Like many properties along the main street of Candi Dasa, there is a hidden world behind that street-side wall. Parking is off-street facing the wall. At Pondok Bambu you walk through the gate and are immediately impressed by the tree-lined walkway, flowers of many colours hanging everywhere. You walk between two rows of discreet bungalow balconies, all those sitting inside their balconies look very relaxed, it is that sort of place.
At the seafront the restaurant is on the left, a row of small tables for snacks, meals or just drinks, line the front balustrade, views to the Candi Dasa Rock on the left, Nusa Penida in the centre and Bali?s port to the right, blue water with salt in the air. You feel as if you are on holidays, even if you are not!
To the right of the restaurant is an ornamental pool that does not infringe on the dining, like all else here it is tree lined with coconuts and palms, flowers everywhere. The entire place is immaculately clean, quiet a change from the Candi Dasa of a few years ago before the influx of foreign operators moved in, buying up, renovating and then managing at a different level.
The food at Pondok Bambu is not fine dining. It is just simple good quality food, well prepared in the kitchen, where they have remembered all of those little important things, served with a smile, in surroundings that make you wonder why the rest of the world have not yet discovered Bali!
Being predominately a hotel restaurant it has to cater for many and varied tastes. Amazingly for a Dutch managed operation there are no Dutch specials on the menu other than a Dutch Huzaren Salad [ham, potatoes and beetroot on lettuce topped with a sliced hard boiled egg], just general International and local dishes.
Because this place is so conducive to being a place to meet for a drink [they have an amazing cocktail list of 42 options] many of the snacks and light meals also double for good finger food whilst imbibing. Great Chicken Wings, fried Crumbed Onion Rings, French Fries or Calamari Rings, deep-fried Prawns and a variety sandwiches, natural or toasted. Even though their drink and cocktail price list is very reasonably priced they still offer a whopping 25% discount during their happy hour [5.00 ? 7.00].
Dining time begins with summer entrees; the always popular Shrimp Cocktail or Avocado & Shrimps, many salad combinations including the mandatory Caesar and Greek, a Mediterranean with rice, Balinese Fish Salad and one of Potato, Corn, Egg and Ham.
Soups vary from the Thai special of Tom Yam Goong, through Indonesia?s Soto Ayam, the Chinese style Chicken and Sweet Corn and Chicken Noodle to European cream soups [tomato or mushroom] and a French Onion.
For an anytime snack it is hard to go past their special Hamburgers with the beef chopped in the kitchen it is easy to taste the difference, the accompanying French fries, though of the crinkle cut variety, have been fried perfectly, nice and crunchy. Their Sandwiches and Jaffles never skimp on the fillings, and again cater for a wide range of tastes.
Needless to say there are the usual Pasta combinations, though only with spaghetti, but it is difficult to go past the Bolognese, minced beef in a rich tomato paste. Or the Spaghetti ala Amatriciana if you want a chilli tang with its bacon pieces, tomato and garlic. There is also a selection of local Indonesian standards, of which the Sate Campur is the tourist?s favourite.
Mains are Beef [Fillet or T-Bone with parsley butter, Entrecote Tyrolean style stuffed with vegetables and cheese], Pork is Neck or Ribs and a little Chinese option with sweet & sour or Balinese with sweet soy. There are also many Chicken and local Seafood dishes.
However the Main Specials command attention. The deep-fried Fermented Chicken [in lemongrass] is tasty and distinctly Thai. An excellent Chilli con Carne combines beef with onion, garlic, beans and just enough chilli, Grilled Salmon is topped with a black pepper sauce and to remind the Europeans of home a Chateaubriand with that classic béarnaise sauce.
The real Italian Espresso machine behind the bar is a further example of this place doing all the little things right, likewise with their wi-fi for diners. The well-stocked bar itself is of that cosy long-stay variety, with many bar stools, and it obviously gets used as such every night.
Pondok Bambu offers quite a wide range of choices for Candi Dasa. The food is enjoyable and the prices most appealing but it is the relaxed feel from spending an hour or two in such a pleasant seaside setting that lingers most.