The Stones Le­gian

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Hotels -

Ge­og­ra­phy and ad­dresses mean ev­ery­thing on Bali’s coastal tourist strip. Reg­u­lar vis­i­tors are loyal to their favourite precincts, from Seminyak to Sanur, and those who are not into bars, Bin­tang beer­branded sin­glets and mix­ing al­most ex­clu­sively with other Aus­tralian tourists stu­diously avoid Kuta.

So it does have to be de­clared that The Stones Le­gian is ac­tu­ally on the bor­der of Kuta (to the south) and Le­gian, across from Le­gian Beach. Un­less you want to be con­fronted with re­tail hag­gling and night­club mad­ness, treat this tucked-away re­sort as an oasis-like en­clave, com­plete with palm trees, ham­mocks and flour­ish­ing ver­ti­cal gar­dens.

A mem­ber of Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional’s Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion of “strik­ingly in­de­pen­dent lux­ury ho­tels’’ and its first such prop­erty in Asia, The Stones Le­gian is a medium-rise es­tab­lish­ment that opened late last year and fea­tures 308 gue­strooms, in­clud­ing 22 suites, the pick of which are in the “cor­ner’’ cat­e­gory with ex­tra liv­ing space and larger bath­rooms. (Dur­ing my visit, the owner was in res­i­dence at the Pres­i­den­tial Suite — three floors, a rooftop pool, he­li­pad, all the big-shot works.)

But the de­sign of the gue­strooms is frankly weird — un­less you are in a suite, you walk straight off the cor­ri­dor into the bath­room, there is not enough width on the closet shelf to put two aver­age-sized suit­cases side by side, in­suf­fi­cient hooks and rails to hang clothes and tow­els and, yikes, the bath­tub is on the bal­cony (thank­fully, with pull-across pri­vacy cur­tains).

At first it seems a case of style over sub­stance and my ini­tial im­pres­sions were not good. But the ho­tel soon grew on me over the first day and I now re­alise there is much to rec­om­mend, from the en­thu­si­as­tic ser­vice and groovy touches (icy poles, like mini-Pad­dle Pops, on ar­rival; Illy cof­fee ma­chines in gue­strooms) to the big, blue-tiled la­goon pool. Be­side the pool are five thatched ca­banas that can be booked for, say, an af­ter­noon of lolling about in po­ten­tate-like splen­dour with a healthy drink (per­haps an en­er­giser of or­ganic nat­u­ral yo­ghurt, mango, mint leaves and car­damom) from the ad­ja­cent pool bar (which has a funky pop­corn ma­chine) and freshen up with the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture pill-like tow­els that mag­i­cally pop and ex­pand. Din­ing: Toowoomba-born ex­ec­u­tive chef Chris Smith, with ex­ten­sive Mar­riott ex­pe­ri­ence in Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore “un­der his apron’’, is turn­ing out imag­i­na­tive fare at Stones Kitchen and the breezy pool­side Big Fish Bar & Grill that rates up there with the best on the is­land. Af­ter many Bali vis­its, I reckon his Long Rice Ta­ble ri­jsttafel din­ner spread of shared-plate tra­di­tional dishes, from stuffed pan­cake-style martabak telur to crunchy peanut-sauced gado gado, is the finest of this style of ban­quet I’ve tried.

The in­te­grated restau­rant and ter­race are clev­erly re­freshed from day to night with mood light­ing, slid­ing screens and table­ware. The buffet break­fast set-up (Smith, who has a cheeky sense of hu­mour, even has ice cream and lolly jars on the morn­ing spread) feels plan­ets re­moved from the el­e­gance of the Long Rice Ta­ble din­ner area, even though it’s the same flow-through space.

There are sit-up counters, too, with high stools, coloured glass­ware twin­kles at all ta­bles, and there are bean­bags and loungey out­door seat­ing.

Smith’s sig­na­ture dish is gar­lic-but­tered king prawns with saf­fron and vanilla risotto, baby chervil and chive oil and he says he’s a “huge fan’’ of the sim­plic­ity and clear, clean taste of Ja­panese food. He serves many of the dishes on his menus in bento boxes or on ir­reg­u­lar ce­ramic plates of hand-fin­ished qual­ity. Ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about: The staff here are re­ferred to as “tal­ent’’ and they are all so fresh-faced and smil­ing that man­age­ment could well have done a cast­ing call. Smith’s take on room-ser­vice food, Gourmet Ex­press, is served in cherry-red boxes and de­liv­ered by staff in boppy Con­verse sneak­ers who look as if they’ve just hopped off a pizza-de­liv­ery bike.

Pool at­ten­dants wear cool white trilby hats and move like mod­els; al­most ev­ery time you turn around an em­ployee has ma­te­ri­alised to wish you a happy day, and with cred­itable en­thu­si­asm. Hot tips: The Stones Le­gian has ex­ten­sive con­fer­ence and meet­ings fa­cil­i­ties and five gi­gan­tic ball­rooms so it’s go­ing to be pe­ri­od­i­cally busy with groups, wed­ding par­ties and del­e­gates. You must book a pool-fac­ing room as th­ese are larger, the views are deep and cool and you’re in box-seat po­si­tion for the “sun­set has its own sound­track’’ evening spec­ta­cle of pink light­ing ef­fects, fire dancers and a lone sax­o­phon­ist who climbs onto the roof of the pool bar and lends a madly trans­planted sense of New Or­leans by night to pro­ceed­ings.

There’s a 24-hour gym and do try the leafy and woody-themed Ce­les­tine Spa for a sub­lime (and aptly named) warm stones ther­apy or a facial us­ing jade stones. Prices are very good by ho­tel stan­dards and most ther­a­pies can be taken as one-hour or 90-minute ses­sions — a 90-minute deep-tis­sue mas­sage is $US75 ($71.80) plus taxes. Step­ping out: The Stones Le­gian is op­po­site Le­gian Beach — get up early for a walk on the sand be­fore the per­sis­tent hawkers and rov­ing mas­sage ther­a­pists de­scend. Turn left from the ho­tel to stroll to the open-sided ar­cades of Beach­walk Mall, with brands

such as Tommy Ba­hama for stylish ca­sual wear, and Ar­mani Jeans; look for Satu, a bou­tique that show­cases In­done­sian and Bali-based ex­pa­tri­ate artists, jewellers and cou­turi­ers, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional fash­ion de­signer Espen Sal­berg.

If you want a driver to take you to Seminyak for shop­ping or to drop you at the fan­tas­tic Mama San for din­ner (the newish bistro from Will Meyrick of Sarong fame), or even for a day’s hop to Tanah Lot and Ubud, the charm­ing Putu Eka is your chap. His ve­hi­cle is spot­less and his English is ex­cel­lent — + 62 87 861 370 765; putueka.in-bali.bz. Es­sen­tials: The Stones Le­gian is about 20 min­utes from Denpasar air­port. Rates in­clude free WiFi. There are last-minute deals, pack­ages and sea­sonal vari­a­tions but dou­ble or twin rooms this month are sell­ing from about $US70. The web­site is con­fus­ingly ar­ranged and room cat­e­gories have sim­i­lar names. Note that pool­fac­ing rooms on the ground floor have plunge pools on the cov­ered ter­race-style bal­conies but no out­door sit­ting space. More: + 62 361 300 5888; stoneshotel­bali.com.

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02 03 01 The big, blue-tiled la­goon pool is edged by five thatched ca­banas 02 A pool view room has a box-seat view of the sun­set spec­ta­cle of fire dancers and mu­sic 03 Stones kitchen turns out imag­i­na­tive fare in an el­e­gant set­ting 04 The top-class...

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