The one thing you can't miss in Jakarta

Jakarta’s growing creative scene, coffee obsession and design-driven restaurants offer plenty of reasons to linger.

Top view of different food, herbs and spices on a table from India.
  • Words: Natasha Dragun
  • June 2018

Breakfast

Like its Melbourne sisters, St Ali’s Jakarta outpost is a tasty tribute to coffee and seasonal produce. The all-day breakfast menu includes signature dishes such as Mexican Cousin, pairing corn fritters with grilled haloumi, poached eggs and kasundi (a spicy tomato salsa). Talented baristas prepare espresso, filter and cold-drip coffee using the house’s Orthodox blend of beans, with notes of caramel, chocolate and dried fruits.

Coffee fix

Continue the coffee theme with the Walk Indies J-Town Coffee Tour (9am-1.30pm), which sees you ferried around the city in a private car. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest coffee producers, so it’s no surprise the beverage is worshipped in cafés and street-side stalls everywhere. This tour offers an insightful glimpse into the industry, taking you to establishments showcasing traditional ways of processing, roasting and brewing beans.

Walk or ride the city

Take a private tour on foot or bicycle to discover the history and hidden places of this many-layered city. Explore the district of Batavia, known as ‘the Queen of the East’ in its glory days, learn about the Dutch colonial heritage, explore the harbour and stroll Medan Merdeka, where you’ll find the Presidential Palace amongst other civic gems.

Soto Betawi, a coconut beef soup local to Jakarta
Soto Betawi, a coconut beef soup local to Jakarta

Lunch

To try a variety of Indonesian street food specialities with an extra touch of comfort, the Eat ‘n’ Eat food courts are a handy option, with a handful of outlets in Jakarta. You’ll find all the favourites like gado gado and nasi goreng, but also keep an eye out for otak-otak, fish cake grilled in banana leaves; soto betawi, Jakarta’s own coconut beef soup; and martabak manis, a sweet, stuffed pancake.

Shop

If the sun is shining, the streets of Kemang in South Jakarta are a bright showcase for independent local design. Here you’ll find newcomer ARA, which stocks fashion, fragrances and jewellery from some of Indonesia’s top designers. Stroll to nearby Biasa, popular for its resort wear in earthy shades and flowing fabrics (perfect if your next stop is Bali), and Bika, a six-storey lifestyle boutique that carries an impressive range of high-quality home wares, gifts and furniture.

Dinner

Built in 1914 for the Fine Arts Circle of the Dutch East Indies, the beautiful building that now houses Tugu Kunstkring Paleis has been remodelled into a series of restaurants, bars and cafés, each with a distinctive identity and style. Begin with a creative cocktail in Suzie Wong, with its oversized film posters, before heading to the restaurant for the rijsttafel betawi, an elaborate set menu that originated as a method for the Dutch to sample various components of a traditional Indonesian meal.

Drinks with a view

Escape Jakarta’s maddening traffic and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city from Skye Bar & Restaurant, perched 227 metres atop the Menara BCA building. The brainchild of the ismaya Group, also behind Dragonfly, Blowfish and Social House, the eyrie steals the show with its infinity pool and sunken sun lounges, not to mention tasty East-meets-West fare.

The rooftop of the ArtOtel in Jakarta
The rooftop of the ArtOtel in Jakarta

Stay

Eight Indonesian artists were called upon to decorate ArtOtel Thamrin Jakarta, including Darbotz who crafted a striking graffiti mural, Monster Goes out at Night, over the hotel’s exterior. Inside, each of the six floors features a different artist: Zaky Arifin’s chalk murals fill one, while conceptual artist Wisnu Auri’s drawings adorn another. There’s also restaurant ROCA, with whimsical paintings by Eddie Hara, and rooftop bar BART, overlooking the leafy residential district of Menteng.