Having lived on Gili Air, Indonesia for 15 months, we have told you the 10 must-try Indonesian dishes, but now it’s time to reveal the best Western food including the best dinner restaurants.
I don’t like to write a post about Western food in another country, but let’s be real, I am a Western person in another country!
The question we always ask ourselves when comparing the Western food on Gili Air to back home is “is it good … or is it Island good?”
So, if you are looking for familiar flavours, here is our guide to the best food on Gili Air.
Best Coffee: Coffee and Thyme
Location: At the Harbour
Cost: 25,000 IDR to 40,000 IDR
This is often the most important for Westerners, especially the Italians who live on the island. Espresso, Cappucino, Latte, do you want a flavoured syrup with that? Coffee and Thyme have it all. To be fair, the local Lombok coffee does hit the spot if you like it black, straight up, no messing. All restaurants and warungs serve Lombok coffee.
With vegan friendly cakes to go with your morning coffee, or if you fancy a tasty breakfast, Coffee and Thyme is a lovely way to start your day (especially if you are scuba diving at Ocean’s 5 next door).
Birthday cake: Coffee and Thyme
Cost 250,000 IDR
Coffee and Thyme wins again. Choose between chocolate or carrot cake, both are delicious (I know because I have tried both!).
You need to order at least 24 hours in advance, especially if you want writing. It’s the icing on the cake for any special occasion (groan – did you see what I did there?)
Location: On the east coast, 10 minutes’ walk from the Harbour
Cost: 110,000 IDR
This honour has to go to Scallywags. The All You Can Eat Full English Breakfast. And it’s on the beach, bonus!
We are English born and bred, so in our book, there is no contender. There are other establishments on the island selling breakfast, but Scallywags hits the spot. I mean look at it, just look at it!
Coffee, juice, water, bacon, BACON!!!, sausages, hash brown, beans beans and more beans, bread, toast, egg any way you like it. Want more? There’s cereal, museli, home-made granola, home-made yoghurt, fresh fruit, and little bite size cakes. Astaga, I’m rama-jam full just thinking about it.
Location: Middle of the island just past Gili Air Escape
Cost: 35,000 IDR for Pate, 45,000 IDR for Steak Sandwich
Pate? I bet you weren’t expecting that!
Oh yes, Olala is a small warung serving the most delicious food. We have tried nearly everything on the menu and it never disappoints. They also serve local dishes, but their pate is amazing (and the only place we are aware of that sells it on the island).
AND they have the best steak sandwich on the island. We haven’t found another restaurant like this on Gili Air, it’s very special.
Gourmet food, gourmet presentation, local prices.
Location: On the main road up from the harbour
Breadelicious is Gili Air’s answer to Subway. OK so they don’t have a huge range, but you can have ham and feta in your salad sandwich, and that is a pretty good thing on Gili Air!
Cost: 60,000 IDR
If you want to just buy a baguette for your bacon butty, this is also the best. Choose from wholemeal, cereal, panini or white bread.
Cost: 30,000 IDR
Loaf of Bread: Chill Out
Location: On the east coast, 10 minutes walk from the harbour
Cost: 35,000 IDR
Most bread in the supermarket is loaded with sugar, so Chill Out offer the best “western” loaf of bread. For that home-made sandwich taste, Chill Out sell white, wholemeal and multi-grain.
Cost: 45,000 IDR
Breadelicious wins again. Choose from Quiche Lorraine, Mediterranean, Florentine, Pumpkin, or my favourite, the humble tomato quiche.
Beef Burgers: Perla Nera
Location: On the mosque road near Stay Shark Villa
Cost: 95,000 IDR
A highly debated subject, with many contenders. It’s a tough job helping you with the best option, but someone has to do it, so we rose to the challenge just for you. Sadly we had to leave the island before we had a chance to try the Blue Cheese Burger at Ruby’s as I have heard it’s amazing.
We declare the best burgers on Gili Air to be:
Perla Nera. Not just burgers, but gourmet burgers.
Location: Up the main harbour road opposite Gili Hostel
Cost: 25,000 IDR, if you want it with chips its 40,000 IDR
For a cheap KFC type chicken burger, go and see Yati, the “burger lady at the harbour” (she used to be at the harbour but recently moved, but kept the name). She also has tasty chicken nuggets, and a mighty fine breakfast omelette.
