Welcome to Checking In, a review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue-in-cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.
What’s the deal?
The Apurva Kempinski Bali officially opened early February 2019 in the Nusa Dua area of Bali, Indonesia, after about five years of construction and a rumoured price tag of many, many zeroes, but then… a global bug in the air thwarted even the best-laid plans.
Incredibly, the resort remained open during the pandemic pause to life, and brought about a borne-of-necessity restructure in unprecedented times. All international tourism and flights were on hiatus, and the hotel encouraged native tourists (once a contradiction of terms) who were also bereft of travel to find the joy of within. Through staycations, world-class facilities, and dining options from around the globe with the finest motley crew of international chefs creating authentic meals, an esoteric oasis was carved out in the cliffside area.
Retaining staff and working with local communities and artisans, the polish and patina of the hotel—its name, Apurva, derived from sacred Sanskrit for “unique and magnificent”—is like no other, and that’s high praise, considering the innumerable properties studded around the archipelago and the neighbouring area. As the sleeping giant of global tourism was gently nudged awake, a steady trickle of international visitors came in, with the top five overseas markets stemming from China, Australia, South Korea, the US, and the Middle East.
And then came the stop-the-press media blitzkrieg: the G20. Last year, as the selected venue for G20, The Apurva Kempinski Bali was closed for all other guests again as stringent security measures were followed to meet international presidential protocols and regulations. The G20 summit went off without egregious incident, the hotel maintained its pristine authority, and word of the majestic property was spread to the world—well-deservedly. It’s just… divine.
The reception foyer and entrance hall is staggering in scale, and the roof looks like the edifice of an ancient temple, with a winged sculpture at the centre reaching for the sky. Depending on which scripture or text you subscribe to, it looks like the wings of Garuda unfurling to the heavens, or Icarus’s skeletal wingspan, grounded in purgatory. Large, mythic, and overwhelming, the sculpture is emblematic of the entire experience.
The best room?
Indubitably, the Nusantara Presidential Villa (about HK$78,280 per night). It offers an elevated beachfront experience with all the space to stretch out, and yet provides a generous quotient of privacy. A formidable-sized villa, it spans 1,379 square metres and features a spacious lounge area, not one but two private infinity pools with ocean view, and three separate bedrooms replete with art and sculptures, each containing king-size beds and ensuite bathrooms.
Villa guests have the privilege of accessing The Villa Lounge, and it is also near the Apurva Chapel, a large, modern, whale-like structure with ample space, making it the ideal location for hosting wedding receptions and private parties—or hosting a president or two with a heady arak (a distilled Balinese liquor made from fermented rice, sugarcane, and coconut).
Did they greet you by name at check-in?
Yes, and with Indus scripture and Hindu religion a constant reminder all around Bali, my name, with its familiar syllables not uncommon to the area, was easily remembered. Upon arrival, I was whisked directly to my room where a private check-in took place, far from the other guests busy taking selfies by the lobby fountain.
Welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice.
Yes, and, with frequent trips in and out of the Cliff Lounge, we quickly warmed up to the cool concoction made of herbs, honey, and spices. It had the kick of a shot, but with none of the alcohol or the cursed hangover.
Private butler for every room?
Not in all rooms. But personalised butler service is on call at any hour of the day should you have the good fortune to stay at the Nusantara Presidential Villa.
Is the sheet thread count higher than 300?
Made by King Koil, the 400 TC sheets come with a much higher Egyptian cotton thread count than expected, and serve as the main feature of the bedrooms. There’s a (pointless, really) flatscreen TV facing the bed that was royally ignored as the view—the magnificent, far-as-the-eye can see azure blue seas of the Indian Ocean—frames the entire suite. On the left of the TV stand, the sliding glass doors open out to the private plunge pool, dotted with fresh frangipani flowers. Swaying flames of designer candles were safely in the corners of the infinity pool.
Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?
Heated floors in sultry and sun-kissed Bali is not needed. The warmth of the people just warms the cockles of—just kidding. It’s 33 degrees Celsius on average; you don’t need heated floors. The wood-panelled floor by the pool was toasted by the sun and the warmth spills into the room.
