Aperitif Restaurant in Ubud is worth visiting, even if you’re not staying in one of Viceroy Bali’s villas

Aperitif Restaurant in Ubud is worth visiting, even if you’re not staying in one of Viceroy Bali’s villas

Destination dining

Text: Crystal Lee

Aperitif, the buzzy European fine dining restaurant and bar within the verdant grounds of Viceroy Bali in Ubud, may involve a bit of a personal battle to get to, if you're not staying in one of the beautiful villas next door (you should). It's nowhere near central Ubud (a 30-minute drive away), and if you've caught the Bali Lazy Bug, dressing up and travelling half an hour or more for food can feel .

But we're here to tell you that Aperitif is worth the trip. In fact, you just might do it again. Because more than just the food, it's sublime in its guéridon service, Gatsby-esque décor, and calming ambience. Housed in standalone Dutch colonial-style building that overlooks a gorgeous jungle landscape, Aperitif spares no expense in making you feel like a hair-flipping A-lister from the arrive to its grand, marbled doorstep.

Once through its majestic doors, you'll be ushered to another wooden door on the left, and into the Bar for an aperitif (of course) and delightful canapes in an old-world gentleman's club setting. The cocktail menu, conceptualised by award-winning Belgian bartender Ran Van Ongevalle, is an ode to Bali's flavours with drinks like Kemangi Cooler and Tamarillo Negroni incorporating in-house infusions and local ingredients.

As for the canapes, they are proof that Belgian Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken wastes no time impressing his guests. His snacks, which come theatrically plated in beautiful tableware, consist of a crisp and fragrant Mexican pepper leaf tempura, a beetroot meringue with goat cheese, Balinese honey and pickled carrot, crispy puffed fish skin (part of the restaurant's zero-waste policy, which we dig), and a palate-opening tomato tart, and a mini black choux bun puff with smoked mackerel cream.

At dinner, Aperitif continues to show off in a big way. The main dining hall is palatial to say the least, with high ceilings, large windows, shiny marbled surfaces, dramatic checkered tiles, intriguing artwork, and sweeping chandeliers. The open kitchen at the back of the room is just as spacious, which probably explains why there's a strange sense of calm emanating from what is considered the heart of the restaurant.

Dinner is a three-hour, eight-course-and-then-some affair, but there's a five-course option if the former seems too indulgent. The menu, as stated, "explores eclectic global cuisine by way of the Indonesian archipelago", meaning there are culinary references to all dishes from the world over, with the use of local ingredients. That said, the chef Nic's execution is distinctly modern European. We started with lightly-poached fresh oysters from Lombok seasoned with yoghurt, spirulina, seaweed and smoked oyster emulsion, followed by a range of pretty starters. I had the — warning: big list of dishes incoming — parrotfish ceviche with coconut milk and hijiki; the zero-waste pumpkin dish with petals of koji-fermented and pickled pumpkin trimmings with edamame ice cream; the Canadian lobster with a brunoise of parsnip; seared foie gras with soursop, parsnip, pears and a shallot chutney; the duck magret; the venison wellington; a refreshing ice lollypop of soursop and mangosteen to cleanse the palette. From the dessert department helmed by pastry chef Alexander McKinstry, there were a chocolatey cake batter; a goat cheese plate; and the gorgeous milk and honey, a homemade panna cotta with buttermilk sponge and buttermilk ice cream.

Individually, each dish was expertly crafted and multi-layered in a smorgasbord of flavours and textures. The sweet, parsnip-enhanced Canadian lobster was a true delight (well, lobsters have that effect, don't they?), as with the luscious medium-rare duck magret, which is Aperitif's take on the Duck a l'Orange with an Indonesian twist — shallots, turmeric and candlenuts are used in the sauce's bumbu spice mix, a la ayam betutu (or Balinese roast chicken). As a whole, dinner is pretty heavy with all the richness combined, so it's best to go light for your prior meals.

With interiors this roomy, beautiful and relaxing, we couldn't help but linger a little longer back at the bar for a tasty nightcap, with chef Alex's lovely candies to go. And if you've made it all the way here, you should, too — slow down and unwind. What's even better? A nighttime stroll back to one of Viceroy Bali's stunning villas, have a slow, luxurious shower, sink into bed, then wake up in the morning to lush forest views and maybe a sweet soak in your private heated pool.

Viceroy Bali, Jln. Lanyahan, Br. Nagi, Ubud, Bali 80571 Indonesia
Opening hours: (Bar) 4pm-2am, (Dinner) 6pm-12.30am (last bookings at 9pm)
Degustation menus start from Rp. 1,350,000++ per person, and Rp. 2,600,000++ per person with wine pairing

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