A Rare Treat
We dined last Monday, on a rainy and blustery La Niňa evening, in the decorous environment of Ju-Ma-Na at the Banyan Tree Ungasan. It was a delightful soiree for two arranged so that some Bavarian culinary delights could be sampled at the resort’s signature – and generally vaguely Moroccan – restaurant.
Host Reinhold Johann was there with his wife Petra, though dining separately; in honour, we heard, of their fifteenth wedding anniversary. They drank water (sensible people) but we indulged in a very nice bottle of Le Merlot (De la Chapelle), a warm Languedoc label. It was the least expensive on the list, the fates for once having been kind enough to organise for desire and budget to coincide.
The table setting was nicely done – they had placed us in a corner and given us a name-sign that bore no relation to the actual names of the Diary and Distaff but of which they were very proud and we really didn’t mind being incognito – and the staff super-attentive. The Diary’s Campari tonic was a real tonic: it’s so difficult to get a good one in these days of miser-serves and mass-produced sprite-water.
Michelin double-winner Hubert Obendorfer from the renowned Kingfisher Restaurant and his team were visiting from their sub-alpine establishment in Bavaria. There, a rich cuisine is a natural barrier to the bracing climate and a perfect accompaniment to the generous southern German girth. Obendorfer and his lederhosen and dirndl crew provided a five-course set menu. They were at Ju-Ma-Na from February 24 to 28 to give house guests – and walk-in custom – a rare treat.
The five courses came along with two appetisers – one a nice peach sorbet served midway through the degustation – and featured Lake Batur tilapia, a freshwater fish that is an Indonesian staple but is not to everyone’s taste. The tilapia sausage, the third course that followed a rather nice potato and leek veloute which also featured tilapia, perhaps benefited from being treated in a Bavarian way. The point is moot. But the braised wagyu was superb. And so was the delightful curd mousse dessert.
What a lovely homecoming treat it was.
The Perth International Art Festival’s film programme this year was very good indeed. There were many movies screened that would not pass the FPI test or those apparently mooted among these regressive insurgents’ bureaucratic friends in Jakarta (thereby automatically making them worth seeing) and this reinforced the view that Bali’s own annual celebration of film, Balinale, is a must-not-miss event on the annual calendar.
We went one hot evening last week to the pine-treed campus of Edith Cowan University – it’s at Joondalup on Perth’s northern extremities – to see Desert Flower, which deals with the outrageous, horrendous and indeed scandalous topic of female genital mutilation.
This practice, found in many primitive societies but in this instance in Somalia, is sometimes called female circumcision. It shouldn’t be. There are medical and health as well as social and religious reasons for male circumcision, but the so-called female variety is shamelessly designed to rob women of sexual pleasure and to reinforce undeserved male domination. It is a vile abomination, is not required by any Koranic reference, and should be stamped out forthwith.
The film, made in 2009 as an adaptation of a 1998 autobiography, is very good in telling the story of Waris Dirie, a Somali woman mutilated at the age of three who fled rather than be sold off in a forced marriage at 13 and, having escaped a fate that would surely have been worse than death, ended up as a stunning model on the international catwalks.
But it is a confronting narrative, so much so that the Diary, normally silent at public screenings, uttered audible and strong imprecations at (at least) one point, to the surprise no doubt of the lady – hitherto unmet – in the seat alongside. She did, though, seem to agree.
The screening was outdoors, the ambience scented by the surrounding pine trees, and was attended by a well-mannered crowd. Many, like the Diary and party, had first dined al fresco at tables by the lake, watched by the curious ducks upon the water and, one fancies, the shade of Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female government minister after whom the university is named and whose former Perth cottage now resides on the campus.
This week’s ILAND column, incidentally, has some advice for myopic censors of film. It’s on Page 9.
Most people would say that they come to Bali for its warm weather among other things. It was therefore fun to arrive home last Sunday night to conditions that struck one as a tad chill. They weren’t, of course; such things are relative.
But when you are returning from a sojourn in summery Western Australia, where the days were in the high thirties and beyond and the sun – ubiquitously present from rise to set throughout our stay – had a very nasty bite indeed, it’s good to chill out.
It was a bumpy ride home in the back of the bus (an AirAsia Airbus) but oh so good to be enveloped on arrival by the very special ambience of Bali, including – strangely perhaps – its no-rules road rules. And some cool breezes and sharp, chill showers.
It must just be a glitch. Bali Update, Jack Daniels’ little e-missive that is apparently his chief claim to fame, did not pop into the in-box this week at the email address Hector’s helper uses to collect ephemera. Perhaps the thrill of being 13 – the Diary remembers this as being a particularly unappealing and spotty stage on life’s pathway – resulted in an oversight, though that seems unlikely. And we don’t remember hitting “unsubscribe” out of ennui, irritation or any other ailment.
No matter. Jack’s little updates are online, which is anyway where we generally read them. We make them a must, for all sorts of reasons. It’s always interesting to see what has attracted the attention of Bali’s ministry of truth, an apt descriptor indeed for anyone literate enough to have read Orwell (and, even better, to have understood him).
It was cheering to read of the party for primates (simian, not prelates) held at Ubud and to see yet another plug for the Bali triathlon, with which Daniels, an unlikely athlete, is apparently involved, and which will flash past us in four months. And of course that thirteenth birthday bash. Hope there was lots of lemon pop.
Nyepi is generally passed at a small pension in Candi Dasa, one of the several “Obyek Wisata” around the island where, by some curious alchemy the workings of which are completely mysterious to ordinary mortals, the spirits – bad and otherwise – seemingly agree not to notice the lights left on for tourists over Silent Day (or rather, Silent Night).
This year, however, courtesy of a generous New Year gift from Michael Burchett and his team of funsters at the Conrad at Tanjung Benoa, we shall Ssshhh ourselves within the boundaries of that plush establishment. This hard yakka (hard work, for those among you sadly less than completely au fait with the full richness of the Australian vernacular) will be performed on March 5 and 6 at or near to a Conrad suite. Such places do not normally appear in the schedules of folk whose days are passed in genteel poverty with big salaries and expense accounts long foregone, so it’s a treat.
We haven’t asked (grace and favour recipients are best noticed by their reticence) but perhaps there will be wifi. Apparently we shan’t be able to do any plane-spotting, our favourite relaxation, Bali’s international airport by gubernatorial decree having excised itself from global aviation for the duration.
Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times and on the newspaper's website www.thebalitimes.com. Print editions are available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.