This list is hardly exhaustive but I think it covers a fairly wide range of bars located across the city - from Kota in the north to Kemang in the south, as well as in central Jakarta areas too (like Menteng). About the only place with no representation on the list is the infamous strip (sic) of girly bars in Blok M - not really my cup of Java to be honest. The quality of the bars on the list varies hugely. Some of them would make good “regular” drinking bars whereas some of the others are worth visiting perhaps only as a “one-off”. I’ve written detailed reviews on many of the bars – just click on the links to read them. So with no further ado, here’s the list in descending order of drinking merit:
20. CJ’s Bar. A typical luxury-hotel type bar. The drink prices border on the insane. Is the investment worth it? Well on occasions, yes!
19. Afterhour. This upmarket billiards joint surprised me the first time I went there as it is so different from the cheap billiard halls in Jakarta where the girls who set up the tables and serve the drinks tend to get a little bit too friendly!
18. Tree House. One for the artsy-fartsy expat types carrying around the burden of Indonesia’s relentless environmental destruction on their poor western shoulders. Nice bar though and its ecological stance is commendable.
17. Jackrabbit. Jakarta is full of criminals: many of them batik-collar types and very, very rich. They’d be very fond of Jackrabbit - the legendary 1920’s gangster from the US and also the name of this snazzy celeb-linked bar.
16. Paulaner Bräuhaus. Jakarta’s only bar with a micro brewery. Unfortunately, the only beer they could sell me was Bintang…
15. 4play. Ever been to a bar in a bordello? No I thought not.
14. Tiga Puluh. The old lady of luxury-hotel type bars in Jakarta, this bar refuses to hang up her imitation boots just yet...
13. Cuba Libre. Classy little bar that virtually nobody knows about, making it a great place for arranging a secret rendezvous.
12. Obama Fans Club. Ranked first for the bar with the “most wacky bar name in 2011”, Obama Fans Club is located in the well-known backpackers’ street of Jalan Jaksa and is mainly patronized by Africa’s expat community. SBY, however, will be relieved there are no plans to name a bar after him.
11. Jaya Pub. One of Jakarta’s oldest bars, it deserves a mention just for nostalgic reasons (want to chat to an expat about the Suharto era come here). Sadly though, it now has the reputation as the “worst place in Jakarta”.
10. Café Batavia. Named as one of the “World's Best Bars” by Newsweek International in 1996, this bar was the brainchild of Graham James, an Australian wanderer who made his money when beach-front real estate was dirt cheap in the early 60s and, some time later, by founding a highly successful franchise of English language schools (EEC). The bar is located right at the heart of the city’s old Dutch quarters in a magnificently restored 19th-century building, just opposite the old Dutch city hall (now Jakarta Museum). Inside, it’s truly impressive and even the bogs are worth visiting with their impressive décor and old b&w photographs on the walls.
9. Loewy. One of the few places in Jakarta to offer outside seating, Loewy’s is a relaxed and romantic venue, making it the perfect place to take a date. No wonder the place is always full!
8. Mo Bar. Can’t imagine what – or who! – this stylish hotel bar was named after, but it’s gained a bit of a name for itself thanks to its “Ladies Nights” when the females get free drinks.
7. Face Bar. There are bars you go to get pissed and there are bars you go to be seen. This one falls into the latter category.
6. Aphrodite. Despite being named after the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture, Aphrodite is not a girly bar but probably the city’s best sports bar. Well, Jakarta always is a confusing place.
5. Die Stube. Er, wunderbar? Hahaha!
4. Murphy’s. Like the good Mary miracle, an authentic Irish church of alcohol suddenly appeared in Jakarta from absolutely nowhere – and run by a true Irishman to boot! Its name? Murphy’s!
3. Red Square. Admission to this Russian-themed vodka joint is pretty much limited to the upper echelons of Jakarta’s highly stratified society (no cheapo Mansion House to be found here!)
2. Beer Garden Kemang. If all you really want to do is enjoy a glass of beer then Beer Garden Kemang is probably the best bar in Jakarta. The superb selection of imported beers (Erdinger, Peroni, Stella Artois, Hoegaarde, etc) puts many a hotel bar to shame. Even the prices are refreshingly affordable and a pitcher of draft may cost you less than one glass of beer in a nightclub like CJ’s or Tiga Puluh.
1. Eastern Promise. As near to an English pub as you will find in Jakarta. And you could even bring your mum along and not get embarrassed. Nuff said methinks!