French flair at sea­side Nusa Dua

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

The ants sneak­ing through the dou­ble doors chez moi are on to a good thing. Each night they creep into my villa, conga-line fash­ion, and help them­selves to fruit bowl peel­ings and soft­ened choco­late ameni­ties on the cof­feetable. Of course I could just close the doors, crank up the air­con­di­tion­ing and coun­te­nance no such in­tru­sions, but the air is soft and silken, the frangi­pani-scented breeze curls in, and one more wafer-thin morsel of any­thing would surely see me burst­ing from my swim­suit. So let the ants plump up and party on, I say.

There is a won­der­ful abun­dance at Sof­i­tel Bali Nusa Dua, be it generosity of food, space or car­ing ser­vice. It is a sprawl­ing 8ha beach­side en­clave within the broader Nusa Dua gated re­sort and golf es­tate but some­how man­ages to feel per­sonal and con­tained. The gar­dens are glo­ri­ous; flow­er­ing vines and fire­cracker flashes of he­li­co­nia are framed by flut­ter­ing red and gold cer­e­mo­nial pen­nants and tas­sel-trimmed Ba­li­nese um­brel­las. Bowls of per­fect pale green and white blooms ap­pear in gue­strooms and as ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions.

Seven­teen walled pool vil­las sit in rows, in a kind of vil­lage en­clave, near the sea and sand. These are the top­drawer ac­com­mo­da­tion but of equal flashi­ness are the Pool Ac­cess gue­strooms with di­rect swim-out to a great curve of shal­low la­goon that wan­ders un­der hump­backed bridges, laps against build­ings and streams into the main pool. This ground-floor cat­e­gory is the most pop­u­lar and sells quickly; also note that some king and twin Lux­ury Rooms have pri­vate gar­den pools. I rec­om­mend pay­ing a sur­charge for ac­cess to Club Mil­liseme (in­cluded in the tar­iff for villa and suite guests), a two-storey fa­cil­ity with its own pool, din­ing room, li­brary, chil­dren’s an­nexe and plen­ti­ful meals and teas, from break­fast through to wine-tast­ings and free-flow­ing cock­tails.

The 415-room re­sort opened in late 2013, just in time for the APEC gath­er­ing and the at­ten­dant re­vival of the con­tro­ver­sial na­tional shirt dress code (who could for­get Tony Ab­bott and John Kerry in match­ing ma­genta). The prop­erty’s de­sign, of two wings, ra­di­at­ing cor­ri­dors and high-ceilinged spa­ces, feels light and airy, a clever mix of con­tem­po­rary fea­tures, re­flect­ing sur­faces, warm-toned teak and tra­di­tional Ba­li­nese ref­er­ences such as carv­ings and soft fur­nish­ings in re­peat­ing batik kawung pat­terns.

In the open-sided lounge bar, off the sec­ond floor of the mon­u­men­tal lobby atrium, set­tle on a rocker chair fac­ing the dou­ble-sided sweep of the re­sort and the beach beyond, to get an over­all idea of the lay­out and the ar­chi­tect’s vi­sion, right down to the bal­cony sup­ports that mimic the shel­ter­ing branches of banyan trees.

And so to food and the big all-day in­door-out­door restau­rant cum mar­ket­place that is Kwee Zeen.

It takes me a while to “get” the name, de­spite this be­ing a re­sort man­aged by the French be­he­moth Ac­cor, but the “cui­sine” is ter­rific, var­ied and in­stantly re­plen­ished. Dishes are ar­ranged in “ate­liers” ac­cord­ing to style and ori­gin and the break­fast spread is among the best I’ve tried, even if it is im­pos­si­ble to get fur­ther than the In­dian sec­tion, where freshly made masala dosa and shov­el­loads of co­conut chut­ney con­sti­tute the per­fect wake-up call, es­pe­cially when washed down with a detox juice (pear, gin­ger, mint and pas­sion­fruit, please).

Sun­day brunch at the com­bined steak­house, seafood grill and os­te­ria known as Cut, Catch, Cucina is such a treat that it’s as pop­u­lar with lo­cals as guests; my stay is just be­fore Christ­mas and the dessert fea­tures an eye­candy ar­ray of sea­sonal mer­ri­ments, from moun­tains of mac­arons to a lolly cabi­net and fairy-floss ma­chine. Even av­o­cado gets a makeover here, twirled and swirled into a rather tasty mousse. “We are at sugar coma cen­tral,” says one Aus­tralian guest with plates piled sky­wards. Oh, and in ad­di­tion to the grill and wood-fired oven there’s a carvery and line-up of fra­grant cur­ries and stir-fries.

By now I am in need of ei­ther a gus­set in my trousers or sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion, so off to Vi­etura, the “ar­ti­san of anti-age­ing” clinic within the re­sort that fo­cuses on boost­ing treat­ments such as botox, der­mal fillers, oxy­gen fa­cials, col­la­gen and “tor­nado lift thread” to firm and con­tour. Yikes, I need to lie down af­ter just read­ing the menu, so I book into the com­par­a­tive seren­ity of the So Spa where a Ba­li­nese heal­ing mas­sage makes much more sense, es­pe­cially in the safe, sure hands of Noor, un­der a reach­ing roof in a sa­lon that looks and feels like a tem­ple. A se­lec­tion of treat­ments, in­clud­ing 30-minute foot pum­mels and prods, can also be had at the al­fresco Spa at the

Pool Ac­cess gue­stroom, top; Kwee Zeen restau­rant, above cen­tre; cer­e­mo­nial um­brel­las, above left; open-sided lobby lounge, above; lan­tern-lit beach at sun­set, left

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