Published Hello Bali November 2011
The whimsical walls of Potato Head Beach Club rise in playful testament to what happens when you combine a piece of prime real estate on the beach in Seminyak, with a lifelong Coliseum obsession, 10,000 vintage teak shutters and unbridled imagination….
Owners and long time friends Ronald Akili and Jason Gunawan had already achieved phenomenal success with the original Potato Head, Jakarta and decided it was time to make their presence felt on the international scene, Bali seemed the logical stepping stone, and the rest, as they say is history. The effect of thousands of colourful 18th century shutters mounted into a quirky replica of the Coliseum is quite extraordinary, while the fabulous acoustics and atmospheric setting have set the scene for some of the most fabulous parties of the year with international acts like Empire of the Sun, Mark Ronson and Ed Banger.
I arrive late in the afternoon and follow the long, winding shuttered corridor, emerging on a grassy terrace that overlooks a sizeable swimming pool, perfectly framed by the ocean and the soft glow of the setting sun. The Dj ushers in the night with some upbeat tunes, and I feel like I have stumbled into a really cool party. There are smiley happy faces everywhere – a funky beach club in Bali with great atmosphere and fabulous food and cocktails – what is there not to smile about? In the months since I was last here, Potato Head has grown into itself, filled the gaps, and gotten some serious soul. The place is absolutely pumping!
“There is definitely a personal touch to what we can do”, says Akili, “We have invited people into our lives; menus are based on nostalgic home recipes and personal memories from our travels, and we put our own collection in the restaurant, from the artwork to the furniture.” Eclectic paintings, antique lamps and ethnic curios are scattered randomly through the various venues, injecting character and intimacy into each little scene. Here at Potato Head the art of leisure comes in many guises, which poses a dilemma. Where to start? I could head to the timber deck that juts out over the beach, and share a day bed with a fruity martini; or perhaps enjoy a Zombie ( a cocktail served in a wooden head,) while I lounge pool side on a deck chair; and then there’s always the pool bar – but I forgot to bring my bikini. The thought of savouring traditional bistro food from a retro Scandinavian lounge suite in the Potato Head Restaurant is also appealing, but in the end curiosity wins, and I head into the newly opened Lilin restaurant which features a unique tapas menu and sangria.
Set into the southern section of the amphitheatre, the restaurant has an underwater design theme, with a massive ceiling resembling the curved keel of a ship, long communal wooden tables, and an outer wall comprised of aquariums filled with soon to be ‘catch of the day.’ The vibe is casual but classy and the food is phenomenal; south east asian home cooking served as tapas or live seafood. “Authenticity is the base ingredient of Lilin,” says Gunawan, and choosing a platter of tapas allows me to take a little culinary journey around Asia. My selection includes flaky Catfish marinated in fresh Balinese herbs like galangal, ginger and turmeric and smothered in red chilli sambal; Golden Prawn Balls wrapped in ribbons of rice paper, deep fried and served with plum sauce; Thai style Tofu Curry with a fragrant base of coconut cream and lemongrass, and an exceptional fluffy Olive Rice made Chinese olives and sprinkled with chopped coriander. From the live menu there is an impressive Asian Chilli Crab cooked Singapore style with an incredibly moreish sauce of chilli, turmeric leaf, cinnamon and palm sugar reduction, with a side of steamed and fried buns.
The deep rich flavours of the food call for equally hearty liquid refreshments, so the menu has been matched with a selection of sangrias infused with the exotic herbs and spices of Asia. The golden, white wine based Lintang Sangria is fruity and refreshing with apple juice, jasmine tea and star fruit, chilled with peach ice balls. Noah’s Sangria is a thoroughly intoxicating blend of red wine and spiced sugar with smooth notes of vanilla and the invigorating fire of homemade ginger beer. An utterly compelling drink!
Each venue within Potato Head offers its own signature cocktails – all designed by renowned Mixologist to the stars, Dre Masso. Handcrafted elixirs blend the freshest fruit, herbs and spices with premium spirits and a dash of innovation. The bar deck, within Potato Head Restaurant, which occupies the northern end of the amphitheatre offers bespoke fruity punches, served traditional style in big glass bowls. Try the Spiced Indonesian Island Punch mixed with Cuban rum, island spiced sugar, mango, guava and a dusting of nutmeg. Other pleasurable inventions include the Drake Mojito, made Brazilian style with Cachaca and cane syrup, the Three Millionaire Martini served on a wooden tray with a straight up passionfruit vanilla martini and a Champagne chaser, while the Prohibition Iced Tea is served in a dainty ceramic tea pot with delicate cups, so you can look lady like while you get totally sloshed, the orange wedges infused with vodka are a lovely bonus. My favourite has to be the Indus Nesus, the milk of the gods, an ambrosial elixir served in an old fashioned milk bottle. A quick spin in the flash blender creates a fluffy mix of vanilla vodka and apricot liqueur with refreshing notes of lemon and lychee juice and final twist of coconut cream.
Potato Head Restaurant
Lush cocktails aside the restaurant also serves up delightful, bistro style comfort food, with an international menu designed to remind you of home, like Traditional French onion soup, Spaghetti Carbonara and Steak and Fries. The Duck Carpaccio features the leanest slices of smoked duck, topped with a delightful mixed leaf salad, squishy mango, sharp parmesan and a splash of light raspberry vinaigrette. There are also Tequila Flambéed Prawns, and a Fillet of Barramundi, the soft mellow sweetness of the fish enhanced by a sweet basil sauce, asparagus spears and sautéed field mushrooms and capers. Desserts include a lovely, remarkably light Dark Chocolate Tart with fresh marquisa jelly.