Delicat Restaurant: Ubud, Bali

I don’t get much of a chance to get up to Ubud as I am usually bypassing it on my way to other parts of the island, but when I do it is usually to Casa Luna or my all-time favourite, Kafe Batan Waru. Ubud is one of those places where you need a week or so to explore everything – the galleries, museums, coffee shops, and of course the restaurants and warungs. I was reading a restaurant review recently about a restaurant that has achieved great notoriety, the Delicat Restaurant.

Here’s the article:

An Ubud restaurant — one that is as much a living room for artists, Bohemians, musicians, writers and talkers as it is a dining venue — has just been named by Lonely Planet as one of the top five eateries in Indonesia and No. 1 in Bali. And while suggesting that the delicatessen-restaurant, Delicat, serves the best food in Bali would be pushing it a bit, the place does have its charms.

Run by a former journalist, pop star, radio station owner and self-confessed “”climate fugitive”” — Gunnar Fridthjofsson who hails from Iceland — since its opening in 2003, Delicat has become a “”home away from home”” for many an expat and local who gather nightly an ale and a chin wag.

Delicat is much like an English pub in the central role it plays for many in the community.

All are welcome at the long wooden tables of the restaurant’s front verandah, which overlooks the local football field. A couple of tuned guitars are always at hand, and you never know just how good the music of an impromptu jam will be — often, it’s brilliant.

And these aspects, no doubt, form the backbone of Delicat’s success.

Gunnar began Delicat with his wife of 18 years, Anna, who died in February 2005.

At that time, he said, his “”life was taken away””. Nevertheless, he has managed to maintain the dream the couple began to realize on the day they found the building that was to become Delicat.

“”We had looked around Thailand and Vietnam (for a business). Anna always talked about Bali. She had first come here in 1972 when she was a young hippie,”” recalled Gunnar. “”One Sunday morning we came to Ubud and saw an A4 piece of paper advertising this building for rent. Anna and I looked at each other, looked at the football field, wrote down the number and we got it.””

From the beginning, the couple had a vision of how their restaurant would be: a place where people would feel comfortable and at home.

“”I like making food, everyone likes my food. But it was never our intention to make money, just to have enough for ourselves and the rent. We pay a pretty good salary here and everybody’s happy,”” said Gunnar.

That generosity of spirit, a genuine laid-back welcome for all and prices that don’t break the bank has attracted people to Delicat from day one.

“”I think it’s the low wine prices and the cheese brings the people. Not only that, the big tables force people to talk to each other. Who wants to go out with the old lady every night?”” he said.

“”The tables are a very important social factor. When you go out, you want to meet people. A lot of business has come out of these tables. I know of a couple that got married after meeting here. Contacts are made when people start talking. People say Delicat is like their own living room.””

The ease of being at the restaurant is confirmed by Delicat regular Chrissy, from Australia.

“”I come here for the camaraderie, the pleasant food. It’s a place to see friends and catch up on the local news,”” she said.

“”It’s lovely being able to come here on my own. It’s very inviting and welcoming. There is no pretension. I also meet people from around the world and I enjoy that very much. It’s full of characters, and I like characters,”” Chrissy added.

For local artist Joe, Delicat “”is my second home””, and Ubud resident David, newly arrived from Australia, said Delicat offers him the opportunity to make new friends in his new home.

“”It’s a good meeting place because of the big tables,”” he said.

Meanwhile, well-known local businessman Purpa said he wandered nightly into Delicat because “”it’s close to home, the beer’s cheap and I meet up with friends and make new friends””.
As to the food, it really is good old-fashioned comfort food at comfortable prices: mashed potatoes, roast lamb, sausages and a ripper of a Greek salad.

Gunnar says Delicat’s menu grew out of Anna’s need to see wine and cheese available in Ubud.

“”We wanted Western food and wine. There was no wine here in Ubud and no cheese,”” he said, adding that the restaurant had always had a delicatessen where people could buy wines, cheeses, cold meats and fabulous spiced sausages to take home.

The mashed potatoes and lamb comes from Gunnar’s side of the family. He says his mother was a great cook and he spent many hours in her kitchen watching the daily preparations for lunch and dinner. Lunch was fish and, invariably, lamb was for dinner.

“”In Iceland we have one million sheep and 290,000 people. When I was home, it was lamb or cod,”” said Gunnar, who can certainly knock up a very nice Sunday roast lamb — a favorite with expats needing a taste of home.

The bulk of the recipes on Delicat’s menu comes from the Icelandic kitchen of his mother.

Swedish meatballs is another favorite and people are known to head to the restaurant on arrival in Ubud to refamiliarize themselves with this Delicat specialty.

The Gammon ham served with a corker of a potato salad — recipe courtesy of Gunnar’s brother in Iceland — is a great choice if you could eat a horse and chase its rider. But if “”something light”” is your ticket, the cheese platter is excellent, as is the Greek salad mentioned earlier.

The breakfast menu is also worth a look. You can choose from the Healthy Breakfast, American, French, English and even Norwegian breakfasts — even better, breakfast is an all-day affair.

Following one of these hearty breakfasts, it’s pleasant to look to the day ahead.

For Gunnar, he plans to keep on running Delicat, making it “”always better”” — in line with his trademark greeting.

Delicat is located around the Ubud soccer field. Phone: (0361) 971284

Trisha Sertori