Monday 21 September 2015

My Gluten Free Guide to Bali

Crippling fear gripped me, when I landed in at Depensar airport, Bali and realised I had two and a bit weeks of struggling to find food that I could eat. I had researched restaurants I could have eaten at, but like anywhere restaurants come and go in Bali like the wind.

It wasn’t as hard as I had feared though, with my coeliac translation card I found it OK and most places knew what gluten free was, especially in Seminyak and Ubud.
Here are my highlights for Gluten Free meals in the places that we stayed in Bali and Gili T – Hope you like them!

Hotels: Vasanti Resort and TS Suites
Restaurants: Biku, Watercress, Chez Gado Gado, La Plancha, Potato Head and Ku De Ta

What a wonderful place Seminyak is, a little touristy, but it has a great vibe with beautiful hotels! All the hotels we stayed in had a gluten free option for breakfast. They all had omelette stations, where you could request what you liked. There were no gluten containing products that went near to the stations (I checked!) and you could have as many as you liked. They also had a fruit selection (the usual watermelon, melon, papaya, pineapple and sometimes strawberries) which was fine for me.

Seminyak is not short of restaurants either. There was a list of restaurants I wanted to go to, including Serong and Mama San (who both have a designated gluten free menu, I also hear the food is brilliant) but we didn’t have time, or we were staying too far from them - although as cabs are so reasonable, I am sure you could get to them!

However, I did go to a few restaurants that either had a gluten free menu, or fully understood gluten free and the importance of it. 
See a few of those that were outstanding in Seminyak below:

What a wonderful restaurant! From the moment my boyfriend and I walked in we were mesmerised. The restaurant used to be an antiques shop, so it is laden with beautiful artefacts, and some you can even buy (they have a shop on the left hand side). I said to the waitress that I was gluten free and she produced me a whole menu that was gluten free – AMAZING. I had the Vitenamese spring rolls to start (made with ricepaper) which were served with a gluten free sweet chili dip and tamari – they were a taste sensation! I then went on to have the Mahi- Mahi fish cooked in Indonesian spices served with sticky rice. The flavours danced in my mouth and the plate was clean in about 5 minutes. I had heard many things on twitter about Biku’s famous carrot cake (not gluten free…L) so I took the liberty of asking if they made a gluten free version – low and behold they did. My boyfriend watched in amazement as I squashed the last crumbs onto my fork…he had never seen me eat so much, in such a little time. To say it was delicious is an understatement. If you ever get to go, they serve other gluten free cakes, such as small chocolate muffins and almond cake, but also provide a gluten free high tea in the afternoon - something I am told is regrettable to miss and I definitely regret we didn’t have time to go back! I spoke to the owner, Asri who has a daughter who is gluten intolerant, and so understands the importance of cross contamination. All gluten free cakes are kept on separate covered cake stands and they use different areas and utensils while preparing gluten free dishes. Thank you Asri for taking time to talk to me – when I am back in Bali I will be paying you another visit!
Reserve a table as we didn’t and had to wait about 40 minutes (which we didn’t care about because the food was amazing!)