Bidets? Yes, and not the basic European kind. It’s the Japanese smart toilet, which is next level. It cleans, dries, and could sing you a lullaby, if you found the right button. The bathrooms are all large with private suites for the shower and a separate space for the tub (which also faces the most glorious sea views). All rooms are equipped with upscale, state-of-the-art toilet and bidet amenities, such as integral washlet, automatic operation, and smart toilet technology.
Are the toiletries full-sized?
Yes, they are, and from Salvatore Ferragamo, no less. The luxury amenities are available throughout all the Prestige Suites, the Villas, and the Nusantara Presidential Villa. Although we didn’t bear witness, we were told that other room categories feature customised toiletries developed in Indonesia by the noted brand Botanical Essentials.
Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use?
Yes, it’s Bali. Water features are everywhere. Despite the large ocean and private beach a few steps away (with sand-stomping camel rides available), the suites all have private pools, and the Nusantara Presidential Villa features an 18-metre-long infinity pool on the first floor and an eight-metre-long infinity pool on the upper level, both offering sun, sand, and sea views.
From a bird’s-eye perspective, the entire property looks like a modern-day Asian Atlantis, with multiple pools segregated by suites and villas. There are pools set up with child-friendly amenities, toys, inflatable animals, and a professional sitter that are all blissfully away from larger pools for holidaying singletons and couples who just want peace of mind.
Is the restaurant worth its salt?
Sure, but which of the six are we talking about here? I cannot stress this enough; Balinese cuisine, a hybrid of the best of Asia, is a unique entity of its own, and you’ll be slightly befuddled at the number of options available as the culinary experiences are so diverse, so colourful, and so celebratory of Indonesian and wider Asian options.
Walk down two flights of stairs at the centre of the resort to find the first aquarium restaurant in Bali, Koral, which provides coastal delicacies and a constant live show of breathtaking marine life who encircle the entire venue in a mostly non-threatening way (there’s a stingray floating by I’d keep an eye on). Intermittently, a professional diver harpoons through to the bottom to feed the fish. As gloriously distracting as the oversized aquarium is, the tantalising meals of the finest delicacies from the region will have you equally mesmerised.
After the explosion of spices, if you have a palette cleansing yen for fine Japanese, there’s Izakaya by Oku (an outpost of the award-winning Oku restaurant at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta) that provides a refined experience in a minimalist, elegant locale.
There’s also Selasar Deli in the lobby, which serves a constant tray of refreshments, like the local speciality luwak coffee. Live cooking stations with local and international flavours at All Day Dining Pala Restaurant & Rooftop Bar is a constant distraction. For a meal with a view, oceanfront sunset dining at Reef Beach Club is not to be missed. Kubu Pool Bar was also a popular spot if the need to mix and mingle with other guests ever hits.
Is there caviar on the room service menu? If so, what kind?
No, unfortunately, the resort does not have a thimble of Ossetra or Beluga on speed dial when you ring Room Service. However, a special caviar menu is available at the signature Koral restaurant. Plus, that 24-hour butler service under the aegis of the Nusantara Presidential Villa? Simply let them know and they’ll hop on a golf cart and bring you options on a silver platter with a mother-of-pearl spoon.
In-room dining does include a carefully curated selection of golden bubbles such as Cristal champagne alongside a variety of other exquisite wines and an assortment of premium whiskies. Food is generally pan-Asian comfort food (I was a glutton for the nasi goreng).
Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar?
Well, it’s not as much in the lobby as it is between the room and heaven. The layout of the resort is such that you have to walk to the centre to reach the Reef Beach Club, where you’ll find 30 selections of rosé, elevated cocktails fine-tuned by the mixologists, and a knowledgeable sommelier who’ll encourage you to try something new.
Would you buy the hotel if you could?
If I had a billion and some chump change to spare, sure. And I would also retain every single member of staff that worked so diligently, above and beyond the call of duty.
In the summer of 1987, Belinda Carlyle sang Heaven is a Place on Earth; she probably meant a sliver of Bali. Literally carved out of a cliffside between the sky and the seas, The Apurva Kempinski Bali is a slice of paradise found.
What Our Score Means:
1–3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4–6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7–8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9–10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?
All images courtesy of The Apurva Kempinski Bali.