Chicken Breast Burger: Mowies
Location: On the west coast
Cost: 80,000 IDR
For a filling, flavoursome chicken breast burger, Mowies wins with The Chicken Katsu burger served in a black charcoal bun. It’s a cool hangout from morning until night. Their breakfast eggs benedict is always a special treat for me, and the wi-fi is excellent. If you are here for sunset, you will probably bump into some of the large ex-pat diving community who come here to unwind with a Bintang. Their menu also has healthy and vegetarian/vegan options.
As I have just mentioned KFC, Warung Kampung sell the best deep fried chicken called Chicken Ala Warung Kampung, catchy name huh? Served with delicious sauté roasted vegetable and rice, it’s not exact, but it’s fresh and the closest you will get to a KFC on Gili Air.
Cost: 50,000 IDR
Location: On the east coast, 10 minutes’ walk from the harbour
Cost: Scallywags – 95,000 IDR, Shark Bites – 115,000 IDR
This one is up for debate. I say Grilled Pork Sausages with Caramelized Onion at Scallywags, others say Pork Beer Sausages at Shark Bites – it just depends on how you like your sausage! English sausage or Frankfurter … you decide!
Pizza - Classico
Cost: 95,000 IDR – 110,000 IDR
Owned by Italians, serving Italian. Nothing else needs to be said. If you ask any Italian on the island for the best pizza, they will all say Classico.
Pizza Pockets - Pink Coco
Pink Coco does an amazing pizza pocket. It’s supposed to be a starter, but I ordered one as a main and it filled me up. This is great sunset spot, if you are a lover of pink, with many Instagram-worthy photo opportunities including pink swings, pink bikes with flowers and a mermaid. Of course there is a mermaid!
NB: Since writing this post, Pockets and Pints has opened by our friend Martin, it’s on the main road up from the harbour. Sadly it wasn’t open before we left the island so we were unable to try one.
Location: On the west coast
Cost: 80,000 IDR
The humble beachfront bar, and my vote for the best sunset spot on Gili Air – Gili Lumbung. This is how we spent our evenings:
5.30pm – choose a plump beach beanbag, order a cold Bintang and watch the sun set. Around 6.30pm, order Spaghetti Bolognaise for me, King Burger or Sunset Glow Burger for Sy, and enjoy whilst listening to a live singer and guitarist. On special evenings, there would be a fire and fire dancers. Now can you see why this has my vote for best sunset spot? Every single time I visited Gili Lumbung, I always felt as if I was on holiday.
Location: In the middle of the island, next to GIli Matiki Bungalows
Cost: 40,000 IDR upwards
Alas there is nowhere serving a Sunday Roast. Life is sad. Buuuuuuuut, the amazing I Am Bagus is the closest you will get. Selling delicious rotisserie chicken with salad, choose from chips or vegetables cooked in herbs. Sauces are included; blue cheese, pepper or old style mustard. We live in hope they will have gravy one day.
In our last 6 weeks living on Gili Air, we would religiously go to I Am Bagus for our “Sunday Roast”. For a treat, we would have a glass of either red, white or rose wine! Oh and the chocolate moose dessert – mmmmmmmmm.
Steak – Chill Out
Location: On the east coast
Cost: 150,000 to 180,000 IDR
Unless you are vegetarian, everyone loves a decent steak – and I don’t mean “steak”, I mean what I said “a decent steak”, the two don’t always go hand-in-hand. Chill Out is the place to go if you like your meat, served with a choice of potatoes or salad. Enough said.
Location: In a field near the harbour
Cost: 45,000 IDR
Some people say Mexican Kitchen, but the Jury is still out with me. There are, however, many places on the island serving Mexican food. Check out the size of this giant Taco at Panchy Robeck, and it’s delicious.
Cost: 45,000 IDR
For my birthday last year, I scoured the island sampling every dessert offered by expats as “the best on the island”, so I feel qualified to answer this question!
Sunrise has the most variety. My favourite is Tart Citroen which is basically Lemon Meringue Pie, they have got it just right. Every time I order one I am never disappointed.
Cost: 50,000 IDR
If it’s chocolate you are after – the humble chocolate brownie at Breadelicious is divine, but to trump them all has to be Ruby’s Chocolate Salami (dark, rich chocolate cut into salami size pieces). Just try it!
Cost: Breadelicious – 45,000 IDR, Chocolate Salami - 60,000 IDR
Ice cream – Scooperific … unless you are Italian, then you will want Gelato – both are all over the island so take your pick
As Gili Air is quite the hot-spot for yogis, unsurprisingly, there are now a number of places catering to Vegans, vegetarians, dairy free and gluten free.