We actually stumbled upon Watercress when walking around Ubud (Monkey Forest Road) where they have a newly opened branch, of a week old. I spied ‘GLUTEN FREE BREAD’ on the board inside and dragged my boyfriend in to see what other dishes were available on the menu. We were told by one of the owners that they had a bigger (and the original) branch in Seminyak, so we said we could visit when we returned at the end of the holiday – which we did. We had the sharing platter of rib of beef, which was perfectly cooked medium rare. They also swapped out a few of the side dishes that come with the meal, so I could have them. I was so full by the end of the meal, washed down with an Alben’s cider (English cider made in Bali) that I thought I couldn’t eat desert, until I saw the gluten free brownies again. I had to have them warm with ice cream. Even though I was so full, I wolfed it down. Perfection in a meal and the service was brilliant – we couldn’t fault it. The only thing I would say – that goes for all restaurants in Bali is that they count the money you have put down at the table in front of you. Those who could get offended by this (as we did when we first experienced it) don’t, it is just something they do that we in the UK are not used to. The restaurant had a great vibe and we felt totally relaxed.
Jl. Batubelig No. 21A, Kerobokan, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Chez Gado Gado:  
This was one of the more expensive restaurants we went to in Seminyak, but the food was beautifully presented and heavenly to eat. It replicates a Michelin star restaurant here in the UK, but for a quarter of the price. The staff were really helpful and professional, and asked the chef about what dishes were gluten free on the menu. I had pan fried cod with chorizo and calamari which was delicious. As with most Michelin star restaurants the portions look small but fill you up with their array of complex flavours. The setting is romantic and on the beach, and is perfect for a celebration of some sort.
Jalan Camplung Tanduk Dhyana Pura No. 99, Seminyak, Kuta, Bali

La Plancha: 
I loved this beach bar and it has a lot more character than at the other end of Seminyak beach, with its multi-coloured bean bags and umbrella’s. It was probably one of my favourites! I wanted to stay the whole night and just people watch and listen to the DJ! The vibe here was so colourful and we were lucky to have grabbed a bean bag when we did as the place was full from about 5pm until around 9pm. The food here is gorgeous, and Spanish themed. We had the grilled prawns and grilled squid, and we just kept ordering more as they were so tasty! La Plancha can get a bit busy, so be prepared to wait a while for your drink and food – but it is well worth the wait. The sunset isn’t too bad either! Go for lunch or an early dinner, you won’t be disappointed! Just mention that you are gluten free but everything is grilled on an outside BBQ.
Jalan Mesari Beach, Seminyak, Kuta, Badung, Bali

Potato Head: 
This world famous beach bar is one that I couldn’t miss out on. It’s the only real beach bar that I had heard about, and now I know why. The setting is beautiful with its two story building, pool and large sunbeds. We went for dinner, and booked in advance as there is a large waiting list (Thanks to Vipau at TS Suites for arranging out table!). The staff knew about gluten free, and provided me with great service, asking the kitchen what I could have on the menu. The food is glorious, and I could finally have a glass of wine, that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced.  I had pan fried red snapper with pesto and vine tomatoes. The red snapper had a hint of ginger which was well complimented by the pesto sauce. This is a must, as it is lavish in its setting.
l. Petitenget No.51B, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Ku De Ta:
Ku De Tar is another lovely beach club just up the beach from Potato Head. It is very lavish like Potato Head and would cost you a small fortune if you were to have drinks all afternoon. It is however a beautiful setting for both lunch and dinner.I had their take on a Caesar salad with anchovies, egg, cos salad, parmesan and freeze dried onions which was refreshing in the heat. They too understood the importance of gluten free and checked with the kitchen for what I could have. I would however say that the beach bar is very much that and Ku De Tar is probably one to go to in the evening where you can sit in the main restaurant with more options for food.
Jl. Kayu Aya No. 9, Seminyak, Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Hotel: Sri Bungalows
Restaurants: Cinta Grill and Watercress

We were only in Ubud for two days, and I wish we’d have stayed a little longer. I loved the lush rice fields that were nearly everywhere, the coffee plantations where we learned about the very expensive Luak Coffee, having monkeys jump on you in the monkey forest, quad biking through the open forest of Ubud, seeing the cultural sites such as temples and of course visiting the beautiful Tegenungan waterfall. Ubud has a completely different vibe to that of Seminyak, and is far more relaxed. Take advantage of the spas while you are there, they are cheaper than in Seminyak! It’s also advisable that you take an anorak or waterproof of some sort, as it tends to rain! We didn’t get to explore much as we had a limited time, but Monkey Forest Road is where the below two restaurants live. 

