Sarah Douglas levitates above the waves at Ulu Cliffhouse as it sets out to redefine the beach club experience in Bali. Uluwatu is a place of dreams. When the early surfers discovered it, they called it heaven. Movies like Morning of the Earth spread the legend far and wide, books were written about this rugged coast and the perfect waves, and the early days of Bali tourism.
The Englishman, Josh Forrow, is older, wiser and has travelled to some of the world’s best beach clubs and is thrilled with the way his favourite rock has been transformed. He wanders easily among old friends and new, barefoot and smiling. It is part of the warmth and appeal of the day/night club that is in equal parts a club, restaurant, beach club, a music venue and collaboration.
The coast of Uluwatu has changed dramatically from the early days when the only way to access the waves were by motorbike and a long, hot walk. Some of the world’s best surfers, including more than a few Balinese legends, have beaten this path. Resorts, villas, warungs, restaurants and clubs have opened since then. Roads wind through the rugged coast and local villages have grown rich from the visitors.
Surfers still make up a large part of the community, alongside hoards of tourists who come for the sunsets and the cliff top views. They stay and play and eat and drink. They visit the legendary temple where the kecak dancers entertain sell-out crowds and large groups fill the famous beaches in search of Julia Roberts and a defining Bali moment.
Walking through the entrance of Ulu Cliffhouse takes your breath away. Thankfully it isn’t because of the thousand steps, at Ulu Cliffhouse you walk straight in from the car park and the magic begins; the views are uninterrupted and it almost feels as though you are floating high above the sea. A brilliant blue pool at the centre of the venue offers a chance to cool off, while the breeze brings welcome relief on a hot day. There are two bars, a host of seating options from wide lounges overlooking the view to oversized armchairs, bar stools and sunbeds scattered throughout.
The well-travelled team who have taken this raw idea and polished it up is Out & Out Hospitality, who are behind Singapore’s much-loved venues Operation Dagger and Oxwell & Co. They opened Kiln in Seminyak to get the feel of operating in Bali while Ulu Cliffhouse was being built. Where Kiln is fiery and fun, an urban concept where locals, expats and tourists can gather over food, drinks and music, the Cliffhouse plays to its natural elements; the cliffs, the sea, wide open spaces and cool tones in cream and blue. It’s sophisticated without being arrogant, it’s polished without being precious and everyone is welcome.
It isn’t only the views and the music that are creating a buzz about Ulu Cliffhouse. One of the world’s hottest chefs came on board to create menus with a difference. Diego Munoz is on the pointy end of Peruvian cuisine and currently ranked among the world’s best chefs. His menus have been interpreted by a young Brit who finds himself in an elevated position beyond his expectations but is handling it with great style.
Ulu Cliffhouse is ultimately a lifestyle venue. Rock up for the day to swim, eat, drink, hang out, enjoy the views and settle in with some great soundtracks. This is the Uluwatu lifestyle many of us have imagined, no sand, no stairs, loads of cool spots to hang out and a great list of wine, cocktails and local and imported beers to wash away our cares and add a little glamour to our beach days.
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