Hujan Locale

Hujan Locale

Come Rain or Shine

DSC07237(1)Chef Will Meyrick certainly knows how to get our attention. When we got wind of his latest culinary venture, Hujan Locale (local rain) on Jalan Sri Wedari in Ubud—Bali’s lush cultural highland blessed with a fair share of rainfall, our eyebrows were raised and our interest piqued.

The acclaimed Street Food Chef has been busy, to say the least. From publishing his own cookbook, “Sarong Inspirations” (now on its second print run), to starring in Indonesian TV programs (including the Top Chef franchise) and successfully establishing four restaurants—the award-winning flagship Sarong and its younger sister Mama San in Bali, the E&O (Eastern & Oriental) in Jakarta and the second Mama San in Hong Kong—nothing is stopping this multi-talented culinary icon from conquering Southeast Asia.

At the newly opened Hujan Locale, Chef Will has adopted an emerging food trend, the found-and-foraged philosophy, committing to a time-old tradition of slow-cooking using seasonable, sustainably sourced ingredients right down to the bar menu, paying a special tribute to the rain and the hedonistic harvest bestowed upon him by local farmers with whom he has close relationships over the past three years.

We arrived at the aptly named restaurant semi-soaked from the prophesied rain showers but pleased to join our table of eight for an evening of gastronomic debauchery. We started with a round of inventive cocktails, such as the coconut mojito, cucumber martini, brem Negroni (a local liqueur made of fermented glutinous rice mixed with gin and Campari) and carrot swizzel (a concoction of vodka, lemon, vanilla, chilli, Thai basil and homemade carrot soda served with a handful of wafer-thin carrot candy).

Hujan Locale has inherited the nostalgic feel of an old French-colonial mansion in rural Vietnam from the previous establishment, complete with beautiful wooden shutters. The revamped lofty space reflects an understated tropical elegance with its recycled teak panelling and a palette of cool greens and greys boosted with splashes of pomegranate and citrus. The interior is given a cool edge with provincial-meets-urban touches of linear drawings, vintage botanical prints, a large distressed mirror with studded brass pins, an eye-catching M.C. Escher’s “Palm” as a centrepiece and a commissioned photograph of “Morning Rain” by renowned Indonesian photographer Hengki Koentjoro, while still respectfully conserving its old-world Asian charm.

Chef Will’s roots remain unapologetically grounded within the familiar perimeters of Southeast Asian flavours. The menu—put together with his “chef-in-crime” Palm Amatawet, Chef Tim Bartholomew and Chef Stuart Marsden—offers a fusion fare of east meets west, combining his Scottish background and love of Asian cuisine and highlighting Indonesian cuisine with his trademark twist. Everything is made in-house wherever possible.

Adventurous appetizers include crispy chilli and fennel pig’s ears with roasted chilli and garlic aioli, heritage black pudding served on a betel leaf with prawn, fern-tip and charred shredded coconut, wood-roasted bone marrow topped with breadcrumbs and gentlemen’s relish and served with brioche and the crowd-favourite, Sri Lankan cured scallops with mints, shredded coconut, lime juice and salmon roe (think Asian ceviche exploding with spices).

Celebrating the diversity and complexity of Asia’s distinctive cuisines, the mains are sourced from the earth and oceans. Try the melt-in-your-mouth slow-braised soy beef cheek with wasabi green pea risotto and snow pea shoots, the smoky wood-oven marinated grilled pork cutlet served with a watermelon pickled radish and ginger mirin vinaigrette, the twice-cooked cumin-basted lamb shoulder with quinoa salad, cucumber yoghurt and roasted potatoes and the flavour-packed Kashmiri style roasted snapper wrapped in banana leaf and served with mint yoghurt.

As there’s always room for dessert, don’t miss out on the best bread and butter pudding in town (with whiskey and maple syrup ice cream), or curious comforts such as orange and chocolate Oreo cheesecake, lemon and passion fruit curd tart with coconut Malibu ice cream and dark sticky bourbon and cola pudding with rum and raisin ice cream.

From the highly trained front of house team to the warm, knowledgeable wait staff, Hujan Locale’s service is remarkably attentive yet discreet, never interfering with the flow of our conversations and allowing plenty of breathing (and tummy) space between courses—easily some of the best service we’ve experienced in Ubud.

Hujan Locale’s dishes are delectable personal stories that take you on a scintillating journey across Asia’s backstreet kitchens and into the heart of its culinary culture. Don’t save it for a rainy day, it is an epicurean treat for all seasons!