French flair at seaside Nusa Dua
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