For those who recall the cinematic journey of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ where Julia Roberts ventured through Italy, India, and finally, Bali in search of love, Bali is no longer the destination to find love but instead to indulge in exquisite dining experiences. This transformation has been intensified with the introduction of Apéritif Restaurant & Bar in 2018. Nestled near the heart of Ubud, atop a cliff overlooking the Petanu River and surrounded by rice fields and the enchanting Valley of Kings jungle vista, this establishment, situated adjacent to the family-owned Viceroy Bali hotel, is the epitome of exclusive and opulent dining.
The grandeur of Apéritif is immediately evident through its architectural and interior design, hinting at the lofty aspirations behind this ambitious project.
The concept for Apéritif took shape in a conversation between Anthony Syrowatka, General Manager of Viceroy Bali and a member of the owning family, and Nic Vanderbeeken, the Belgian Chef responsible for the cuisine at Viceroy Bali’s CasCades restaurant. Chef Vanderbeeken expressed his desire to focus on a high-end culinary endeavor that diverged from the conventional needs of resort guests, and the Syrowatka family embraced this vision, resulting in the inception of Apéritif.
Chef Nic’s culinary journey began in Belgium at the age of fourteen, working as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. Fascinated by the professional kitchen atmosphere, he quickly advanced to assisting with the mise en place and culinary school, which ultimately sowed the seeds for his career as a chef. After completing his culinary education, Nic gained experience in several Belgian restaurants and eventually purchased one, Biggles in Wevelgem, later becoming its Chef Patron. However, his trajectory took a significant turn during a vacation to Bali, inspiring him to abandon his restaurant and embark on a life-altering journey in Asia. Following a stint in Vietnam, he found his way to Bali, where he assumed the role of the chef at CasCades restaurant in the Viceroy Bali hotel.
Apéritif is the brainchild of the Viceroy Bali owners, although it operates independently of the hotel. Their objective was to establish a restaurant unlike any other in Bali, exuding luxury from beginning to end. Inspired by the colonial style of the 1920s, this theme pervades both the bar and the restaurant, capturing the elegance of a bygone era.
The restaurant’s name derives from the European tradition of commencing a meal with an apéritif, a drink designed to stimulate the palate. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a team of gracious local hostesses, who guide them to the bar, an adjoining space separated from the restaurant dining area.
The bar, adorned with green walls reminiscent of New England country style, features striking paintings by local artists. Guests can opt to sit at the bar or relax in cozy corners furnished with exquisite chesterfields. An apéritif is included in the menu price, with patrons choosing from a selection of around ten cocktails, specifically crafted and enhanced for Apéritif by Ran Van Ongevalle, the Belgian winner of the prestigious global Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition. While the Tamarillo Negroni signature cocktail is delightful, the Lemon 3 Times creation stands out as a perfect prelude to the meal, refreshing the palate and inciting anticipation for more. The first three canapés, served in the bar, are particularly intriguing, with the beetroot macaron with goat cheese being a standout. These tantalizing starters serve as a delightful precursor to the sumptuous feast in the magnificent restaurant dining room.
Chef Nic describes his culinary style as global, eclectic cuisine, aspiring to blend cross-cultural culinary elements. He employs techniques and ingredients from various regions, incorporating them into a single dish. Chef Vanderbeeken doesn’t limit himself to one specific culinary technique or style; instead, he utilizes approaches from various continents based on what best complements the ingredients’ flavors. While he strives to source ingredients locally, he imports them from other regions when higher quality is unattainable in Bali. This strategy may increase the eco-footprint but underscores his commitment to environmentally friendly practices. These efforts are evident in the kitchen, where induction cooking prevails, zero-waste ingredient management is enforced, and waste is meticulously sorted for recycling.
Guests are presented with an eight-course menu that includes multiple options for some courses. Chef Nic aims to refresh the entire menu every three months, beginning with light and acidic dishes that gradually transition to more robust flavors. From our visits, we sampled every dish on the menu, with standouts like the Martino, a revamped version of a famous sandwich from Chef Vanderbeeken’s native Belgium, and the Karedok, his innovative take on a West-Java salad. However, it’s the Canadian lobster dish and the Venison Wellington that we believe will swiftly become signature dishes. The lobster is paired with salsify, a winter vegetable commonly enjoyed in Belgium, complementing the lobster beautifully. A touch of caviar adds a pleasant salty element to the dish. The Venison Wellington is carved tableside by the chef, and the perfectly cooked venison is stuffed with foie gras, served with a rendang sauce. Cinnamon, an essential ingredient in both the speculoos cookie and the rendang sauce, was the source of inspiration for this divine creation.
As if the food alone were not sufficient to impress the most discerning diners, the sumptuous and luxurious ambiance elevates the experience. Maitre d’hotel I Made Yudiana and his team ensure attentive, flawless, and polite service, adjusting their style to meet customer expectations. Despite the opulence, the atmosphere remains relaxed and engaging. The restaurant boasts an extensive wine cellar featuring over 180 labels, with some of the world’s finest wines such as Petrus, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château d’Yquem. Wine pairing options include both a standard and a grand cru version.
The Syrowatka family, in collaboration with Chef Vanderbeeken, has forged a unique dining experience in Ubud. Although Apéritif recently opened, it is likely to evolve further over time. Chef Nic must maintain his creativity at this high level as he designs future menus. For now, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the splendid environs of Bali, we wholeheartedly recommend indulging in the exquisite hospitality of Viceroy Bali and experiencing the divine global eclectic cuisine at Apéritif.