You won’t find a bar like this anywhere else in Jakarta” says Nautilus Bar manager, Marwan Ardiyansyah.
Situated on the ground floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta’s new address at Capital Place, the bar oozes cool with its black upholstered booths and wall-spanning mural, depicting Indonesia’s heady days at the centre of the global spice trade – ships slip anchors, their billowing sails frozen in time.
Backing up Marwan’s words (and the decor), the house’s impressive range of deliciously original signature cocktails utilise four classic spices from Jakarta’s (or Sunda Kelapa’s in the old parlance) illustrious history; namely galangal, lemongrass, nutmeg and clove. The almost alchemic creations are a bold statement to the rest of Jakarta’s maturing bar scene – Nautilus means business.
Speaking of other bars, Marwan says he’s impressed with Jakarta’s burgeoning growth as an international city. New infrastructure projects are helping to solve the city’s infamous traffic chaos, such as a Bangkok-style skytrain and toll roads. As the flow and ease of international business increases, so too is Jakarta’s bar scene.
“The wealth of independents opening up is impressive”, he says, “I like to check other bars out and see what’s going on.”
“I like the standardisation element they (the indie bars) have. Like them, we want people to walk in the door and get the same great cocktail again and again. That’s what people will come back for, that’s something we’re really focused on.”
“We also combine it (standardisation) with our tradition of providing guests with those little customised elements, that’s the sweet spot.”
While we chat, barman Dio adds the last touches to our first cocktail, the Gombal, which loosely translates as “the pick-up line”. It’s a frisky name for a frisky drink: clove-infused vodka, lemon juice, rambutan and egg white topped with edible flowers.
As I sip, the gents give me the low down on how to pace myself for a typical night out in Jakarta.
“Head out to dinner first, about 8:30”, says Marwan.
“Try Fujin, it’s Japanese, everyone loves it”, says Marwan, “it’s not too far from our hotel”.
Dio adds, “most bars don’t start too early. Even if they are open, don’t get there until 10:30pm at the earliest”.
“They won’t close until 3am, even on weekdays. They don’t get properly busy until midnight.”
As Nautilus Bar fills up with an after work mix of locals and guests, we work our way through a choice selection of the signature drinks, sure to touch on each of the four main spices. Eventually I head out for dinner, armed with local knowledge and a reinvigorated appreciation of fine cocktail craft.