The north of Bali has lagged well behind other old areas of the island in bringing their cuisine options up to date. However the signs are finally there that they are catching up with new openings in 2013 that have surprised greatly.
Now The Lovina Bali leads the way with its Heliconia restaurant, built primarily for the guests of their impressive hotel rooms, suites and apartments, completely unrecognizable from the old Mas Lovina that it replaced. With more than 200 metres of beachfront it was always a site with unlimited potential, now that potential has been realized.
Also missing from Bali's north has been tourists from Australia even though they represent almost 40% of all Bali arrivals. with this Australian financed and managed project they are now here in force.
Heliconia is a two level restaurant, a café feel downstairs beside the giant wood-fired pizza oven and relaxed dining upstairs with 360 degree views, Lovina's majestic mountain range providing a perfect backing.
Everyone's day begins with breakfast, a very important part of the menu at any restaurant in a hotel. Heliconia offers a variety of choices.
They have different menus for lunch and dinner but with a few common items. A refreshing Watermelon and Tomato Salad with cucumber, red onion, chilli, mint and an olive oil dressing, or an Asian style Grilled Chicken Salad with toasted almond, baby spinach, bell pepper confit, coriander and crisp wonton. An unusual soup [for Lovina] is their Mushroom Cappuccino. There is also a Ginger and Pumpkin Soup with coriander and chilli crouton. The Corn & Crab soup sounds very Chinese but it is given an International twist by the addition of coriander and basil, the corn is unusually, popcorn!
The Madras Seafood Curry comes with all the trimmings, and if you want noodles choose between Thai [with prawns and tamarind] and Singaporean, rice noodles with chicken and oyster sauce. The Thai noodles [Pad Thai Kung] are served in the style Thais call 'wrapped in a blanket' [literal translation] as the noodles are encased in a wrap of a paper thin omelette.
For lunch there are sandwiches, burgers, wraps, pasta dishes and a range of pizzas from the wood-fired oven. The Lovina Combo combines two spring rolls and chicken sates plus two prawns wrapped in wonton skins with dips of tartar and Thai sweet chilli. The Tandoori Chicken Wrap is with mango chutney and a yoghurt mint dip. Burgers can be beef [in a sesame seed bun] or Mediterranean [roasted vegetables, mushrooms and cheese with basil pesto on garlic focaccia.
For dinner add a Salmon Pancake for an interesting starter and Herb-crusted Mahi-Mahi [with a potato risotto and pesto cream sauce] for a fresh local main, or the Mahi-Mahi can be wrapped in banana leaf with local spices [turmeric bumbu with tomato, basil and chilli] and oven baked.
As this is now the haunt of many Australian tourists it is no surprise to find a variety of meat dishes on the menu. The Grilled Lamb Rack is with a red wine jus and served with pesto mashed potatoes, zucchini, eggplant and roasted pumpkin. For the beef brigade there is sirloin or tenderloin, both grilled. Then there is a dish called the Lovina Meat Tapas with three different grilled meats [beef, chicken and lamb].
The Seafood Platter combines tuna, tiger prawn and squid, an unusual touch it is with Chinese style fried rice and bok choy. Not that unusual when you consider the tourist mix here as Chinese [actually Cantonese] has been Australia's no. 1 choice of ethnic cuisine for decades, even the smallest country town has its Chinese restaurant.
The local cuisine is not forgotten, Bali's top dish, Ayam Betutu, is available in a kitchen variation as is Ayam Kalisan. Most interesting is their Pesan Kecincang, grilled prawns with a chilli sambal, basil and tomato, the accompanying vegetables drizzled with a tangy peanut sauce.
All day favourites are the wood-fired Pizzas, with all the standard combinations plus a local special The Sate Ayam Pizza,with chicken and peanut sauce on top. Everyone has their own favourite pizza combinations and here you can add them from a large list of available vegetables, meats and seafood.
Dessert? A Pumpkin Crème Brulee, Strawberry Cream Cake or an old fashioned Apple Pie [caramelized with rum and raisins] and then there is the essential chocolate offering, this time a Mud Cake, very rich!
As well as this extensive menu there are interesting daily specials, all guaranteed to tempt the taste buds. Taste and value in Lovina, a pleasant change!