How times have changed in Bali? My first visit to La Lucciola, many years ago, meant a walk along the beach from the Hotel Oberoi. As pleasant as that was at the time, foot-power is not always our most convenient transportation method. With the subsequent on-going development of the area, such as the opening of the super luxurious Hotel Legian, in between the two establishments, you can now drive on past the Oberoi to the car park at the Petitenget Temple. The ritual temple donation of Rp.1,000 is a small price to pay for the convenience.
The parking area appears reasonably safe for such a public area, as security guards abound! After crossing the canal by an old wooden bridge, you are at the La Lucciola Beach Club! Strolling along the stone path, in the midst of the well-manicured grounds, you wind your way around to the restaurant?s front entrance. If you are visiting for lunch then you will also be faced with the rear view of a line of deck chairs from those enjoying their sun & surf, as well as a little sustenance, on the beach. You will also be presented with views of a scantily-clad Balinese lifeguard, and customers many of whom are even less dressed! If it is an evening visit, then you will be walking between the oil burning torches that edge the pathway.
Even though La Lucciola has, ever since it started to open in the evening as well, been frantically popular for dinner, I always found it more appropriate as a luncheon venue. After many years in Bali, I still find that the heat makes outdoor dining uncomfortable for me, certainly for lunch but even for an early dinner! It may well be okay whilst sitting and enjoying a cool drink, but as soon as I start to eat hot food, the problems arise! So I have spent much time in seeking out small air-conditioned restaurants [a rarity even in the major hotels], or outdoor ones that have cooling breezes, or some other quirk of nature that makes them temperature-pleasant. Plus I always considered that the menu at La Lucciola was more fitting for light luncheons than evening dining experiences.
However my recent visits have discovered a more up-market evening menu. Maybe, there has also been some subtle changes made behind the scenes. But, nowadays, La Lucciola is a fine dining experience fit for any occasion.
La Lucciola is perched right on the edge of the beach. An enormous open, thatch-roofed building, with dining on two levels. I always head for the upstairs section, as a nice breeze is almost inevitable. The large bamboo furniture seems to suit the place and the occasion.
Sarong-clad waiters are ready to assist. Service here is always simple and professional, attentive yet never pushy nor over-the-top. Menu knowledge is excellent, and most visits go off without any hiccups.
Excellent fruit juices and/or granita?s make a pleasant beginning for many diners, particularly during the day. Mine is a tangerine granita, thank you! Very thirst-quenching and most enjoyable.
For lunch a variety of entrees, very mixed in origin and style, often suffice for a pleasant and relaxing meal. A pair of King Prawns with thin chips of Sweet Potato stuck all over them, always remind me of Sydney?s Thai chef, Prasit, and his famous king prawn and taro dish. Maybe there is a connection. A Meze is a touch of Greece. Italian-style pastas abound, as well as a variety of salads from many origins. I always find the Chicken and soba noodle salad, with a soy and sesame dressing, a perfect light snack.
The evening sees the in-crowd pour in! Early last year, a well-known matron of Sydney's social scene lamented that her quite January `reclusive' Bali holiday had been disrupted by a visit to La Lucciola. Evidently she had known someone at almost every table. It was just as if she had never left home, she pouted.
We have arrived for dinner, and after our pre-dinner drinks are very relaxed and all expectant for the treats in store. We were not to be disappointed.
Entrees were a Caramelised Onion and Anchovy Tart Tartin, a bit mushy but very tasty, and delightful little Filo Pastries, of minced lamb and fetta cheese, served with a minted tomato yoghurt.
Small and very tasty, our entrees had whetted our appetite for what was to come. We had considered the Char-grilled Chicken Breast with Braised Leeks as well as the Grilled Swordfish Steak with an eggplant salsa and sauteed potatoes but opted for the top of the menu, instead.
A Grilled Fillet of Beef with roasted sweet potatoes and mustard butter was superb! Cooked exactly to order at Medium Rare, it had stacks of taste yet cut like butter. Likewise Char-grilled Lamb Cutlets with parmesan mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans, were impossible to fault. A slightly burnt exterior and perfect pink meat inside meant that it was impossible not to finish off the final stripping of the remaining meat, bone in hand!
La Lucciola also has a small but quite adequate wine list, with wines from Australia, California and Italy, plus one special wine from New Zealand, a Cloudy Bay Chardonnay. [ For desserts we couldn?t resist a soft-centred Chocolate Souffle served with a strawberry coulis and a mix of Tropical Fruit Sorbets [watermelon, pineapple and guava].
What a way to spend an evening. Just be careful who you take as your guest, or you may finish up by proposing marriage over coffee.