Alila Manggis, Surprisingly Different, indeed…

Many hotels try to brand themselves through clever play on words or logos.  Few in fact manage to capture the spirit of the place in a way that is memorable for their guests.  I found “surprisingly different”, the hotel’s motto,  to be a particularly fitting description of my experience at the AlilaManggis.

My first meal leads me to taste for the first time ever, banana stem.  Surprisingly different indeed, is the use of this non-traditional ingredient in the “duck and banana stem soup”.  A decidedly fibrous ingredient – not sure we can call it either a fruit or a vegetable, this “shoot” for lack of a better word imparts an unexpected taste.  The kitchen is kind enough to show me the ingredient in its pre-cooked form and it is a beautiful, assymetrical slice of art deco.  I would gladly use it as a piece of jewelry.



Continuing with the “surprisingly different” food, on day two of my stay, I opt for Chef Santika’s Balinese breakfast compilation.  Oh what a mistake it was not to have chosen this on day one!  Chef Santika’s Balinese breakfast is an exploratory culinary journey that is totally surprising.  The UrabSela, a succulent taste of steamed cassava and sweet potatoes with palm sugar is completely outside my frame of culinary reference.  The NasiBubur, a traditional rice porridge with rending sapi, fresh spinach salad and red bean infusion is the best thing I have tasted since landing in Bali. Once again, it is not just that the food is delicious, but that the chef really seeks to wink at the hotel’s motto of “surprisingly different”.



Balinese cuisine is not well known around the world and that is a great shame as Bali has much to offer.  Due to this position of relative obscurity on the global culinary scene, AlilaManggis has an opportunity (an obligation?) to spread the reputation of this extraordinary and surprising cuisine,  AlilaManggis, through Chef Santika, rises to the challenge as it offers a glimpse into this surprisingly different culinary universe.

Beyond the kitchen of the restaurant, a “surprisingly different” cooking class continues on the theme of introducing Balinese cuisine.   The experience of the cooking class offered by AlilaManggis deserves a blog entry of its own.   Suffice to say that the extraordinary setting of the organic farm, between mountain and sea, and the breadth of the culinary introduction by Chef Santika are not only memorable, they are surprisingly different, indeed.




The motto continues to surface, in the most unexpected way.  Not because people repeat it, but because the experience warrants it:

– As the hotel organizes customized visits to local destinations that suit my particular interests during my stay in East Bali, I am driven by a car whose driver hands me a cold towel and iced water – nice and surprising touch;





– When I return from my day’s activities, I head straight to the pool.  There, I am greeted at tea time by a young man who urges me to experience a different kind of tea.  It is tea made of grated ginger, thinly sliced lemon grass and fresh cinnamon, as well as some honey.  As I am fighting a slight cold, the ginger is welcome medicine.






– In line with the notion of health, I find out that Alila offers twice a week yoga and Tai Chi classes “al fresco”.  Surprisingly different, yet again.

As I leave AlilaManggis, I will remember three things: the extra-ordinary cuisine, the attention and friendliness of the staff, and the “surprisingly different” overall experience.

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