One of the most fabulous things about Ma Joly is the sheer unexpectedness of finding such a beautiful venue right on the beachfront in Tuban. This stretch of southern Bali coast line is often overlooked, yet has plenty of charm thanks to an attractive promenade, and a wide stretch of golden sand leading to the sparkling sea. Set amid wonderful old trees just meters from the sand, this cool and shady spot begs for long languid lunches, and lingering romantic dinners; there is simply nothing about the Ma Joly experience that you would want to rush.
A Mediterranean-style terrace is shaded by a vine covered trellis, while the main Balinese style pavilion has a touch of old world glamour with its sashaying drapes, lavender floor tiles and chairs delicately wrapped in apricot organza.
As darkness descends flaming torches are lit along the beach, leading to three gazebos gracefully wrapped in billowing fabrics – the ultimate location for a romantic candlelit dinner for two.
Food, like the surrounds is classy and elegant. Executive Chef Jay is well travelled and combines all his culinary experiences into a menu that fuses western style and tropical elements, with a distinct French touch. He tells me that he loves to cook with seafood and local produce – both of which are highlights on the menu. The Scallop in Feuillet de Brick features local scallops marinated with spices, garlic and onion then wrapped in crispy filo and served with cubes of cucumber gelee, a delightful mango and cucumber relish, and micro salad with edible flowers. The Steamed Bass in Local Spices is sensational. The fish is beautifully soft, with a delicate marinade of rosemary, thyme, garlic and just a hint of ginger. The fruity salsa is based on jackfruit, chilli and basil, while the Balinese lemon basil foam adds a lovely twist. Perfectly smooth pumpkin puree and confit carrots and asparagus provide a more traditional touch.
Dessert is a rich, dense Lava Cake gushing with chocolate and served with vanilla ice cream. A walk in wine cellar features a small but classy selection of wines, focusing on younger crispier whites, and soft medium body reds. A good selection is available by the glass.
Sunsets are dazzling here – with the sun dipping into the horizon right in front of the restaurant – a spectacle well enjoyed with tapas and a cocktail in the open air lounge area, where Happy Hour stretches from 2 – 7pm daily. I particularly enjoy the Ma Joly White Sangria punctuated with Bacardi, guava juice and an abundance of fresh tropical fruit, and the Orango Passionate brimming with vodka, lime wedges, passionfruit and fresh mint. An elaborate silver sheesha (water pipe) packed with orange/mint flavoured tobacco could well be the perfect accompaniment. Friday nights feature sultry jazz acoustics with Lisa Soul and friends and Ma Joly also makes an atmospheric setting for weddings and private functions.