I should have worn my Panama hat, my suspenders... ah applesauce doll I'm not dressed as dapper as I should be, ya' know? Robert Marchetti The Plantation Grill's interior looks like a high-end, prohibition era New York party hall. Slide into one of its private leather booths that crouch under darkly mirrored columns and you conjure up images of a New Yorker escaping to Atlantic City for a weekend of risqué adult fun.
We're greeted by restaurant manager Craig Yallop and attendant staff – all dressed in smart serving whites and black bow ties. It's hard not to channel at least a little of Nucky Thompson, Steve Buscemi's puppet master character out of Boardwalk Empire. I want to yell, “Strike up the band!” and down a flute of champagne. It's a place to get dressed up for, a far remove from Bali's more ... relaxed sartorial trends (namely board shorts and flip–flops).
The venue, a culinary adventure by globe-trotting Australian chef, Robert Marchetti. According to Yallop, it's the restaurant Marchetti has always wanted to create – a luxurious, elegant space turning out richly flavoured, expertly created cuisine.
In true prohibition style the house flouts flamboyant and original cocktails. While I normally measure the mark of a good bar by its ability to produce a great bourbon whiskey sour (it's the comfortable pants of cocktails), I'm drawn to the house's Lawrenceburg Lemonade – a punchy mix of Bulleit bourbon, Massenez peach, Kaffir lime, lemon, vanilla and sweet & sour yogurt.
For entrees we sample a grain-fed Australian steak tartare with a 64-degree egg yolk, pickled Shimeji mushrooms and capers, followed by Marchetti's take on the steak sandwich. A wonderfully light, large brioche roll comes stuffed with a hearty trio of beef scotch fillet, ox tenderloin fillet and wagyu ribeye, accompanied by a generous boat of rich gravy on the side.
My friends and I opt to share the mains. The whole rock lobster thermidor is truly a classic dish – hints of VSOP Cognac combine with the moist lobster, white sauce and black truffle make each bite almost a sin to eat. A main salad of zucchini flowers with ashed goat's curd and pecorino atop palm hearts, shallots and lemon balm is a welcome change of pace; it freshens the palate just in time for us to sample the steamed seafood salad of fish, calamari, prawns and clams with mixed tomatoes, basil and preserved lemon.
Dessert literally rolls along in the form of a 20's-style dessert trolley. It's an authentic, wonderful touch and adds to the fun. My single-portion cheesecake arrives drenched in Balinese-spiced, stewed berries; left to steep in their own juices for 8 days the bouquet and earthy spice of the berries is in beautiful counterpoint to the rich creaminess of the cheesecake.
For an after dinner digestive, we head up the grand winding staircase to the luxuriously appointed Sling Bar. We lounge and converse late into the night, fine liquor and soft jazz flows over us – we are the cat's meow on the island of the gods.