The family have finally decided to come over to visit you, curious to find out what has kept you away for so many years.
“Holy shit!” you exclaim. The panic bells ringing like crazy.
“Just where the hell am I going to take them?!!! I can hardly drag them over to Red Square or the Blok or God forbid the Oasis Café in Mangga Besar (having said that, old Uncle Charlie would probably regain his zest for life if he had one of their soapy massage specials!!!).
In the old days, about the only bar you could take them to in Jakarta - where your whole charade about living a decent and wholesome life in the tropics wouldn’t come crashing down – was Bugils. Nope you wouldn’t have had to mention to them that Bugils was a pun on the Indonesian word naked – which also means “crazy white man” - and a visit here wouldn’t have made your mother weep while wondering where she went so horribly wrong.
Although Bugils is alas long gone (it closed in 2008), there are actually more bars in Jakarta nowadays where you can take your mum (many of them owned by Bartele, the affable Dutch businessman - who also owned Bugils, funnily enough).
One of his bars is Eastern Promise in Kemang, a once-quiet backwater in suburban Jakata, but now a lot more developed and with even a few monstrous high rise towers looming down on top of you. Pretty trippy, really.
Eastern Promise has been created in the mold of a traditional English-style pub and, by most accounts, is probably the best bar in Jakarta.
Sure it doesn’t quite have the character of a 16th century pub in the English Countryside (*) – or the fine ales – but, hey, this is Jakarta and we should be thankful for small mercies and good ol’ Bintang on tap.
The pub specialises in British and Indian food. It’s good grub overall but the Indian cuisine, whilst tasty enough, is hardly what you’d call authentic.
The vindaloo, for instance, is actually rather sweet (rather than fiery) and will certainly not leave you crapping red hot Krakatau lava streams the following morning - which can be the case after eating a really hot vinders the night before back in Blighty.
The lamb, however, was tender, and the lassies fresh and tangy.
If your mum gets bored here, you can always take her into the billiards room to shoot a few games of pool – or perhaps watch the latest sports game on the large screen.
Just remember: Mangga Besar can wait.
Till next week at least!
Jl. Kemang Raya No. 5
Telp: (021) 717 9 0151
(*) A sort of mirror image of the Eastern Promise is the Scarlett Arms, a quintessential English pub, located in the quaint village of Horsham in Surrey (making it easily accessible from SW London), which claims to be the only pub in the UK which specializes in Malay food! But I warn you: under no circumstances click on the link if you are currently in Jakarta and have a fondness for English pubs. The sight of the on-tap real ale is enough to bring any man to his knees and weep!