Author: Nell Armitage, SRA Digital Project Manager
Being that the vast majority of SRA members are based on these shores, it’s nothing short of a godsend to find a standout restaurant 8,000 miles from home while on holiday in a paradise they call Ubud, Bali.
In fact, my partner and I were staying within minutes of Locavore, winner of the Sustainable Restaurant Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. A quick call before boarding the plane guaranteed us a table for two and an experience to remember at this extraordinary restaurant blazing a trail in the paddy fields of this region.
Chefs and business partners Eelke Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah have in just three years elevated Locavore from just a few covers to a Bali institution, and are now the proud owners of an expanding hospitality empire of two restaurants, a cocktail bar, butcher shop and deli with plans underway for a further site.
When you’ve travelled this distance you don’t want to add any further air miles to your dinner. The dishes at Locavore are both authentically Indonesian – utilising 95% local ingredients like seasonal boni berries, kaffir lime and local edible flowers – and wonderfully international. Eelke and Ray’s emphasis on local sourcing is matched by their hatred of waste and passion for embracing concepts like nose-to-tail; making a hero of otherwise abandoned cuts, such as beef heart and exploring new protein sources, as demonstrated in one of the first dishes on the incredible tasting menu.
‘Monkey Business’ – an amuse bouche containing live ants and their eggs, offers a gentle challenge to even the most hardened foodies.
The stunning ‘Into the sawah’ dish is the beautiful yolk-topped image you’ll most commonly see associated with the restaurant and exemplifies what this menu is all about. A play on everything that lives, grows and swims around the Ubud paddy fields that surround the restaurant, it includes fern tips, wild flowers, frogs’ legs and a duck egg yolk cooked to absolute perfection.
The provenance of the ingredients is at the core of any sustainable restaurant and Locavores relationship with local producers is clear throughout the menu. But there are also hidden sustainability elements everywhere you look – from the locally sourced ‘Balian water’, available in glass bottles, to an energy efficient cooling system using power from solar panels on its roof that reduce electricity consumption by at least 50%. In a country where a lack of drinkable tap water perpetuates a huge plastic bottled water trade,and where the weather demands fierce air conditioning everywhere, this is quite a coup.
Locavore is without doubt, a fine dining establishment. But with a six-course menu costing just £35, it’s also accessible to most passing through the region. For those that are able, go for the beverage pairing option as well (an additional £27) as each accompanying drink heightens the experience to an even greater level. The beverage pairing of the vegetarian menu is a particularly exciting innovation, having been a rarity in restaurants for far too long.
Locavore’s influence on Indonesia’s restaurant scene is beginning to take hold and this is a responsibility they take seriously.
On receiving the award, Eelke Plasmeijer said: “I will make very sure that we are going to use this award to create more awareness and to keep on working on our efforts to improve where we can and hopefully inspire some others in the process.”
And it seems things are moving in the right direction; with last year seeing the opening of the country’s first zero waste restaurant Ijen at Potato Head Beach Club, as well as a range of others eschewing plastic and sourcing their ingredients within the bounties of the island.
I left Locavore feeling filled to the brim with food and optimism. If restaurants across the world are inspired to commit to even half of what these innovators are doing, we will be forging a better food system for all.