Lovina offers a comprehensive array of international fare alongside local dishes and some great fresh seafood. Tuna and mahi-mahi with the occasional snapper are the most common fish caught here. Squid, locals tell us, is freshest on the dark moon. Beachside the food can be fairly standard, but washed down with a cold Bintang and a sunset view almost anything improves.
The largest concentration of restaurants and bars can be found in Kalibukbuk, so if you opt to stay in one of the outlying villages you’ll probably find yourself trekking into here for a feed at least now and again. Lovina is a good place for a night out, as live bands fight it out in competition, often in bars side by side.
Beware of cheap cocktails! The “gin” and “vodka” are more often than not made with arak. Several people have died from ethanol poisoning in Bali via badly distilled arak. Despite what you may be told by some locals, the magic mushroom omelettes and shakes often offered to tourists are illegal and you could end up facing nasty penalties if you are caught (think four to 20 years’ imprisonment). Enjoy the real magic Bali has to offer instead.
Plenty of places are aimed at having you watch the sunset with a chilled cocktail while listening to some chilled sounds and feeling the sand between your toes. Spice Beach Club on the beach at Kaliasam is the coolest watering hole in town (just don’t compare it to the fancy beach clubs in the South). Burgers (65,000-90,000++ rupiah), salads (60,000-85,000++ rupiah), seafood and local and Western standards (mains from 65,000++ rupiah), as well as weekly specials are on offer, with local wine pairing suggestions. Prices are a little higher than average, but the great atmosphere and friendly service are free. Live music Saturdays and Sundays with a DJ on Friday nights. They offer a free shuttle service around Lovina.
Tiny Akar is green and fresh, both in decor and food. This vegetarian cafe knows what health conscious Westerners want and delivers it with aplomb. Akar means root in Indonesian, and here the philosophy is all about getting back to healthy, sustainable roots in every aspect of its operation, from cheap water bottle refills to the promotion of local village products. The varied menu delivers sensational salads (from 50,000 rupiah), some of the best falafel you’ll find in Bali (from 55,000 rupiah), an outstanding green gazpacho soup (40,000 rupiah), plus deserts you’ll want to leave room for (from 10,000 rupiah). Vegan and gluten-free options available. Go for a table out the back by the river.
My Greek Taverna has decor that would make Zorba feel at home. This pretty blue and white restaurant serves up standard Greek fare. Lots of tapas-style starters (or whatever the Greek equivalent is called) are offered, with portions on the small side (from 30,000 rupiah). Staff are overwhelmingly friendly. An odd (and not very effective) curtained-off section at the front of the restaurant serves as a smoking area, so if you don’t want to smell smoke while you eat, choose a table at the back.
In a side street off Jalan Binaria, Jasmine Kitchen is the long-running Thai offering in this little multicultural patch of restaurants. Sit downstairs on cushions, or upstairs with a breeze. Tasty, tourist-friendly Thai dishes rated with elephants for spiciness. Mains 40,000-75,000 rupiah. Try a slice of heavenly, although not very Thai, cakes — the Tunisian citrus cake (45,000 rupiah) or the banoffee pie (40,000 rupiah) are delish.
Next door to Jasmine Kitchen, bright modern and colourful Seyu Japanese Restaurant dishes up the dolphin’s favourite: fresh local tuna sashimi. Sushi, teriyaki, yakitori and bento boxes available. Prices are a little higher than other local places.
Global Village Kafe is a not-for-profit social enterprise with a feel-good, do-good vibe. The art-lined walls and fun island-style setting of this street-side cafe invite in “all cultures, all colours, all ages, all sizes, all sexes, all abilities, all religions, all creeds, all beliefs, and all people”. Profits go to benefit local healthcare, housing, sanitation and education projects. An extensive menu takes you around the globe (via Indonesia) with mains from 25,000 rupiah. They have great breakfasts and they serve real espresso too. This is also a good place to pick up a gift — artwork and handicraft sales benefit the foundation, plus there’s a free book and DVD exchange.
Warung Apple is one of the busiest local restaurants in Lovina — and deservedly so. Their service is spot on, even with a queue outside. Expect well-prepared and fresh grilled seafood at reasonable prices (mixed grilled seafood with chips or rice 40,000 rupiah) along with a huge Indonesian and Balinese menu and the coldest beer in Lovina. You’ll have to queue — it’s tiny.
Unassuming local-style cheapie JB’s Warung Makan has fish “straight from the nets” cooked to perfection. It’s possibly the best we’ve had in Bali (we may have just been lucky). Pizzas and other Western and Indonesian traveller’s favourites are served too, but go for the fresh fish. The service is friendly and the ambrosial lemon cheesecake is creamy and tart -- try it!
Sunny yellow La Madre is a friendly family-run restaurant in a delightful breezy garden setting serving Italian and local food with daily house-baked focaccia. Pasta is priced at 35,000-65,000 rupiah, pizza 40,000-75,000 rupiah. Rattan chairs and yellow cloth tablecloths and serviettes move it up a notch from other local cheapies. The charming owners enjoy a chat too.
If you’re staying in Anturan, and don’t want to venture very far, Warung Rasta, as you can probably guess by the name, has a laidback and relaxed vibe with Bob Marley on a loop. It’s old-school-Bali style and right on the beach, so chilled Bintangs come with a sunset view. The location is better than the food. Service is friendly but slow, very slow, but you’re on holiday right?
