There is always that one evocative summer that changes you: the lingering memories of a sweet romance; long gourmet brunches with great friends; endless sun-drenched afternoons celebrating the pure joy of doing absolutely nothing—and what better place to enjoy summertime feasting and living than at the newly opened Jungle Fish in Ubud?
Take the culinary road less travelled across Bali and head to the hills above Ubud to the Chapung Sebali Resort & Spa in the traditional artists’ village of Keliki. The resort itself has been a well-kept secret retreat to those in the know for many years. Thanks to the recent buzz surrounding the unveiling of Jungle Fish, now everyone is flocking to this chic restaurant, pool, deck and bar.
Sitting stylishly on the side of a mountain overlooking the Osh River Valley, the split-level Jungle Fish embodies the eccentricity and eclecticism of its Danish owner, Niki Nasr, a charming, mysterious furniture designer and a long-term resident of Bali.
Together with his Australian architect friend Rob Sample, Nasr took inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty and combined it with a modern, edgy mid-century Scandinavian design, the warm elegance of Balinese aesthetics and his sleek signature style.
Georgios of the Jungle
The contemporary Mediterranean menu of Jungle Fish, crafted by Greek Executive Chef, Georgios Giannoulis, evokes the spirit of the sun-kissed region, where cuisine is a philosophy and the art of eating is a palpable passion embraced by all. Having access to extensive organic gardens scattered throughout the estate is an enviable luxury for any cook, and Giannoulis is one lucky chef! Fresh, home-grown, organic vegetables, aromatic herbs and basmati rice are right on his doorstep—an advantage he takes fully, transforming nature’s bounty into his vibrant, seasonal menu.
It is easy to be charmed by Giannoulis’ colourful dishes, as each one of them is his personal culinary journey of respectfully marrying robust Mediterranean essences with bold Asian flavours and locally sourced premium ingredients.
Summer is for feasting and feast we did, starting with the succulent grilled octopus (the chef’s favourite dish) chargrilled to perfection to bring out the sweetness of the delicate meat, and marinated with lemon, oregano and Pernod sauce. The calamari, the ultimate crowd pleaser, is light, crispy and served with a fiery harissa mayo dip.
The Greek salad is a summer classic best savoured sitting on the sunny terrace and taking in the spectacular view. Giannoulis’ version boasts the freshest tomatoes, cucumber, onions and herbs from the gardens with capers, olives and creamy feta cheese mousse.
My personal favourite is the roasted beetroot salad with goat cheese brûlée, orange, onions, watercress and toasted hazelnuts—a timeless combination that lets the beetroot’s sweet depth and earthiness shine through. It’s definitely a salad with a wow factor.
The chicken with lemon-herb pesto, presented with a side of pretty purple potato salad, is one of the most memorable poultry dishes I’ve ever had. Tender, juicy and subtly spiced, it’s sophisticated in its simplicity. If you’re craving for something from the sea, opt for the white snapper served with an elegant fennel salad, couscous and bumbu Bali—a tasty concoction of traditional Balinese spices.
No feast is complete without a sweet treat. Giannoulis tantalises with his signature dessert: the chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream and diced mangoes—a perfectly sweet ending to a delightful meal fit for the Greek gods.
The Jungle Star
The undeniable star of Jungle Fish is, as the name cleverly implies, its 35-metre infinity pool at the lower level, facing the lush green ravine. Who needs the sand and the sea when you can listen to nature’s living orchestra? For a fee of IDR 150,000 net per person (fully redeemable for food and beverage), non-hotel-guests can soak up the Bali sun in one of the Jungle Fish’s cool cabanas or lively sun loungers, take a dip in the swimming pool, sip fun cocktails and have an evening picnic barbecue or enjoy the Sunday brunch in style.
Inspired by the ocean, the highlight of the impressive bar area is a floor-to-ceiling recycled glass mosaic meticulously designed by Niki Nasr. The pool deck interiors feature a volcanic rock backwash and dark ironwood enlivened by the colourful, striped daybeds and a crimson-lit wooden ceiling. Forget the beach club, the true style is in the jungle!
Summer seduces with a dose of escapism; inspiring a rediscovery of the pleasure of food, a reality uncheck, an urban detox and a time to rekindle romance, kinship and friendship. The tans will fade but the memories will last forever.
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — August 2015.
Photos courtesy of Jungle Fish.
Food photos by Meliana Salim.