His upbringing as a third culture kid may have been the first indication that Thomas Mack as an adult would continue to enjoy exploring the unknown and revel in getting to know new countries and its different cultures. The son of a German father and a Chinese mother, the 31-year-old grew up in some of the biggest cities of the world — San Francisco, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and Hamburg.
His path then led him to Indonesia, where he first worked in Jakarta for five years. City life, however, took its toll on Thomas, and he soon decided that it was time to realize that one dream that had been in his mind for quite some time: to open his own restaurant.
Having visited Bali often during his time in Jakarta, Thomas quickly grew fond of the island and settled down there to get things started on his new venture.
“Growing up, I spent most of my summers in Ibiza with my aunt,” he said. “Ibiza is mostly known as a party island, but it also has a rich culinary scene. I wanted to bring this rustic, authentic food to Bali.”
In June last year, he finally opened La Finca. Of course, opening a restaurant in Bali does come with risks — with new places opening up across the island all the time, Thomas knew that he had to have a detailed business plan in order to be more than just a fleeting star in Bali’s culinary scene. The first thing he needed to do was to search for the right location.
“I spent over six months actively searching for a location,” he recalled. “In Bali, lots of things don’t work as efficiently or formally as in big cities. Options provided by agents were limited so seeking out potential locations involved me riding around Bali on a scooter with open, wandering eyes.”
He then came across Embun Organic Cafe, closely located to the new hotspots of Seminyak and Canggu.
“It was located on a bend where no other businesses exist so you really feel like you are situated in the middle of nowhere surround by nature,” he said. “At night time, it is pitch black when you look out from La Finca. Sitting inside, you feel like you are really escaping the world and being inside a haven.”
He added that there was already a beautiful bamboo building and spacious garden on site.
“I felt that it was perfect to emulate the outdoor, courtyard dining style prevalent in Ibiza,” Thomas explained. “The bamboo tied in a crucial Bali touch while the natural scenery and surroundings created the type of Ibiza-inspired haven and style I was trying to go for.”
Thomas then approached Ichi Yamada of Embun Organic Cafe to sub-lease the property.
“But after learning more about his background, passion, and his original goals with the Embun concept — ultimately it failed and he didn’t really get to do what he envisioned — I felt that he would make a great partner,” Thomas said, adding that they got along very well and decided to go into business together.
La Finca — fincas in Spain are refurbished traditional farmhouses — successfully follows the formula of being a home away from home; patrons come to the restaurant for the cozy and intimate atmosphere. Most of all, however, they visit to enjoy the excellent service and the Ibizan and Spanish Mediterranean cuisine courtesy of executive chef Asier Arroyo, who originally comes from Bilbao, Spain.
“Before moving to Bali, he worked in award-winning and well known restaurants in London, Melbourne, and Barcelona,” Thomas said. “He has lived in Bali for several years providing chef consulting services for many restaurants in the region. Him being locally based is not only an operational advantage but also ensures that he understands local ingredients, local cooking conditions, as well as local culture and language. He is very talented and La Finca’s culinary concept is one that he is personally very passionate about.”
The menu features a wide range of tapas, including classics such as Gambas Islas Baleares (truffle garlic prawns), Croquetas de Chorizo y Canela (chorizo and cinnamon croquettes), Albondigas con Salsa de Tomate y Queso Feta (beef meatballs with fresh tomato sauce and feta cheese) and Jamon Iberico de Bellota (Iberico ham from acorn-fed Iberian black pig).
While it is easy to feast on tapas alone, it would be a shame to miss out on the delicious, hearty main courses. One of the highlights at La Finca is Carne a la Piedra, which literally means “meat to the stone.” The steak is served next to a hot lava stone, where diners can grill their meat to their own preferences — rare, medium or well done — and then spice it up with different herbs and seasonings or home-made dipping sauces.
Vegetarians will also have no trouble finding a dish to their liking, as the restaurant has included various organic salads, seafood and vegetable dishes in its menu. In addition, La Finca also offers weekly and daily specials. “The specials depend on what is available at the time, since we only use locally produced and fresh ingredients,” Thomas said.
No Spanish meal would be complete, however, without a glass of Sangria.
“Our house Sangrias follow authentic recipes and not the sugary varieties that unfortunately are very prevalent nowadays,” Thomas said. “We have a wide range of Sangria recipes and offer red, white, rose, and sparkling wine varieties. But the bestsellers are the classic red and white Sangrias.”
Thomas said he hired a Bali-based bar consultant and mixologist who used to live in Ibiza to create La Finca’s signature cocktails.
“His mixology skills are superb and he loves to work with fresh ingredients, which fits perfectly with our whole philosophy and concept because everything at La Finca is very artisan in style and prepared freshly entirely from scratch,” Thomas said. “We don’t use any bottled juices, canned fruits or anything pre-prepared of the sort. We pound, muddle, squeeze, juice, and shake fresh ingredients into rustic cocktail concoctions.”
The winning combination of Ibizan flair and traditional Bali charm has quickly turned La Finca from new kid on the block to firm favorite among locals and tourists.
“There are a lot of European restaurants across Asia, but many of them are rather sophisticated,” Thomas said. “We wanted to take a different approach. We wanted to create a place where we also feed people’s souls.”
While opening and managing his own restaurant is everything Thomas hoped it would be, it obviously also means a lot of work.
“We are still new, so we have to be on our toes,” he said.
This also includes taking enough time to talk to the guests. Not all of those conversations are pleasant, Thomas said with a laugh, as there will always be diners who have a lot of complaints or seem impossible to please.
“If I make a mistake, I have to learn from it, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “It’s often a lot of stress, being here every day, but I am loving it.”La FincaJl. Subak Sari No. 77Banjar Tegal Gundul, Batu Belig, BaliTel. 0361 274 0088