Niki Webster spent a week feasting on plant-based food, exploring Balinese culture and channelling her inner yogi on the first Bettina’s Kitchen retreat in Ubud, hosted by Bettina Campolucci Bordi…
Published on 7 Oct 2019
In true foodie style, Bettina and I arrived in Bali a few days before the retreat so we could enjoy our own plant-based food tour of Ubud to try out the best vegan restaurants. Bali had been at the top of my travel bucket list for a while as a plant-based food lover’s destination. And it really was vegan heaven!
Now I’m sharing my plant-based top spots to eat and dishes to try, so you know exactly where to go for the best food when you visit Bali…
Where to eat
Start the day by scootering over to Seniman Coffee for the best coffee in Ubud. The owners are so into the quality of their coffee, they have their own roasters right across the street. Seniman means ‘artist’ in Indonesian and that is reflected in its creative clan of customers working and chilling in the natural light and big chairs. Coffee here is quite an event, for its exceptional taste of course, but also because it’s served beautifully and with a little pastry.
Everybody had recommended Sage for breakfast, so I had to make it my first stop! Sage is an elegant but casual place, you have to take your shoes off as you enter, which feels super friendly and Balinese.
So dedicated to sustainability, Sage’s owners have their own nearby farm to provide local and organic ingredients for the restaurant, which makes me love it even more. It is also 100% vegan and everything is homemade, including the condiments!
We chose sweet and savoury breakfast options from the Western-style menu, which features smoothies and smoothie bowls, gluten-free pancakes, scrambled tofu and a mung bean omelette stuffed with cashew cheese and mushrooms. We went for the pink pattaya smoothie bowl and the omelette to share between us. The naamlette was hands down the most delicious egg-free omelette ever!
For lunch, an excellent choice is Locavore, which is on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. Despite not being totally plant-based, certain dishes on its renowned menu are still must-tries for visiting vegans.
Locavore serves innovatively created food from locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients, the origins of which are listed on the menu so you know exactly where your food came from, and often who farmed it! We enjoyed the vegetarian set tasting menu of five Indonesian/European fusion dishes and left Locavore with satisfyingly full bellies and extremely happy taste buds.
Alchemy is my number one lunch spot for a healthy, raw meal and a sanctuary from the afternoon sun. Alchemy is filled with a mix of solo diners, families, and digital nomads working under the aircon, making it a friendly and buzzing, yet chilled, spot to spend a lazy lunchtime.
Bettina and I rehydrated with coconut waters and then tucked into the delicious raw pizza, which is big and super filling. We also had to try the raw papaya sushi, which is made with tender cauliflower rice in place of grain, and tasty fresh veggies. I followed up with a giant banana ice cream for dessert, which was thick and creamy and beyond awesome!
For dinner, don’t miss Moksa, a stylish venue with all seating outside in among the Ubud rice fields – so it’s populated by tocays and dragonflies! Moksa is completely local, plant-based and raw, yet dishes replicate traditional favourites beautifully and without compromise on taste or satiety. It is so fantastic, in fact, that we visited here more than once!
I ordered the huge creamy coconut veggie curry, flavoured with fresh and subtle spices, on both visits and enjoyed it even more the second time, with a fresh coconut on the side. For dessert I had the passion fruit panna cotta, which was equally as yummy. Moksa’s attention to detail is inspiring – even their crockery is all designed especially for them by Gaya Ceramics, a local studio we spent an afternoon painting ceramics at on Bettina’s retreat.
Hujan takes my top spot for dinner. Contrary to Bali’s abundant casual-style dining spots, Hujan offers a classy reason to dress up a little and maybe even order a glass of wine. The multi-page menu is brimming with traditional, fresh Balinese dishes and features an array of fantastic flavours. They even have separate vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus, which I found really helpful and considerate, and the wait staff are really friendly and happy to help with suggestions.
Bettina and I ordered lots of dishes to share and we recommend you do the same so you can try as much as possible! Our favourites were the crispy, crunchy peanut crackers to start, the betel leaves, which need to be folded up and popped into your mouth whole, and Hujan’s creative version of papaya salad. I loved it here so much in fact, we ate here three times!
Top five places to stay
Bali is packed with adventure activities, cultural immersions and abundant opportunities to connect with nature. My top recommendations are:
1. Mount Batur Volcano
For adventurers, a volcanic hike is essential. There are three main volcanoes for hiking in Bali, Mount Batur is the least challenging and the quickest; scalable in about two and a half hours. You can catch phenomenal sunrises all over Bali, but there’s nothing as special as watching a new day begin from above the clouds after a trek up a volcano.
2. Lake Bratan and Handara Gate
If you’re on Instagram you’ll be familiar with both the iconic Lake Beratan and Handara Gate – both are epic photo locations, although the pictures are no match for the wonder of the reality of these cultural gems. Start with a trip to the majestic Lake Bratan, which was formed by a volcanic eruption 30,000 years ago, to see the temple sitting on its small island surrounded by water. Then head to the unmissable Handara Gate, which symbolises a pathway to serenity.
3. Tirta Gangga
Known as the most beautiful former royal water palace in Eastern Bali, Trita Gangga is another popular destination, although this fact doesn’t mean it has lost its charm. The water palace features tiered fountains filled with coy carp, landscaped gardens, stone sculptures, and pools you can jump into to cool off. It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
4. Walk among the rice fields of Ubud
Ubud is known worldwide for its panoramic rice paddies, which enclose the town from all sides and are easily accessible from all parts of Ubud. We stayed in the middle of one on our first night, which was a beautiful introduction to Bali and the best way to immerse right into the heart of Ubud. A rice field walk makes for a great activity after dinner at Moksa to help digest all of the fabulous food! Always stick to the paths and don’t wander off onto the crops.
5. Yoga and healing
I didn’t arrive in Bali expecting to be healed, but Bettina set me up a session with her healer, Dewa, and that’s exactly what I got! Indonesia is renowned for its traditional healers, so pay a visit to one while you’re here, it’s a special experience you’re unlikely to find in the West. While you’re here, check out the yoga scene, which is booming and attracts yogis from all over the world. Classes are cheap compared to Europe, and lots of studios have views over the rice fields.
Where to stay
We stayed in Ubud, which was perfectly placed for reaching all of the cultural and natural activities on our itinerary, while also being a busy, friendly town packed with places to eat, yoga and tattoo studios – I got tattooed while I was here by vegan studio Conscious Art Tattoo – decent WiFi and lots of opportunities to shop local artisan shops. If you’re more about the beach, Seminyak, Canggu and Uluwatu are favourite ocean-side locations.
How to get there
Ubud is easily reachable from Denpasar airport by taxi in under 2 hours. Get a car from an official taxi stand at the airport. To get around in Ubud itself, I recommend hiring a scooter, it’s the way to travel here as it’s super cheap and allows you to bypass the Ubud car traffic.
Niki spent lots of time travelling and backpacking around Asia, trying the amazing local food, so Bali was a perfect place for her to visit. Niki is a qualified holistic health coach, food consultant and, of course, founder of Rebel Recipes, featuring vegan recipes for real life – www.rebelrecipes.com