of spicy and sweet: not so fiery that it’ll blow your head off, but the sambal will give your lips a tingle. Portions are ample and for 35,000 rupiah it’s great value. Try the deliciously refreshing (but slimy) es daluman (10,000 rupiah), a version of cincau jelly drink. Soft green jelly is mixed with coconut milk, palm sugar and ice; it’s just the thing on a hot day (or after a spicy meal).
Vegetarians and vegans fear not, you too can sample local food in Bali’s capital. Sariboga Waroeng Vegetarian in Jalan Sutomo is easily reached if you’re wandering around the temples, palaces and markets in the west of town. This shoebox-sized warung can do amazing things with vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and of course spices. You’ll be questioning whether some of the dishes are meat-free as they look convincingly otherwise, but the fresh healthy taste will set you straight.
Between Sariboga Waroeng Vegetarian and Pura Maospahit on Jalan Sutomo, a small unassuming hole-in-the-wall dishes up one dish: babi guling (roast suckling pig). We didn’t try it, but this little stall has a big reputation. For slightly more salubrious surrounds to indulge in a bit of piggy, Warung Sari Ayu on Jalan Kepundung, around the corner from Puputan Square, was readying to open its doors in December 2016.
Shopping for fabric on Jalan Sulawesi or searching for a bargain at Pasar Kumbasari can tire you out quickly, but this is easily remedied with a caffeine fix at Bhineka Djaja on Jalan Gajah Mada. Home to Bali’s famous Kupu-Kupu Bola Dunia (Butterfly Globe) brand of coffee, this is mostly a warehouse but at the front a small retail outlet sells a range of pre-packed beans or ground coffee from all over Indonesia, or if you prefer your coffee cowboy-style, you can buy in bulk from large metal bins. A couple of tables and chairs offer a spot to rest your weary bones while you sample a reviving kopi. Say hi to the stuffed civet in the window.
Another well-located coffee outlet is Treasures Coffee, in the small lane behind Level 21 Mall. As well as their own house blend, you can order a single origin coffee from just about any coffee-growing district in the archipelago. Take home a bag of the house blend beans in 200g (80,000 rupiah) or one kilogram packets (260,000 rupiah). Makassarese-style (from South Sulawesi) meals and snacks are on the menu here too.
In the Renon area, after you’ve checked out the Bajra Sandhi Monument or made a (hopefully quick) trip to the immigration office, Warung Mina on Jalan Tukad Gangga is a popular spot with a lovely atmosphere specialising in grilled and fried fish. Non-fish eaters are catered for too with chicken, pasta or pizza dishes. Choose from long wooden tables in the clean and spacious pavilions or a comfy cushion in one of the smaller bales in the garden. It’s a little pricey by local standards as rice and sides are sometimes extra (unless you order a “paket”), but still very good value. We tried the gurami santan kemangi (fried gurami fish with coconut milk and lemon basil) (60,000 rupiah). Although many menu items are fried, food isn’t greasy, but fresh tasting. Polite and attentive staff add to the pleasant atmosphere.
Around the corner near Denpasar’s Catholic cathedral, hipster-style Pixelatte Cafe administers your caffeine fix in this part of town.
Babi Guling: North of Pura Maospahit, Jalan Sutomo, Denpasar.
Bhineka Djaja: 80 Jalan Gajah Mada, Denpasar; T: (0361) 224 016, (0361) 224 720; www.kopibali.com; open Mon-Fri 09:00-15:30, Sat 09:00-15:00.
Dapoer Pemuda: 11 Jalan Veteran, Denpasar; T: (0361) 244 214, (0813) 3966 0116; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.facebook.com/DapoerPemuda/; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Gubug 21: 21 Jalan Surapati, Denpasar; T: (0821) 4604 1342; open daily 16:00–23:00.
Pixelatte Cafe: 9A Jalan Tukad Musi I, Denpasar; T: (0878) 6044 2333; email@example.com; www.facebook.com/pixelattecafebali/; open Sun-Fri 11:00-22:00, Sat 11:00-23:00.
Rumah Makan Kedaton: 95 Jalan Hayam Wuruk; T: (0361) 323 448; open daily 08:00-22:00.
Sariboga Waroeng Vegetarian: 33 Jalan Sutomo, Denpasar, T: (0813) 5326 0759; open daily 08:00-20:00 .
Treasures Coffee: 150/A8 Jalan Diponegoro, Denpasar, T: (0361) 229 003, (0361) 222 520; open Mon-Sat 08:00-24:00, Sun 16:00-24:00.
Voltvet Eatery & Coffee: 11A Jalan Veteran, Denpasar; T: (0361) 226 479, (0896) 7815 0777; open daily 11:00-23:00.
Warung Mina: 1 Jalan Tukad Gangga, Denpasar; (0361) 265 537; firstname.lastname@example.org; warungminagroup.com; open daily 09:00-22:15.
Warung Sari Ayu: 1 Jalan Kepundung, Denpasar; T: (0812) 3661 9999.
Warung Satria: 11A Jalan Kedondong, Denpasar; T: (0361) 235 993; (0361) 913 3301; open daily 09:00-21:00.