Here are my favourites that we came across in Ubud:

Cinta Grill: 
The staff here were so lovely and welcoming, and we had a great meal. I had the grilled chicken with vegetables which were nicely seasoned. They also do amazing cocktails! I had a Strawberry Caprioshka which got a big thumbs up from me!
Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

I know I have already mentioned Watercress in Seminyak but I thought I would also mention that they have a smaller branch in Ubud (it was that good…I had to!) After an abysmal meal in a restaurant I have forgotten the name of, we walked along to the trusted Watercress we had found the night before to have desert and a hot chocolate as we were starving from the disgusting meal we had. I had the raw marble cake, which is too gluten free. This was delicious, a frozen desert with a raw cashew base and a dark chocolate disk on top all washed down with a cup of hot coco – what better when there’s a tropical rain storm! The deserts are all kept in separate containers in the freezer, so there is no cross contamination!

Before we left for the Gili islands, I knew that we weren’t going to eat for a good few hours – so I went back and ordered a chicken and garlic sandwich with…wait for it… gluten free bread! The bread was delicious and we were told this was made in their Seminyak branch and delivered daily to Ubud, along with the brownies and marble cakes. It wasn’t a traditional sandwich (it was open but I didn’t care). I would 100% go back to Watercress, the staff were lovely and we had a great chat with the co-owner!

Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Gili T:
Hotel: Aston Sunset Beach Hotel
Restaurants: Scallywags

Out of all of the places we visited, I was most excited about Gili T as I had heard the sunsets are something you can’t miss. I am not going to lie, I was a little disappointed, although it has a buzzing nightlife and amazing crisp white shores, Gili just didn’t do it for me. Maybe this was because my boyfriend and I both got ill while we were here, meaning that we could only dine at a restaurant one out of 6 nights, as we were bound to our room and the hotel restaurant, for fear of being ill in the town (which was a good 20 minutes by horse and cart from our hotel). If you are planning to go to Gili, just be careful of the water, avoid salads and ice and don’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Snorkelling is something you cannot miss here, the coral reefs between Gili T, Meno and Air are breath-taking, and if you can, get your own private glass bottomed boat, it may be more expensive, but it’s well worth it! If I were you, I wouldn’t stay at the Aston Sunset Hotel, the staff were rude when we checked out (laughed for the whole time we were checking out and clearly speaking about us) and when we needed something fixing (our bathroom kept flooding, our door key continuously didn’t work, and our fridge froze all our drinks making them burst!), it is quite far from the centre of town and in ‘down season’ the drivers of the horse and carts can charge you up to 100,000IDR a ride, which when compared to a bluebird taxi in Bali is ridiculously expensive! One thing I can say for that side of the island though is the sunsets are the best sunsets I have ever seen, especially on a clear day when you can see the sun go behind the volcano on Bali.

Scallywags: What can I say about Scallywags? It’s well known and very busy, but well worth it. Even though we were both ill and not really feeling like eating, we had a feast here! If you can, choose the BBQ menu, you go up to the fish and meat counter just in front of the restaurant and order what you want and in what sauce (if you want sauce that is). I had asked whether their garlic butter was gluten free, and yes it was. We had the grilled prawns (which were the biggest, most succulent prawns I have seen in a while), Chorizo and the Rack of Ribs. I couldn’t have the Rack of Ribs, as they weren’t gluten free but the Chorizo and prawns both were. These dishes came with a side of either fries, or baked potato and unlimited access to the salad bar. We loved this restaurant, the vibe, the setting (it’s right on the beach!) and the service. We did have a bit of trouble asking about the sorbet and ice cream, but it is to be expected on an island in the middle of the Lombok Strait!

And so here ends my Bali journey, if I had one piece of advice, it would be don’t forget to take a translation card with you! Also don’t take for granted that staff will speak English well enough to understand what you are asking.

Have a fantastic time, whenever you plan to go…I wish I was going back in your suitcase :) 

T x


  1. Great post!! Also try Grain Bali (close to Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak) they have loads of yummy gluten free options with a selection of different gluten free breads!! Oh also great coffee if you like that as well:)

    check out these great options in Seminyak!

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