Nad Brahma – Indian food, I went for the opening night and it was delicious.
Pachamama Organic Cafe – A favourite for vegans on the island, they also cater for meat eaters. Serving granola bowls, falafel, pasta, sharing plates and desserts.
Captain Coconuts – Plenty to choose from on their menu including smashed avo, smoothie bowls, fritters, vegan lasagne, vegan bean nachos, hummus and desserts.
Gili Bliss – A good selection of vegetarian and most can be made vegan. Tempeh salad, falafel, smoothie bowls,
Mowies – a few options, such as the pumpkin gnocchi.
Flowers & Fire – delicious smoothie bowls
Perla Nera – As they have a vegan lasagne and vegan burger, this place suits meat eaters and vegans.
Pachamama – 130,000 IDR/glass and 240,000 IDR/jug
Shark Bites – 40,000 IDR/glass or 45,000 IDR/mug
I Am Bagus - Red, White or Rose – 50,000 IDR/glass
Pachamama – Red – 50,000 IDR/glass White or Rose – 270,000 IDR/bottle
Albens Cider (small bottle)
Pachamama – 40,000 IDR
Scallywags – 40,000 IDR
Stark beer (small bottle)
Pachamama – 50,000 IDR
Shark Bites – 45,000 IDR
Travel Facts and information
When is the best time to visit Indonesia and Gili Air?
Gili Air has a tropical climate which means an average year round temperature of 29°c. They have two seasons: Rainy season is October – March, Dry season runs April – September. July & August is high season so prices will be higher.
How do I get to Gili Air?
From Lombok: You can fly to Praya, Lombok, which is about 90 minutes by taxi from Bangsal Harbour. A boat from here takes around 30 minutes.
From Bali: 2 hours by fast-boat from Bali (Padang Bai, Sanur or Amed in the north). We have always used Eka Jaya which is one of he most popular companies to use if you are based in south Bali. Tickets can be booked online or by your hotel in Bali. From the North, have a look at Gili Gili's website for the options.
Note: Sometimes the sea conditions during July & August can be quite wavy, and fast boats can be cancelled. If you are travelling during this time from Bali, it's best to book an internal flight.
From Gili Meno or Trawangan: Local "Island Hopper" boats run twice daily and take about 20 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the harbour on the day. Cost is approx 20,000 IDR.
Do I need a Visa to visit Gili Air?
A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy).
What is the currency, and are there ATM’s on the island?
The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah £1 GBP = 18,000 IDR
There are currently eight ATM’s on the island so you don’t have to bring wads of cash. The locations are: 2 x at the harbour (BNI & Mandiri), 2 x opposite Scallywags on the east coast (both CIMB), 2 x by Bel Air (BNI & Mandiri), Blue Marlin on the north-west coast (CIMB) and Ombak on the south-west coast (BNI). (NB: There have been a few reports of cards being cloned at Mandiri so please be careful.)
Is there anything I need to be culturally aware of?
Gili Air, the Gili Islands and Lombok are all Muslim which is more conservative than its neighbour Bali which is Hindu. A couple of things to be aware of: please dress modestly when away from the beach area, wearing a bikini around the streets will undoubtedly offend the locals. The Muslim culture doesn’t eat pork, ham, bacon etc, so it’s not widely available, however you will find it at establishments owned by Westerners.
Where can I stay on Gili Air?
There are prices to suit all budgets from luxurious resort and spas, to hostels and homestays. We stayed at the simple yet beautiful 3 Angels Homestay which had a balcony, aircon and a gorgeous, spacious outside bathroom. It was a 10 minute walk from the harbour and restaurants. As always, we booked through www.booking.com.
- The official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian and throughout Indonesia in general
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in the larger hotels, some homestays and most restaurants.
- In addition to the beachfront restaurants, small, family run restaurants known as warungs are dotted all around and are a cheap and tasty way of eating locally.
- Bring a small torch for the evening as there are parts of the island that do not have lights, especially if you want to watch the sunset on the west coast and walk to the east coast for dinner.
- All toilets for the restaurants are “public” so carry a small packet of tissues and antibacterial handwash in your bag as they don’t always have toilet paper or hand washing facilities.
- Electricity supplies can be interrupted at times on the island which is not a problem at all, just something to be aware of. This does mean the internet can be affected, so put down your phone and just enjoy the beauty of the island.
When you are away from home for a long time, what dish from home do you crave? Tell us in the comment section below.
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