I’ve always thought that Jakarta is far behind in the club and bar scene industry, thinking since that it’s predominantly a Muslim country which are strict and conservative by religion. Also, as what I have heard from my friends also who are locals, the english language is not advocated in the city. Tourists like me would be left frustrated because simply I am not understood. In terms of service, creating a great guest engagement culture in the workplace is defeated. With this, in my such ignorance, I thought that the city is only for its own.
But during our last trip, I was proved wrong.
During our recent trip to Jakarta, Bob and I wanted to do some bar hopping to check out the local scene. We were told of a few good places and we were eager to drink and dine in every one of them. Bob and I never really went out to visit the clubs. We preferred experiencing the “watering holes” of the young and hip.
One of the many children of Jakarta’s renowned F&B company called Ismaya Group, it has made a mark in Jakarta as one of THE place to go to for having fun and socializing. It is a restaurant, a bar and a wine post rolled into one.
The ambience exudes the cozy feel of a terrace, library and garden which encourages casual conversations and light drinking. The decor is mostly wood and the night breeze and dim lights help soften more the mood.
Must try: Social House Signature Iced Tea and New York Cheesecake
The Iced Tea is served with lime sorbet. Totally interesting and brilliant. When the iced tea was poured, the sorbet slowly releases its zing in to the drink. So good, I traded my second glass of Moscato for this.
And the cheesecake, wonderfully baked. The bold mouthfeel of the cake was cut by the tartness of the forest berries sauce that I loved.
Drawback: I can’t take more photos of the place to share with you. Management does not allow. Ridiculous.
Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta Jakarta Capital Region 10310, Indonesia
(0)21 2358 0450
BLUEGRASS BAR & GRILL
A glass house, huge door and probably the longest bar that I have seen in Jakarta. Bluegrass pulled no stops in making itself unforgettable.
“It’s impossible to get seats there!” We were told by our gracious host Cynthia. But I guess, Sunday is an exception as we easily got a table. Still, I am quite surprised with the amount of people dining and drinking.
We just had dinner, so we opted to have drinks and desserts. I was told to order the Rainbow Cake (it seems that it is quite popular among the Jakartans for I had visited 3 restaurants prior to this that offers the same cake in the menu). Anyway, I didn’t. I have issues with eating 7 types of food coloring.
Must try: Lychee bread pudding
Oh the Lychee Bread Pudding, it was just divine! It was piping hot that it almost scalded our tongues. The dessert wasn’t overly sweet as I was expecting. The sweet lychees was the star!
I am also happy to note that they pour by the glass, my favorite, Dr. Loosen, Riesling. I never encountered a bar in Singapore that serves it by the glass and I always would succumb to opening a bottle. What a joy to have found this. My night was complete!
Komplek Rasuna Epicentrum, JL. HR. Rasuna Said – Kuningan, Jakarta, Indonesia
UNION BRASSERIE, BAKERY & BAR
An obscure back entrance (basement of a department store) opens to retro 1950′s bar setting, yet with a cosmopolitan and uber chic feel. This little glass house is still packed even after lunch time. No such thing as being discreet here.
We did manage to get a table (after 15 minutes of waiting) as we were the guests of the restaurant’s PR queen, Jaya. Totally gracious of the host as we came in with no reservations. I was told it is highly recommended to make reservations, if not, any available table you may use but there’s a tent card with a reminder of the next guests’ arrival. Polite way of chasing you out isn’t it?
We were also told that this place’s distinctive charm, high demand for getting a table and catching the elusive freshly baked red velvet cake (sold only during certain times of the day) are totally embraced by Jakarta’s elites that it remains packed way until wee hours in the morning.
Being there, I totally get it. You’ll see everyone there! Each and every social circle will be seen. The moment you step in, there’s a funny feeling as if people are gauging you. It’s crowded and bustling. There’s old jazz songs crooning while you drink and dine with friends and admire the Plaza Senayan Courtyard infront of you.
Soon I learned that Union is the latest outlet to be opened by the same owners of Loewy and Cork & Screw which are both successful and popular on it’s own.
Must try: Chocolate Banana Cake
It’s smooth, soft yet the chocolate is decadent. Such a nice contrast to the subtle flavor of banana.
We never got to try the Red Velvet cake since it was sold out at that time. Some say it’s lovely (heard that even the President’s wife is a fan and came down to buy) while some say it’s over-rated. Probably on my next visit I can manage to get a slice and tell you my verdict.
Oh, if you are perhaps looking where to get a good Irish Coffee, this is the place.
Caramelized brown sugar laced my latte glass that has substantial amount of whipped cream which covers the piping hot, Jameson whiskey spiked coffee below. Unlike some rubbish Irish Coffee in some cafes that I tried. It’s just black coffee with “Irish flavored syrup” inside. Where’s the “Irish Whiskey” flavor in this?” So dumb and misleading.
JL. Asia Afrika No. 8 – Central Jakarta Plaza Senayan, 1st Floor Unit Sogo 10270, Indonesia
(0)21 5790 5861
This is probably one of the the unique restaurant concepts that I have ever encountered. It is located in the extension slash walkway of Plaza Indonesia. Unlike the name suggest, there’s nothing cheery or colorful about the place. It seems like you’re dining at night in the middle of the playground. The lights are dim yet it is located overhead diner’s tables. There are swing bench chairs and seats where you can make your whole group turn like a merry-go-round.
The real playfulness of the concept is apparently on the food and beverage concept. The plating is quirky and some dish like their burger test the limit of architectural food height!
It’s a go to place for the foodies that are, like me, still a child at heart. It reminds you to enjoy your food and have fun with it!
Must try: The Playground Caesar Salad
One of the freshest and lively looking Caesar Salad that I have eaten. The style is deconstructed which I appreciate. For me the “make or break” part of any salad apart from the freshness of the greens is the sauce. Theirs has enough pungency and garlicky taste that I love.
Drawback: The table is too small! For 4 people who are dining and having several dishes, putting the plates down and squeezing it here and there was pretty strategic.
Plaza Indonesia Extension 4th flr
Jl. MH Thamrin
We found that the “scene” is young and vibrant with a strong spending power. Bars are competitive in beverage and dining concepts. Some design and concepts are unique while some understated yet exudes posh exclusivity. It is also good to note that the local servers seem to be given proper training in service and are slowly picking up the English language. During our barhopping around town, we noticed that service is over-all impeccable. With this, all I can say is that the industry in Jakarta is ready to grow even more. I’m really excited for the bright future of the F&B scene of the city!