For something really special, Damai offers a fine dining culinary adventure. Part of the luxurious boutique hotel at Kayuputih, in the hills above Lovina, the restaurant reinvents traditional Balinese cuisine with house-grown organic and local produce. A daily changing three-course menu (485,000++ rupiah), dish of the day (245,000++ rupiah) or a la carte are offered. The set menu when we visited comprised Balinese village crispy duck, followed by grilled ocean fish, and lak-laks -- pan-fried cakes -- for dessert. Tempting cocktails are served poolside at sunset and there’s an extensive wine list too. Exquisite food in an atmospheric garden setting and charming unobtrusive service makes for a consummate (but pricey) experience. Call for a free pickup.
If you’re searching around Lovina on Google maps, you may be surprised to see an aeroplane parked in the ricefields about four kilometres west of central Lovina. This is Krisna Wisata Kuluner, a huge complex of souvenir shops and food stalls aimed at domestic tourists. We’ll let you in on a secret — domestic tourists have pretty good taste when it comes to food. Behind the warehouse-sized oleh-oleh (souvenir) store, a manicured garden full of ponds, flowers, sculptures … and a large jet aeroplane is dotted with smart huts, each with a speciality dish including ayam betutu (slow-cooked smoked and spiced chicken), babi guling (roast suckling pig), ikan bakar (barbecued fish) and sate kambing (goat satay).
Home Maid An epicurean’s delight — This small take-away deli has you covered for a night in or a quick snack on the run: gourmet pies (from 25,000 rupiah), pates, cakes and home-made muesli.
Ayam Goreng Warung Muslim Banyuwangi is basically a food cart that sets up each evening in an alcove outside the shops on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, near Kristop Money Changer (look for the cloth banner). Finger-licking Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), with an eye-watering spicy sambal. You’ll want to try a side of eggplant and fried tempeh too. It’s cheap and doesn’t look like much, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Warung Muslim Lumajang Lalapan is a hole-in-the wall local warung on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt at Kaliasam serving fried chicken, duck, catfish or ocean fish. Basic but quick, tasty and ridiculously cheap. We tried the fried fresh fish with rice, veggies and a drink all for 13,000 rupiah.
Watch the world go by from Zigiz Bar, a tiny, popular and long-running little bar. Pull up a stool with a street view, or upstairs in the lounge, and listen to the live music belt out from the stage below. A small range of beers, wine by the glass, and all your favourite cocktails “made with imported spirits” (including Sex on the Beach with the risque price of 69,000 rupiah). Bar food available. Staff are a friendly bunch and the band will play all your ’80s requests.
In direct competition to Zigiz Bar a couple of doors away is the slightly more spacious Poco Lounge Bar with tables overlooking the river at the back, and a large (for Lovina) dance floor that gets pumping most nights. Cover bands, mirror balls and flashing disco lights create a fun party atmosphere.
Funky Place is essentially hostel-type accommodation, but its bar gets pretty lively in the evenings with live music and beer pong. Balinese dance and barbecues are offered some nights all in a funky garden setting with recycled wood benches and volcanic rocks.
Akar: Jalan Binaria, Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 343 5636; open daily 07:00-22:00.
Ayam Goreng Warung Muslim Banyuwangi: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, near Kristop Money Changer (look for the cloth banner).
Damai: Jalan Damai, Kayuputih; T: (0362) 41008; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thedamai.com/restaurant. Open daily 12:00-16:00, 17:00-19:00 (cocktails), 19:00-23:00.
Funky Place: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kaliasam; T: (0878) 6325 3156; www.facebook.com/funkyplacebali/.
Global Village Kafe: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 41928; www.facebook.com/GlobalVillageKafe/; open daily 08:00-22:00.
Home Maid: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kalibukbuk; open daily except Wednesday 09:00-17:00.
Jasmine Kitchen: Gang Binaria, Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 41 565; open daily 08:00-22:00.
JB’s Warung Makan: Jalan Mawar, Kalibukbuk; T: (0898) 077 4591; open daily 08:00-23:00.
Krisna Wisata Kuluner: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Temukus; T: (0362) 343 7209, (0812) 381 4887; www.krisnabali.co.id; open daily 10:00-22:00.
La Madre: Jalan Mawar, Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 343 5553, (0817) 554 399; open daily 08:00-22:00.
My Greek Taverna: Jalan Binaria, Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 339 1503; www.facebook.com/My-Greek-Taverna-Lovina; open daily 12:00-22:00
Poco Lounge Bar: Jalan Binaria, Kalibukbuk
Seyu Gang Binaria: Kalibukbuk; T: (0362) 41 050; www.seyulovina.com; open daily: 10:00-22:00.
Spice Beach Club: Beachfront, Kaliasem; T: (0851) 0001 2666; www.spicebeachclubbali.com; open daily 10:00-23:00.
Warung Apple: Jalan Mawar, Kalibukbuk; T: (0813) 3496 1799; open daily 09:00-23:00.
Warung Muslim Lumajang Lalapan: Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kaliasam
Warung Rasta: Jalan Kubu Gembong, Anturan
Zigiz Bar: Jalan Binaria, Kalibukbuk; T: (0857) 384 4608; www.albe.net/de/zigiz/home.htm; open daily 16:00-late.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.