A Taste of Melbourne in Bali
Three restaurants and a coffee joint, in a row, by a 31-year-old, Melbourne-born entrepreneur.
If you’ve been to Seminyak in the last three years, you’ve probably eaten at Sisterfields. If you’ve been more recently than that, you may also have been to its neighbouring businesses: Expat Coffee Roasters on its left side (Seminyak’s answer to Everyday or Market Lane Coffee, in its just-do-coffee-but-do-it-well approach) and Bo$$man, a top-notch burger joint which serves its food in gold packaging, on the right.
These three businesses – plus a fourth, Bikini, which opened on the same strip in January this year – are owned by 31-year-old, Melbourne-born Adam McAsey of 8 Degree Projects. His father was also a restaurateur, so McAsey was born into hospitality. But despite running his dad’s place in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs for years, he had no desire to open a place of his own in his hometown.
“Bali was our family holiday destination during my teens, and I also had a stint as an exchange student when I was 12 in Yogyakarta (Indonesia), so I’ve always felt drawn to Indonesian culture,” he says. “Bricks and mortar in Melbourne just didn’t resonate with me.”
He began, at just 24, with a villa. He bought more land, and built more villas, and within three years had also acquired a strip of land that would become his restaurants.
Sisterfields, which opened in early 2014, wouldn’t be out of place in any major Australian city: polished tiled floors, marble counters, low hanging lights and a brunch menu dotted with acai and smoothie bowls, smashed avocado, and other dishes such as braised beef short rib with poached eggs.
Bo$$man Burgers (opened in May 2015), and Expat Coffee (October 2016, co-owned with barista Shae Macnamara), similarly wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne or Sydney. They both have a singular focus and both do it well, but it’s the little details that make these places stand out. At Bo$$man, burgers come in gold boxes and they offer a 4am delivery service – perfect for when you’ve had too many Bintangs and don’t want to leave your villa. Expat is beautifully designed, with serious coffee made from house-roasted beans sourced both locally and internationally. Soy, flat whites or pour-overs are served by smiley staff clad in bright green, palm tree-printed shirts.
The newest baby, Bikini, which sits to the side of Expat but loops around behind Sisterfields (they share a courtyard dining space) is a casual fine diner which “fuses the urban flair of a New York warehouse with the energy and vibe of a Miami beach party,” says McAsey. The space is cavernous, with shades of pink splashed along one wall, and concrete floors and finishes. The share-plates menu by 8 Degree Projects’ executive chef Jethro Vincent includes ravioli made from thin slices of pickled beetroot and stuffed with goat cheese; oyster “crackers” float on a cloud of liquid nitrogen; foie gras parfait is shaped into cigar-like cylinders and served with bread and butter “ash”, for dipping. The cocktails are well crafted and suit the tropical climate, and the wine list is decent, especially considering how hard good wine is to find in Indonesia.
One of the biggest challenges for McAsey – aside from language barriers, the climate, and everything that goes hand-in-hand with opening four businesses in a foreign country – has been tailoring these concepts to suit this very niche market. Because while Seminyak attracts a lot of visitors from Australia, and while these restaurants and cafes are similar to what you find back home, “you can’t just pick up what works abroad and stick it in Bali,” says McAsey.
He’s not the only Australian making hospitality in-roads there, either. In recent years, some of the country’s most well-known food and beverage names have opened outposts in Bali, led by Frank Camorra, who opened one of his Movida restaurants in Seminyak in 2016. Since then Iceberg’s Maurice Terzini opened Italian restaurant Da Maria) and the owners of Sydney bar Mrs Sippy opened a pool club in April. Ksubi’s founders also opened a designer hotel there in March.
“It is a fickle and competitive market,” he says, “and much of our customer base is local. I just create what I see is missing from the market, and thankfully, to date, each of my concepts has worked.”
Expat. Coffee Roasters