Words: Matthew Brace
There are numerous reasons why this serene and supremely luxurious hotel is in our Asia Top Three: exemplary service, delicious food, minimalist architecture, frangipani-fringed walkways and peaceful, private pavilion compounds with lush gardens and tranquil pools. The Balé is serenity personified.
We just revisited and the place was better than ever… and celebrating winning a Social Sustainability Award from Great Hotels of the World. It won for its long-running PassionForLife initiative, a laudably holistic approach that ensures employees and local communities are cared for as much as paying guests.
Check-in was a breeze. We sipped delicious orange and grenadine welcome drinks while sitting in the lobby, which is more alfresco art gallery than hotel, with white pillars separating black, rectangular pools.
The Balé is not new but it has been lovingly cared for so despite the ravages of the equatorial climate it’s still in good nick. At breakfast we heard the Balinese staff (many of whom are local to Nusa Dua) chatting quietly to each other as they swept the walkways with their small palm-frond brooms. Their diligence ensures the place always looks neat and tidy.
While the public areas are lovely, it’s the 29 private pool pavilion compounds that make up the centrepiece of the property. The pavilions themselves combine minimalist design with traditional ‘alang alang’ thatched roofs. Each compound also has a small lawn, delightful flower beds, an outdoor day bed and fridge, and, of course, a pool. So alluring and charming are these compounds that on one pre-Covid stay, we never set foot outside ours until check-out.
Look and feel
The minimalist design of the lobby extends to the hotel’s public areas. The first view you get is stunning. From the lobby, a flight of steps ascends, uncluttered and brilliant white in the sunlight. At either side and down the middle of the flight run water channels, so the sound of trickling streams and occasional birdsong are the only things you hear.
We always think it is like a Moorish palace in southern Spain, or a tranquil Moroccan riad. The eye is drawn to the top of the steps, where stands the hotel’s restaurant Faces and a turquoise pool with underwater stone seats, which are perfect for cooling off on hot afternoons.
The whole concept is one of peace and tranquillity, making it the perfect retreat from the pressures of modern living.
If you have time, book a treatment at the Spa. Like the rest of the resort, it is quiet and unhurried, and many treatments are based on traditional Balinese healing rituals. Call us old fashioned but we can’t go past a standard aromatherapy massage with rose geranium, ylang-ylang and sandalwood.
Best room for two
On this most recent stay we had villa No 35, a Deluxe Single Pavilion, on the edge of the property. We entered through double wooden doors and walked on square stepping stones across a shallow pond and past a trickling fountain. Beyond the ‘bengong’ daybed, we saw the garden laid out before us with a tempting 10m x 4m pool at the far end.
The pavilion itself was a small open-plan cottage, fully air-conditioned and sporting a huge bed nestled on a stone plinth (mind your ankles!) and adorned with snow-white mosquito drapes. There were large wardrobes, heaps of storage space and a truly spacious bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers, twin sinks and a gracefully curved stone bathtub.
We had neighbours on one side only and we never heard them. On the other side was a 20m high wall of green, the arboreal boundary between the hotel and a golf course.
Apart from the occasional rumble of a truck on the nearby road all was quiet and we easily imagined ourselves being in a private house in the wilds of Bali. Birds and butterflies frequented the garden, joined at dusk by dragonflies skimming the water of the pool.
For us, the private pool was really the most luxurious element of our stay so not surprisingly it became the focus of activity… if you can call swimming so slowly you hardly cause a ripple “activity”. Our routine saw us migrate from pool to sun loungers, then the daybed for lunch and back to the pool for an afternoon float.
Food and drink
The main restaurant Faces offers a great alfresco and totally laidback breakfast (7–11am). We liked getting there early before the heat had started to build up, ordering The Balé Benedict (poached eggs with prosciutto, rocket, white truffle hollandaise and an olive tapenade) and Huevos Rancheros (crispy tortilla, spicy beans, jalapeño chili, poached egg and lemon avocado).
There’s all-day dining from 12–4pm and 5–11pm, offering a good selection of Indonesian, Thai and Western dishes. Our top picks were the innovative Beef Rendang – one of the best we had had in ages – the Pork Ribs with Hoisin Orange Marinade, the pan-seared Reef Fish with pumpkin puree, and the two soups: chilled tomato and delicious watermelon gazpacho and sweetcorn soup with pan-seared prawns and lobster oil.
You can dine in your villa by ordering from the online menu or head down to Tapa Bistro (above the lobby) for an ice-cold margherita and some tapas; the tuna tartare and the pan-seared barramundi with parmesan risotto and apple slaw were winners.
One of three key targets in The Balé’s sustainability program is Care For Our Family, meaning employees and their local communities.
This award-winning approach focuses on elements such as employee wellbeing, pay equity, skill development and diversity and inclusion. It’s closely linked to the company’s other two sustainability targets: Support For our Community, which increases positive impacts on the local community and its culture and heritage, and Responsibility For Our Environment, which identifies green initiatives and integrates them to reduce emissions and impact on land and water.
The Balé hires locally and develops employees and improves their welfare. It also trains and nurtures them to work efficiently – but also happily – and provide exemplary service to guests. It must all be working because The Balé frequently runs at very high occupancy.
Couples will love
The complete serenity of the place and the outright luxury of having your own small cottage, garden and pool. Thousands of luxury hotels promise peace and tranquillity but few deliver as successfully and consistently as The Balé Nusa Dua. Check in, switch off and fall in love all over again.