A 30-minute bike ride from the bustling atmosphere of Canggu beach will transport you to the tranquil charm of Tabanan, a town in central Bali widely acclaimed for its captivating rice paddies and natural vistas. This region sprawls along the western coastline, providing a serene retreat with unassuming places to eat and cozy coffee shops. This is a must-visit during your trip for a Bali beyond smoothie bowls.
In the heart of the Marga district, Warung Sambal Bejek Belayu has been an iconic culinary establishment since 1978. Upon entering, you’ll find rows of wooden chairs and lesehan (floor-seating) arrangements, creating a lively scene with diners immersed in their meals while overlooking picturesque rice paddies. The sambal is hand-pulverized right before your eyes in an open kitchen, infusing the air with a fragrant aroma of kecombrang (torch ginger) slices. Shredded chicken is tossed in the sambal, and is served with some steamed rice and a warming chicken broth. Be sure to arrive early; we witnessed disappointed patrons who arrived at noon only to find it had completely sold out.
Operating for four generations within the same family since 1940, Kedai Kopi M. Aboe Talib is a bustling coffee shop that attracts coffee enthusiasts throughout the day. Placing your order at the narrow cafe’s front, you’ll hear it called out through a thin gooseneck microphone, directing the coffee makers at the opposite end. As you patiently wait at the street-side seating, savour the unique taste of robusta coffee sourced locally from Pupuan, Tabanan Regency. I’d recommend pairing either a renowned black filter coffee or its sweetened milky counterpart with an array of available snacks – including traditional fritters and sweet cakes.
Specializing in urutan (Balinese spiced and smoked pork sausages), Standar Lokal is nestled in the lush greenery of Tabanan villages. Operating by reservations only, it prepares a vibrant and fragrant spread based on the number of diners, featuring urutan (smoked pork sausages), smoked shredded chicken, blanched cassava leaves, and the fiery sambal sere (shrimp paste relish). The spread is served “Makan Tengah”, an Indonesian communal way of dining, where a spread of dishes is placed across a dining table – family-style. This spread was perhaps my favourite meal during a recent trip, all for less than £3 ($3.80) per person.
Since 1938, Warung Es Waneng has earned its reputation in Tabanan for its specialty shaved ice dessert. A refreshing delight, especially in the hot weather, Es Waneng’s main ingredient is house-made coconut milk. What sets this one apart is the initial roasting of the coconut before turning it into milk, resulting in a creamy brown colour and an extra layer of complexity. Optionally (and highly recommended), have it with bread dipped in or shredded and added.
For over a decade, Laklak Biu Men Bayu has been a vibrant spot, and a local Balinese favourite.
Here, a wet batter is boiled on a terracotta slab over a coal stove, using coffee wood or, if you’re fortunate, clove wood. Topped with bananas and optional additions like chocolate, cheese, or jam, it transforms into a sweet similar to a Balinese banana crepe; the perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee. You’ll want a few of these pancakes while you’re there – luckily, each will set you back just pennies.
All photography by Rahel Stephanie, founder of Spoons supper club.