No matter how many times I stepped in the grand foyer of Apurva Kempinski Bali, the 5-star hotel never failed to strike me with its majestic interior of divine grandeur.
“We’ll be trying their afternoon tea today; you’ll love it, I promise,” said my dad, who always knew his daughter to be a picky dessert connoisseur.
True enough, growing up in Indonesia it was hard to recall any patisserie or boulangerie I would die-hard for. Indonesians, known for their affinity to taking flavours to the extreme, often made desserts in Indonesia too sweet for my liking. Additionally, many bakeries in Indonesia had fewer flavour variations with products dominantly chocolate, cheese or sweetened-cream flavoured. Despite matcha or other fruit flavours emerging recently, they were mostly overpriced and lacked depth or fragrance. You could get lemon tarts that were barely sour.
As we settled on one of the outdoor seats with rustic and minimalistic decors, we found ourselves escorted by Bali’s breezy wind. Before us was Kempinski’s iconic, panoramic Indian Ocean view, lying at the bottom of an extensive slope of fire cauldrons, stands of trees, gigantic pools, and villas.
A cordial waitress greeted us and placed the afternoon tea package menu on the table.
The afternoon tea comes with free-flow drinks ranging from coffee, tea and juices to various “jamu” – Indonesian traditional herbal drinks. My family and my friend settled on a pot of “Fancy Sencha”; “Fruity Chamomile”; a cup of cappuccino, and a cup of decaffeinated latte (yes, they provide decaffeinated options). Out of curiosity, we also ordered a glass of Sinom, a ginger-turmeric flavoured herbal drink, and a glass of Beras Kencur, a rice-and-galanga-root herbal drink.
The tea and coffee were high quality; the herbal beverages were “interesting”.
Sinom boasts a complex tang, combining a subtle sweetness with a tangy zest of tamarind, a gentle warmth, and an initially subdued ginger pungency that eventually bursts forth. Beras Kencur also features a pungence similar to masala tea with an earthy, rice-like sweetness, and a delicate tartness lingering in its aftertaste. While both beverages were unique, their flavour profiles were too striking for me to digest. Nevertheless, renowned for their health benefits and popularity in Indonesia’s traditional markets and warungs, I was pleased to experience these beverages that have provided solace and remedy to many.
We began our dessert feast with a three-tier cake stand filled with mini viennoiseries, desserts, and savoury pastries. The package is buffet-style, so diners can refill desserts and savoury treats from a table nearby.
Excited, I embarked on my first dessert haul: fruit and chocolate tartlets; flaky Flan Pâtissier; chocolate and cranberry scones; almond croissant; and lemon and chocolate profiteroles. Also on offer were large-sized cakes like Bûche de Noël and one that looked like Baked Alaska. Savoury snacks included falafel and purple-coloured aioli, mini hamburgers, quiche, sandwich croissant, and more. There was also a basket full of Bali’s best fruits – mangosteens. It was a magical table that inspired awes and gasps.
While reviewing each dessert can result in endless scrolling (and perhaps drooling too), I would just name some of my favourites.
As a huge fan of sour desserts, their lemon profiterole was impressive. Made of craquelin (a cookie-like dough), the dessert was a symphony of crisp: a combination of the light, airy crisp from the inner part of the crust and the more crumbly, solid bits of the outer cookie disc. The lemon curd, velvety and with a sharp lemon fragrance, compensated for the sweetness in the crust. Its tanginess was enough to put a refreshing, slight tingle on your tongue, without burning your throat.
The chocolate praline bar was creme de la creme. Despite my attempt to escape the mundanity of chocolate desserts, I was hypnotised into trying one. The dessert, hazelnut cream sandwiched between pieces of dark chocolate sable cookie, was topped with a piece of salted caramel drizzled chocolate. With just one bite, a cascade of silky hazelnut cream washed over the palate, chased by a toasted nutty fragrance with the gentle bitterness of dark chocolate cookies. Hands down one of the best chocolate desserts I have ever had.
Last but not least, the Flan Pâtissier was simple but remarkable. Similar to Crème brûlée, the flan had a layer of torched sugar on top, tasting like an egg-enriched custard pudding with a strong vanilla essence. The crust was flaky with a buttery scent.
As I wrap up the sumptuous dessert feast with the last sip of my Sencha, I glanced at the wistful sunset. It was a dessert feast worth enjoying, whether you are a tourist looking for a relaxing family get together, a food aficionado seeking craftsmanship and novelty, or a classic French pastry lover craving simplicity. It was indeed a fine afternoon, on the Island of God and in the heaven of sweetness.