Local-style Chinese fish house Istana Bambu serves up fair-priced seafood with a sambal that will blow your socks off. Hungry travellers can pick up prawn, fish and chicken dishes as well as numerous incarnations of fried rice and noodles, plus soto ayam for 25,000 rupiah. A bit unusually for predominantly Muslim Ende, many pork specialties are on the menu, including sate, fried rice and sweet-and-sour stir-fried pork. Just about every main on the menu is priced at 50,000 rupiah, which is at the least a way to keep calculations simple. Large bottles of Bintang go for 30,000 rupiah, while there’s even a banana pancake to soothe your inner backpacker for 25,000. As is always the case in Ende, try to go early—the door gets locked around 20:30. They stock a dizzying array of Popsicles and other mass-market ice cream treats if you’re feeling a bit parched. The sambal it available for sale—we bought four jars of the stuff.
For Padang cravings, Sari Alam features one of Ende’s more upmarket interiors, and is a good bet for inexpensive and authentic Indonesian eats. We paid 56,000 rupiah for a hefty lunch for two, including beef rendang, tasty chilli-fried prawns, coconut milk stew, eggplant and much more. There are plenty of selections from fish to chicken to vegetarian specialties, and you can opt to eat inside a pleasant air-con area, complete with a very modern fountain window. This is a popular lunchtime spot with locals—no beer, but plenty of soft drink selections. It’s an easy walk from the Ikhlas and Safari hotels—coming out of the hotel and facing the street, walk left until you see the sign. Open for lunch and dinner.
Warung Bangkalan Ende is a pleasant and airy lunch spot serving up excellent chicken and goat (better than it sounds) sate, drenched in a rich, dark peanut sauce. You can also try a tasty coconut milk and goat meat soup here, as well as the usual soto ayam, nasi goreng and nasi campur, plus fried fish. Vegetarians and those not interested in sampling the cute beasties can try spicy fried tempeh cubes and stir-fried mixed vegetables. There’s chilled iced tea in glass bottles in the fridge. They’re only open early mornings and for lunch, but there’s another venue in the east of town that serves the same menu items.
Ende doesn’t have anything you’re likely to confuse with a bar, but there are some beachside cafes along a small strip near the soccer field and port which is a great place to catch the sunset and sip cold drinks. There are also simple fried snacks and bakso, Indonesia’s riff on Southeast Asia’s favourite rice noodle soup. A particular favourite with young Ende locals, the soundtrack here is American country and rock music—Rhett Akins was big on the night we visited. Kids play pickup games of volleyball on the black-sand beach, and you can watch fishing boats return from a day out as you relax. How to get here? Head to the soccer field down Jalan Sudirman, then make a right on Jalan Panterae. Look for the big park sign and the commotion. Only active during the evenings and around sundown, especially on the weekends.