Most people start at the bottom and build up. The incredible Hanging Gardens started at the top and built down!
After crossing the Ayung River at Buahan, just north of Payangan, on the main Ubud to Kintamani road, you climb to the top of the mountain and arrive at the foyer entrance of the Ubud Hanging Gardens.
Your travel down from the foyer, between levels, via Bali's own funicular, well in fact there are two of them at Hanging Gardens. The 1st one takes you silently down from the lobby to the main fine dining restaurant, Beduur, and the 2nd from that level down to the base of the resort [still well above the Rapids of the Ayung] where the Ayung Spa and the Diatas Pohon French Café are both located.
Due to the constant demand from in-house guests and day-trippers, the same lunch menu is now available at either the Café itself or back up on the open terrace of Beduur. The choice of nourishment can vary from the extremely healthy [particularly if you have just come from a Spa Package] to the extremely wicked! And all levels in between.
New French Executive Chef, Renaud Le Rasle, has certainly wasted no time in making his mark on the cuisine now served at Hanging Gardens. It could be generally categorized as Modern International. Whilst he always takes advantage of the best local ingredients, the food never looses its French touch.
For me the perfect lunch is one that is relatively small yet very tasty. If you agree with me then ask for the Chef's Special Tasting Platter. Four selections of the day depending on the chef's degree of inspiration, in small but adequate portions, are spread across an oblong tray. On a recent visit it included a mini portion of 'Balung', a Balinese style soup with baby pork ribs, crunchy cubes of young papaya, whole Asian mushrooms, glass noodles and spinach leaves. At the other end of the tray was a long thin crisp Duck Spring Roll, resting on a bowl of that wonderful, gooey, Chinese Hoisin sauce.
In the centre was a portion of Crab Salad that had been wrapped in fresh rice paper and cross-sliced, resting on a thick, sweet yet tangy, mango and papaya chutney. If that was not enough of a taste sensation there were also three medallions cut from a roll of thin eggplant stuffed with sushi rice wrapped around pieces of tender lamb.
My kind of lunch!
If you are combining a healthy luncheon with a visit to the Ayung Spa, adjacent to the Diatas Pohon French Café then start with a Carrot and Ginger Juice, followed by the aforementioned Rice Paper Crab Salad, Grilled Fish and finish with Minestrone Fruit Exotique.
Other options abound, from the light to the substantial. A Tartar of Tasmanian Salmon is served on a fresh Crostini, with a salad of bibb lettuce, upland cress and curry oil. The simple Club Sandwich is not so simple, being stuffed with tender chunks of chicken breast and their Tartine de Pain de Campagne consists of grilled Sourdough Bread, a tomato confit, Portobello mushrooms, smoked ham, mozzarella and a Thai basil aioli.
If ravenous in the mountain air then try a Grill. You can have Jumbo King Prawns [with a Thai basil pesto], Fresh Fish [a garlic soya sauce] or prime Rib-Eye Steak [with that special French sauce Bernaise, of course].
No doubt a lunch at Hanging Gardens will only whet your appetite for a quick return to sample chef's fine dining dinner offerings at Beduur, which are amongst the most exotic available in Bali. An entrée, Duo de Foie Gras de Canard, is but a mouth-watering example of what he offers. Grilled Foie Gras and beets napoleon is combined with plum sake scented ballotine of Foie Gras.
Risotto de Canard Confit is a confit of Peking Duck combined with the Italian inspired risotto. A Pork Belly confit from a suckling pig is caramelized with honey ramboutan and served with a stuffed baby calamari and a Chinese style pumpkin sausage. Carre d'Agneau d'Australie is a rack of lamb with lemongrass, combined with a braised lamb shank maki roll with eggplant, confit of tomato and caramelized mango. An Asian Fusion creation if ever there was one!
The service is quietly efficient, and knowledgeable, the wine list representative and fairly priced for a luxury hotel.
The luncheon feasts are enjoyed whilst gazing out over the river valley of the sacred Ayung River. A more peaceful location it would be impossible to imagine. Bali at its best!