By Luiz Sanchez.
Bali’s beach clubs come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own vibe. While some are large and loud, others cater to those who simply want to relax and settle in for a day at the beach. Mano Beach House in Petitenget is a welcome addition to Bali’s best alternative beach clubs, a place to hang out, chill out and soak up the views. It’s a place you can feel the breeze and hear yourself think. You can pop in to meet some friends over lunch or a sunset session, grab some breakfast and settle beside the pool with a book, or reserve a table overlooking the ocean and enjoy a great dinner. Best of all you don’t feel pressured to dress up and perform or keep up with the influencers; Mano is a place you can simply chill out and enjoy yourself.
From the moment you walk through the palm-fringed gate, Mano feels different. Families are scattered around large tables with their children splashing in the pool, individuals perch by power outlets furiously typing away, couples in love are sharing a meal over half-stolen glances at each other. This is the kind of place that has smiling, friendly staff members who seem not only to be enjoying working here but are also scanning the tables to keep an eye on their guests, anticipating the next request.
Mano Beach House has had a makeover and it’s beautiful. Bali-inspired, it leans heavily on wood, stone and a tribal-meets-Bali design theme. Thatch covers their roofs and catches the breeze in waves, the design plays to the climate and offers both sun and shade. A pretty green pool offers an invitation to cool off on a hot day and the soundtrack is cool, becoming more animated as the day progresses, always with an island vibe in mind. This is a place that is entirely focused on good food, good times and even, conversation.
Dining at Mano is a delight and anything but simple with a well-planned menu that offers a variety of international and local dishes, beach café classics with some switched up Indonesian classics. Breakfast can be as simple as toasted sourdough, a pile of freshly made pancakes drizzled with vibrant berries or grilled halloumi and scrambled eggs with green peas and hummus. It’s easy to see why the all-day menu features on Seminyak’s best breakfasts. Mano is the kind of place where it’s easy to slip from breakfast to lunch and on to sundowners. Dip into a plate of grilled octopus salad with watermelon, cherry tomatoes and a spiced citrus dressing, grab a delicious burger or try their fabulous beef rendang, a house favourite. There are also pastas, nasi dishes and some sinful desserts to compliment their small plates menus, which are perfect with pre-dinner drinks.
I find myself coming back to Mano not only because I like the food and the ambience, but because of the service and attention to detail. And then, there are the cocktails, well worth diving into. Their espresso martini has salted caramel in it, which brings all the flavours together and delivers quite a punch. They also have an extensive list of imported spirits and wines, revealing a penchant for quality.
As happy hour kicks in and the cocktails begin to flow, the staff never drop the ball. Every drink leaving the bar, from cocktails to smoothies, looks good and tastes the way it should. My particular Achilles’ heel was the long-island ice tea, I was also seduced by a Mano original called the hot daydream, a house infused chili vodka cocktail with white chocolate and citrus. Be sure to order a taxi after a few of these beauties. (Which luckily you can from Mano, not so with some of the more high profile places!).
The most refreshing ingredient at Mano is the lack of pretension, it holds true to one central tenant; relax and enjoy yourself. Mano Beach House is Balinese owned and managed and there is a refreshing balance between warm hospitality and a sense of place. The historic Petitenget temple behind is connected to this land and ceremonies play out on the beach directly in front of Mano on a regular basis, it’s become a regular stop for the affluent and young Balinese who can look so cool in their ceremonial clothes and designer shades.
As a result Mano Beach House has personality in spades, and it’s polished. You will dine on that potato gnocchi with chorizo and forest mushrooms because it is delicious. That fourth Negroni you had? As good as the first. But rather than being here to be seen by others, you are here to have a good time.
The Man Behind Mano
Behind it all is Dewa Wahyu Bintara, Mano Beach House’s General Manager. Dewa has been working in hospitality for over a decade and he has learned from some of the best. At only 29 years of age Dewa is a pro and well respected across the island. As a Balinese, he has seen the island morph into an internationally renowned destination. He has witnessed the rise and fall of the cheap-thrills Kuta scene, Seminyak’s shopping and gastronomic boom and the current hipster invasion of Canggu.
Dewa’s passion and philosophy lies in the very fabric of Balinese society. His vision for Mano was to create a beach club that played off its strengths; a fabulous beachside location, a simple yet beautiful design and a dedicated team of locals at the top of their game.
Buy local, hire local
All of the food here is sourced locally where possible, and their staff is entirely Balinese. They are not only extensively trained but also given the freedom to be creative and are encouraged to share their ideas. From the waitstaff to management, Dewa recognises that everyone has an insight into how things can be managed more efficiently, or improving their guests’ experience.
This approach has led to a very low staff turnover, which is atypical for the hospitality industry. The culture at Mano results in staff who are relaxed and natural. They know their jobs, they interact well with their guests, they’re comfortable and quick with a smile or a joke.
From Bali to Vietnam
Dewa’s success at Mano comes from years of experience. He is also overseeing a personal project around the corner, the delightful and delicious Street Boi in Petitinget, a bao bun restaurant styled as a ’50s American diner. Every item on their menu, from their cocktails to their bao buns and salads, were extensively tested and refined before appearing on the menu. It may be casual but the standards are high.
Beyond Street Boi Dewa is also involved in setting up a Balinese-style restaurant and lounge in Saigon, Vietnam, called Bam Bam, which is also staffed with a core team of Balinese. It has inspired one his Street Boi cocktails that I highly recommend.
“I have a few other projects in the works this year as well,” Dewa explained, “but they are not yet ready to be revealed.” After taking the leap to managing a high profile restaurant project, opening his own and now venturing beyond Bali, you can be sure, his projects are sure to shine.
See more on Mano on Instagram.