Nalini Resort – beauty by the sea
Located in Bunutan village, the very first one you come to when approaching Amed along the coastal road, and just 5 minutes before the Japanese shipwreck, Nalini Resort has the advantage of complete serenity whilst also being easily accessible from the road.
Its 6 villas and 2 suites are snugly nestled right on the sea shore, close enough to hear the waves lapping and without so much as a distant motorbike within earshot.
Dinner tasting menu
Nalini is owned by long-time Bali dwellers Debbie and Steve from Australia, whilst the kitchen is run by internationally trained chef Gus who, when he’s not talking about food is talking about cooking!
We are having a tasting menu this evening and Gus describes the different dishes he will be cooking with such enthusiasm that we cannot wait for the coming feast.
After a pre-dinner Bintang on the terrace, contemplating the sunset and listening to the sound of the waves turning over the pebbles only feet away, our first dishes start to arrive.
If Gus spent a long time building up our expectations it is only because he has the confidence to deliver and, as promised, the dishes we are served more than live up to his enthusiastic descriptions.
His passion for Asian food shines through and the first Japanese-inspired tuna sashimi dish is as well-presented as it is tasty, with a standard equal to anything I have been served in Michelin starred restaurants.
In fact, this is the dish that breaks my resolve as a budding vegan. Forgive me, but it’s the first time I have come across sashimi of this quality since I’ve been in Bali. We are sitting right next to the ocean from where the tuna was caught only this morning. Basically, it’s impossible to turn down and I would happily face an army of angry vegans to eat this dish, because it is melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
Gus tells us it’s grade one bluefin tuna, usually exported straight to Japan but here tonight for our delection!
The sashimi is followed by a prawn dish, served on wilted spinach and an aromatic yellow sauce, delicate Indian spices which perfectly complement the prawns.
Again, the presentation is flawless; you want to admire it and devour it at the same time and it takes all our resolve to snap some beautiful pictures before digging in!
The next dish is vegan-friendly, as Gus demonstrates his versatility.
He tells us that all his vegetables are organic and grown in Bedugal, North Bali. The Thai dish, which also includes tempeh and fresh basil from the garden, has all the balance of flavours of authentic Thai food.
In addition to the vegetables, we are also served potato and spinach soup with coconut cream, coconut daal and a roasted tomato and cashew salad – all vegan friendly, all delicious.
But the final course is the real treat. Gus has cooked butterfish and served one on a cold pesto and courgette salad and the other with madras sauce and spinach.
After a wonderfully peaceful night (such a luxury to be left in peace by the crowing roosters which are so ubiquitous in Ubud!), and on Debbie and Steve’s recommendation, I make an early start and wander down to the beach to watch a spectacular sunrise.
Before breakfast, we decide to walk off some of last night’s 4 courses and build up an appetite for the first meal of the day with a stroll up the mountain. Just a five minute walk up the road from the hotel in the direction of Amed, you find a trail on the left hand side which takes you up into the mountains via a series of traditional villages.
As we strolled by, villagers would rush out of their house with children in their arms and encourage them to wave good morning to us. We happily waved back with a smile and a ‘Selamat Pagi!‘. People are generally not this pleased to see me in Ubud (or anywhere else come to think of it) so it was nice to bask in the adulation.
After about 20 minutes, we came across a small stream crossing the path and took that as our cue to turn back. You could cross it easily by removing shoes and socks (or just wear waterproof sandals) but we are ready for brekkie so we made out way back to Nalini to see what Gus has in store.
For breakfast, we are presented with a laminated menu featuring everything from English to Mexican breakfasts, via Spain, Thailand and the US. You can safely say that Gus has half the planet covered here. Now, ordinarily it would be disconcerting to see a menu with such diverse cuisines and I would not be confident in most chefs carrying it off.
However, Gus is not most chefs.
The first day we chose the Eggs Florentine and the Healthy Power Breakfast. Two eggs come poached atop wilted spinach and toasted homemade bread, covered in hollandaise sauce and with the addition of caramelised onion to add a little sweetness. The eggs were poached to perfection, the yolks satisfyingly yielding to a touch of the knife.
The Healthy Power Breakfast was fresh fruit with Gus’ homemade granola, fresh yoghurt and raw cane sugar. It was perfect, and made me feel a bit better about last night’s indulgence!
All items from the breakfast menu come with unlimited refills of tea or Bali coffee; most welcome to sip on as you sit back after breakfast and watch the fishermen come in and start unloading their catch on the beach.
After the fishermen are in, you can safely jump in the water with your snorkeling gear and check out the sea life right in front of the hotel, or paddle 5 minutes along the shore to the Japanese shipwreck, one of the main diving attractions in Amed.
Debbie and Steve recommend just allowing the current to take you down there and then, when you’re ready to leave the water, just walk back to the hotel up the shore.
It really couldn’t be any more convenient.
After our paddle in the water, it’s almost time for lunch so we take up our usual spots on the terrace and await whatever Gus has decided to bring us today.
We have Tom Yum to start – one with fish, one with vegetables – and it’s no surprise to learn that Gus has trained and worked in Thailand, you can tell that he has a talent with balancing flavours from the continent.
However, he is also keen to highlight that he is comfortable with ALL cuisines, and to demonstrate that fact the next dish we are served could be straight from Nonna’s kitchen.
Who would’ve thought to cook pasta with coconut cream? Not me, but I’m definitely going to try it now! The homemade pasta is superb, again as good as I’ve tried in any Italian restaurant. It’s seems Gus is a real all-rounder.
The next dish is a surprise creation from the chef and we can’t wait to see what he’s been concocting.
We have a seafood salad, featuring scallops, prawns and baby octopus, with a balsamic and sesame seed dressing along with wasabi, pesto and date paste. It all fits together beautifully and once again showcases Gus’ flair for presentation.
I’m not sure there is anything better than eating fresh seafood beside the sea, although perhaps the prospect of an afternoon massage could take my mind from the food briefly.
The spa area is conveniently located in the centre of the resort, next to the pool, but sufficiently private to allow you to relax. A curtain is pulled around to give you some privacy from the other guests but the sea is still close enough to be audible.
I choose the Balinese massage, and before we begin I am given an array of essential oils to choose from. It’s a nice touch and all the oils are reassuringly natural and organic. The wonderful smells contribute to the overall sensory experience, as does the relaxing music, both of which allow your muscles to fully relax and for you to enjoy the experience.
The massage itself is wonderful; muscles are loosened, knots from the long motorbike journey the previous day unravel, worries and concerns melt away, images of the long list of amazing food and wonderful experiences of the previous days bring a smile to my lips and I walk away floating on air.
Nalini resort is both simple yet luxurious; do not expect white tablecloths and silver service, this place is not pretentious. However, the 5-star experience is there where it matters most; the constantly smiling staff, the beautifully decorated bathrooms with outdoor showers and views of the stars, the perfectly peaceful surroundings, the completely hassle-free access to the beach, to great snorkeling and to beautiful countryside, and most of all, the food, the quality of which I think I might have mentioned in this post! It’s all there.
Debbie tells us she is building a yoga shala and will be hosting retreats later in the year. It makes perfect sense; the serenity of the location is the ideal place to come for a retreat. I promise to come back to see the shala when it’s built and try a class or two and who knows, I might just be back next time for a more active break – if only to give me an excuse to eat more of Gus’ delicious food!