Bali, Indonesia: Cocktail of choices in paradise
Karma Kandara resort caters for all-comers and their tipples, writes Ute Junker.
If I had to pinpoint the moment that my Bali break kicks into a higher gear, I’d say it’s around the time that Yianni pours out the fourth cocktail. Until then, our cocktail-making class has been a relatively civilised affair.
Bartender Yianni, an engaging instructor who is both funny and knowledgeable, demonstrates each cocktail in turn, teaching us technique and talking us through the flavour profile. After we have sampled the end product, one of us tries their hand at recreating it.
We’ve already worked our way through a number of classics, from a mojito to the most perfect cosmopolitan I’ve ever tried.
It’s the fourth cocktail – one of Yianni’s own creations – that turns things around.
When it comes to cocktails, I favour the Chanel approach – clean, classic lines. So when Yianni starts spruiking his own high-concept offerings – one set named after the seven chakras, another named after the five senses – I’m a trifle sceptical.
I watch as he mixes up rosemary-infused vodka (his own blend) with hazelnut syrup, butterscotch liqueur, apple and lime into a cocktail called Taste.
Cautiously I stick in a straw, and take a sip. Then another.
To my surprise, it’s incredibly moreish, a beautiful balance between sweet and tart flavours.
Eventually I’m persuaded to relinquish the glass so that the others can try it, too. Yianni looks at me impishly. He knows what’s coming. Even as I ask, “Can I have another one of those?”, he’s already busy with the shaker.
This wasn’t supposed to be a cocktail-swilling kind of stay.
I had planned my Bali break to be a chilled-out experience, and, until then, Karma Kandara had delivered. The resort, high on a cliff at Uluwatu in Bali’s south, consists predominantly of vast three and four-bedroom pool villas. They seem designed for hiding away, which is exactly what I’d done. Most of my time had been spent unwinding by my private pool, either on the daybed or one of the loungers.
I did emerge occasionally.
Once for a morning yoga class at the very civilised hour of 8.30am, and once for an afternoon stroll.
As the tide ebbed out, I took the hillside tram down to the beach and enjoyed a long walk through secluded coves, peering into the newly exposed rock pools and enjoying the tranquillity.
Of course, this being a Bali holiday, I also had massages.
I tried out the decadent in-villa massage option, but to tell the truth, this is one of the few resorts where it’s worth taking a trip to the spa. The treatment huts are perched vertiginously on the edge of a precipice overlooking the sea – ask your masseuse to open the shutters, and you can feel the sea breeze dance over your body as she irons out the kinks.
Better yet, go early to enjoy a session in the infra-red sauna, where you can watch the waves through the glass door.
Once I got stuck into the cocktails, however, my mood changed. It was time to leave laid-back behind, and take things up a notch. Fortunately, Karma Kandara also caters for a more happening kind of holidayer.
The Karma Beach Club offers a different kind of beach experience – the type where DJs lay down a cool beat, and waiters armed with iPads take your orders for food and cocktails, which they deliver to your daybed. (Speaking of cocktails, another invention of Yianni’s worth trying is the Root Chakra, in which vodka is juiced up with fresh basil, lemongrass, ginger, strawberries, lime and honey.)
It’s the type of place where you can while away a whole day, occasionally ordering up another serve of lamb samosas, some sushi or an oven-baked pizza, before jumping into a kayak or trying a spot of stand-up paddle boarding.
The beach is not great for swimming, but watching the long, low breakers come in is mesmerising.
If you fancy a spot of shopping, Karma Kandara has that covered, too. Take a day trip to Seminyak, armed with a personal driver and a mobile supplied by the resort.
Browse the various boutiques, and whenever your purchases get too heavy, give the driver a call.
He’ll come and relieve you of your bags, leaving you free to start all over again.
Karma Kandara seems to have covered almost all the bases.
The resort’s topography, straddling a deep ravine, means there can be a lot of walking on sloping paths and steps, which could be a challenge for those who aren’t too steady on their legs.
That aside, the resort’s two-speed approach allows it to cater for a broad range of holidayers. There’s a kids’ club for those travelling with offspring, and singalong movie beach nights.
Give me a few of Yianni’s cocktails, and even I would have happily sung along to Grease.
And then there’s the food. Every venue at Karma Kandara, from the beach club to Di Mare restaurant, has its own menu offering an impressive array of well-executed dishes. The impress-your-partner option is Veritas, where the chefs will build a degustation dinner around a theme of your choosing.
Among the dishes that impress us most are a chilled asparagus and chervil veloute with a ragout of edamame and quail’s egg, and a parfait of seared foie gras and coconut.
The don’t-miss dining experience, however, is the Sunday morning brunch, an extravagant orgy of food that will have you recovering for the rest of the day.
Start with a selection of goodies from the buffet. Those who lean towards the savoury will load up on French cheese, prosciutto and small jars of caesar salad; dessert fans will head straight for the selection of pastries and sweets.
Be aware, however, that this is just the first course. Next up is a selection of breakfast classics, from omelettes to French toast.
Then you might opt for either sushi or a seafood platter, before sharing some family-style platters, from duck pancakes to a roast chicken or even a 300-gram Angus rib-eye. You’ll need a long lie down after all that, unless you’re tougher than I am.
The writer was a guest of Karma Kandara.
Garuda has a fare to Denpasar low-season return from Melbourne ($745; 6hr 15min) and Sydney ($777; 6hr 30min). Fares include tax. See garuda-indonesia.com or call 1300 365 330. Australians must obtain a visa upon arrival for a stay up to 30 days, costing $US25 ($27).
Rooms at Karma Kandara start from $US750. See karmakandara.com