Where to eat and drink: Waitabula

Waitabula: Where to eat and drink

We won’t go so far as to say Waitabula is the food capital of Sumba, but the choice here is better than most places, and if you’ve been craving something Western, you’ve come to the right town.

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Styled like a traditional Sumbanese house, Warung Gula Garum not only has a great relaxed atmosphere, the food is good too. An extensive menu spans the spectrum from Indonesian favourites to Western fare including a pretty decent thin-crust pizza (40,000-65,000 rupiah) and fresh salads (30,000-40,000 rupiah). The owner is French, and a few influences are noticed in the menu offerings (we tried the crepe suzettes for 20,000 rupiah). They have a proper wood fire oven and a coffee machine too.

Escape the heat at Warung Gula Garam. : Sally Arnold.
Escape the heat at Warung Gula Garam. Photo: Sally Arnold

The restaurant is certified halal, but they do serve alcohol and pork. Service is friendly and efficient, and they don’t mind if you linger for hours. Warung Gula Garum is the place to go if you fancy a steak, fresh seafood or good old-fashioned mashed potatoes. Popular with locals, tourists and expats alike, it may get busy in high season, so call ahead to book. It’s on the road to the airport just past the soccer field.

Near the post office, simple local-style Rumah Makan Richard draws a crowd around lunch time. Photos on the wall help identify the menu offerings. We tried an excellent fish soup — our favourite version of this soup in Sumba, here made with baby starfruit which adds a delightfully tangy sour flavour. We returned for a second go, but it was made with a different variety of fish, rather than the mackerel we first tried. The soup base was as excellent, but the fish was not as good. For a sweet treat try the es buah, a colourful mountain of shaved ice with fruit, syrup and unidentifiable delights. If you are planning on eating dinner, be aware Rumah Makan Richard closes at 19:00.

Fish soup at Rumah Makan Richard : Sally Arnold.
Fish soup at Rumah Makan Richard Photo: Sally Arnold

Simple and local Warung Kediri, diagonally opposite the market on the main road, is a basic but delicious point and pick joint. Cheap and fast, you’ll enjoy the fragrantly flavoured chicken and fish dishes. No English and tourists are a bit of novelty.

With the same owner as Hotel Sinar Tambolaka, Warungku is 500 metres along the road to Kodi. We didn’t try the food, but popped in to have a look at the pretty garden. It’s popular with locals and features a fairly standard Indonesian menu. The restaurant at Hotel Sinar Tambolaka is not a bad option either and is one of the few in town open late at night.

A bit of delish at Warung Kediri. : Sally Arnold.
A bit of delish at Warung Kediri. Photo: Sally Arnold

You’ll find Ro’o Luwa Cafe on the main road, at the far eastern end of town. We were attracted by the traditional-style roof and mannequins dressed in ikat guarding the cash desk. We only had a drink, but staff were very friendly. A variety of chicken dishes named after local districts are on offer. They also do special set meal deals for groups of four or more and have live music some nights.

Alam Hijau Resturant, only 800 metres from the airport, is popular with locals and local travellers. Sit in an open pavilion and enjoy fresh seafood or a host of Indonesian favourites before you catch your plane. The same owners have a fast-food joint next door that hosts movie nights (with Western films, we’re told) and karaoke.

After a hard day at the beach … : Sally Arnold.
After a hard day at the beach … Photo: Sally Arnold

The main street of Waitabula has a number of small stalls selling yummy looking cakes. Among them, a fancy bakery Sumba Makanan and Minuman serves gudek, a jackfruit dish from Central Java, along with the cakes. The English-speaking owner is friendly too.

The priests from Catholic Redemptorist order who run the excellent small museum Rumah Budaya Sumba also have a small hotel on the waterfront with an attached restaurant, Villa Redemptorist. We think the accommodation at the museum is better value, but the restaurant overlooking the water is a lovely spot for a cold sundowner.

Alam Hijau Resturant: Jalan Bandara, Tambolaka; T: (0812) 4666 8858, (0812) 4666 8868; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Ro’o Luwa Cafe: Jalan Jendral Soedirman, Waitabula; T: (0812) 3684 6112, (0852) 5399 8000; http://www.facebook.com/Roo-Luwa-Cafe-Resto-674198356017191/; open daily 08:00-23:00.
Rumah Makan Richard: Jalan Caritas, Waitabula; T: (0821) 4787 8000; (0852) 3811 7666; open daily until 19:00.
Sumba Makanan and Minuman: Jalan Sapurata, Waitabula; T: (0387) 252 4201, (0821) 4758 3089; sumbabakery@gmail.com.
Villa Redemptorist: Waikelo Harbour.
Warung Gula Garum: Jalan Bandar Udara, Tambolaka; T: (0387) 252 4019, (0812) 3672 4266; http://www.facebook.com/warung.gulagaram; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Warung Kediri: Jalan Sapurata, Waitabula.
Warungku: Jalan Ranggaroko, Waitabula; T: (0812) 5250 5000; open daily 09:00-22:00.

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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.