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Apéritif: Recherche Du Temps Perdu

Stephanie Mee heads back to the cocktail glory days at Viceroy Bali’s Apéritif.

New to Ubud is a sophisticated tippling spot that’s raising the bar on craft cocktails and culinary creations. Nestled on the lush grounds of the Viceroy Bali, Apéritif has already been creating a buzz for its glamorous colonial-inspired decor and exquisite fine dining fare. Now the recently unveiled bar adds another element of 1920s decadence to the experience.

Housed in a spacious standalone building that sits on the edge of a jungle-clad ravine, Apéritif draws inspiration from the Roaring Twenties with opulent touches like smooth marble, dark wood and bronze. The space also pays homage to Indonesia’s colonial history with authentic period photographs and antiques.

The bar is separate from the main dining room and evokes speakeasy vibes with a sunken bar at the centre of the room, intimate booths, and dim lighting. The low seats surrounding the bar are prime spots for watching the bartenders work their magic, while the breezy patio overlooking the river is the perfect place for post-prandial drinks.

Just like the name suggests, the traditional European concept of an apéritif is central to the experience here. Each guest begins the evening with a complimentary pre-dinner drink and snack to stimulate the appetite before moving into the elegant dining room. Of course, the bar also welcomes guests who prefer to sip and snack without indulging in the full degustation menu.

The cocktail menu was created by award-winning bartender Ran Van Ongevalle, who hails from Belgium and comes from a family of talented mixologists. Ran is renowned for his innovative creations made with artisanal spirits and intriguing infusions. He says, “My inspiration was to revive 1920s classics with modern flavours by blending local produce and the spirit of Bali with classic drinks.

“We’re using local produce like galangal, tamarillo, kemangi and even seaweed from Lombok, which is very exotic and very local. Some of them we transform into syrups, some into cordials, and from the galangal we make a delicious liqueur where we just simply add champagne for a twist on a Kir Royal.”

We highly suggest starting with the Tamarillo Negroni, a smooth blend of gin, vermouth rosso and Campari. The tanginess of the tamarillo balances the sweetness of the vermouth, while the gin adds herbaceous notes and the orange peel garnish imparts a refreshing citrusy touch. Ran’s favourites also include the Galangal Root and Kemangi Cooler.

If cocktails aren’t your style, the bar also offers a wide selection of top-shelf whiskies, cognacs, and spirits. Wines are also given top billing here with an excellent selection of bottles carefully curated by the in-house sommelier to complement the climate and cuisine. Take for example the French Brut Rosé, a sparkling wine or the crisp, yet floral Yalumba Viognier.

Along with enticing beverage options, the bar at Apéritif offers light bites for grazing. Executive chef Nic Vanderbeeken takes culinary influences from the old Spice Islands and combines them with modern European gastronomy and cooking techniques. Expect lesser-known Indonesian ingredients, exquisite produce sourced globally, and the property’s own greenhouse harvest.

Complimentary canapés at the bar could include the duo Lombok oyster with lemon myrtle and oyster in black tempura with chipotle or the cherry tomato tartlet with Parmesan cheese cream. For something slightly more substantial, guests can sample the Wagyu beef tartare with quail egg or the parrotfish ceviche lightly cured, rolled in seaweed powder, and served with leche de tigre, hijiki seaweed, red chili, dill and kaffir lime oil.

Over in the dining room the eight-course degustation menu surprises and delights at every turn. The eclectic cuisine takes classic Indonesian and European classics and adds innovative twists. Take for example the Papua crab with seasonal beurre blanc-poached crab and jicama dotted with celeriac cream purée and a citrus gel or the venison Wellington with a buttery crust, decadent foie gras, and a rich rendang sauce.

Whether you’re seeking a stylish spot for cocktails and cigars or a decadent dining experience where no detail is spared from the apéritif right down to the apres-dinner drinks, the bar at Apéritif has the ultimate allure. You can bet we’ll be spending more than a few evenings here working our way through the beguiling cocktail list and soaking up the opulence.