Food aficionado here – I feel I have to give you fair warning. It’s dawned on me recently that even though I call this a travel blog, more than often, I am writing about eating your way through various countries in the world. I’m sure however, that if you’re reading you kind of feel the same. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce one of my most unique experiences of Bali: dining in one of Bali’s first Caribbean restaurants – Jambali Café.
I read about this café on Elisia Traveller, another travel blog that I enjoy browsing before I head to my latest destination. In her post, I was struck by the warm hospitality she mentioned receiving from the owner, and also being Caribbean myself, I’m always keen to connect with other people from my culture.
Thanks to Elisia’s blog, I knew the owner by name. So as I entered Jambali Café, slightly dazzled from the sun I marvelled at the artwork and turned to the only lady I could see at the time “are you Michele?” I smiled at her. I was excited. Although she immediately returned my smile I realised I would have to explain the story a little “I read about your restaurant on a blog, I’ve really been wanting to come here”. “Well welcome” she brightened up even more, she lead me to upstairs, an open-air floor where you can see Bali from each direction.
Once seated Michele proudly guided me through the menu. After doing my whole ‘what shall I choose’ dance that I love so much she took some time to have a proper chat with me.
Born and raised in Jamaica, moving later to Washington, Michele admits to me that she previously had a very ‘glitzy life’. From being a chef at the Ritz Carlton to creating sauces for Wholefoods she explained that as nice as they were, it was never the dream. “The dream was to create a place that would remind me of my Grandmothers, in Jamaica” ultimately she wants to create a space for the spirit of Jamaican culture, nodding to its food, music and knack for bringing the people together. As I listened, taking in a cool Mango infused mocktail, and hearing the reggae music through the speakers, I almost felt like I was in Jamaica (or rather, how I imagine it to be).
Jamaica to Bali
But this is not to ignore its home, beautiful Bali! Michele explains that she, like many, fell for Bali and knew she would return, she just didn’t know quite when, or how. But when she got a call from a friend about a free space, she took and opportunity to go for it. Since then, she has worked hard to make her dream a reality. This present day she hires 7 Balinese locals, her presentation – you could say has and Indonesian influence, and she takes on board and respects local Balinese religion (Hinduism) – despite being a different religion herself. “I do the Balinese offerings everyday” she tells me “the people I hire get to learn English and I teach them my beliefs and culture, and they teach me theirs”.
While chatting away, we got into the hardships of starting a new business in a foreign country. Being far away from friends and family, what you call ‘home’, also simply dealing with the various balls that life throws at you. Michele told me that days like this are the ones where she feels optimistic about the future of Jambali Café, which made me smile, but sad at the same time. During my three weeks in Bali, I came here twice, I had to come back to explore more of the menu.
Upon my last visit to Jambali I left the restaurant with mixed feelings – excitement for this taste of the Carribean, in such a magical place as Bali and a strong hope that if I returned I would find Michele and her delicious food still standing. If you do stop by, give her a hi from me.
From Jerk chicken and Salt Fish fritters to oxtail and curry goat. Jambali offers the staples you would expect from a Caribbean restaurant. It doesn’t offer hard spirits, but you can get some delicious mocktails and the rather moorish Bintang (local Balinese beer).
Ubud. Jl. Raya Penestanan No.8, Sayan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
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