Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, now a fine dining establishment, is more than 100 years old. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Fine Dining at Jakarta's Historical Buildings


APRIL 04, 2018

Jakarta is one of those cities that have exceptionally rich colonial architecture. While hundreds of its historical buildings, especially in the Kota Tua complex, still require restoration, many have recently been turned into public spaces. The Jakarta Globe has visited four restaurants to experience fine dining at places that welcomed legendary guests, witnessed some of the most important events, and are themselves part of Indonesia's history.

1. Tugu Kuntskring Paleis

The facade of the Tugu Kunstkring Paleis restaurant in Central Jakarta. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Tugu Kunstkring Paleis was initially known as Bataviasche Kunstkring (Batavian Arts Circle). Opened on April 17, 1914, in the late 1930s it hosted art masterpieces, including paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. Reopened exactly 99 years later, the building still serves as an art gallery, although it is especially known as a fine-dining establishment. The gallery is located upstairs, while on the ground floor we will find a wine tasting room, a cafe and a gift shop.

Anhar Setjadibrata, who owns the place and Tugu Hotels & Restaurants Group, is also one of the biggest collectors of Indonesian art. He is known for his love of Indonesian antiques, which he willingly shows to the world, trying to continue the Kunstkring's artistic legacy. You will feel it from the moment you enter the building.

"The point is that we want our guests to come into the restaurant and feel very special, like they are transported to another era," said Aleksandar Grujic, public relations and marketing manager at Tugu Hotels.

The interior is luxuriously mysterious, each section of the restaurant has a different theme. The main hall, which can seat 75 people, is dedicated to Prince Diponegoro, one of the first nobles who opposed the Dutch colonial rule. A huge painting in the center of the room depicts Diponegoro's capture in 1830. The painting, "The Fall of Java," is a famous work by prominent 19th-century Indonesian painter Raden Saleh. Another room at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is dedicated specifically to Raden and displays a collection of his works.

Raden Saleh's 'The Fall of Java' at the main hall of Tugu Kuntskring Paleis. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Other notable sections at the restaurant are the Suzie Wong Lounge, the Soekarno 1950 room and the Colonial Rijsttafel room. Suzie Wong is a fictional character that appeared in a 1957 novel by Richard Mason and in a 1960 film titled "The World of Suzie Wong." The British-American romantic drama was a blockbuster in Indonesia in the 1960s. The room was designed to resemble the ambiance of post-war Hong Kong. The Soekarno 1950 room is dedicated to the first president of Indonesia. What makes it unique is that it contains Sukrano's personal belongings, which were presented to the restaurant's owner by Megawati Sukarnoputri — Sukarno's daughter and also a former president herself.

The Soekarno 1950 room at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

At the Colonial Rijsttafel room we can enjoy the restaurant's culinary highlight, "Rijsttafel Betawi" — a multicourse meal, which is served with an accompaniment of traditional music. Tugu Hotels & Restaurants Group was the first one to offer the rijsttafel menu at its Hotel des Indes Batavia, which was one of the oldest and most prestigious hotels in Asia. While the hotel no longer exists, the tradition has been revived at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis.

Address: Jalan Teuku Umar 1, Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Opening hours: 10 a.m. till 12 a.m. (Monday-Sunday)

Contact number: +62 21 390 0899

2. Cafe Batavia 

This legendary and well-preserved building was completed in the 1850s. It used to serve as a residence and office for high-ranking Dutch officials. After Indonesia's independence, for decades it stood empty. It once became an art gallery, and in 1992 was bought by James Graham, an Australian who later handed it over to a group of Indonesian businessmen.

The second floor of Cafe Batavia remains true to its old self. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

The wooden skeleton of the building has been left untouched, because its quality was so good. Only glass windows were added. The interior is designed in the building's original style. Its famous framed pictures and photographs, which cover the walls of restrooms and hang by the staircase, come from Graham's private collection. Fresh flower bouquets decorate the tables.

James Graham's private collection of photographs at Cafe Batavia in Jakarta. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

The second floor is bright, with big windows and a perfect view of the old town. You can see children playing, couples taking selfies, tourists cycling on vintage bikes and street artists performing. The cafe is open every day. It offers live music — jazz on Wednesdays and Fridays and top hits on all other days.

Cafe Batavia. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Parking may be a bit tricky as this part of the city is closed for cars. Billy Santosa, one of the cafe's managers, suggests parking either at Jalan Teh or at the BNI building, from where you will have to take a short walk. You may also find a parking spot at nearby Bank Mandiri Museum. As there are very few trees in the area, we suggest that you wear shades, take an umbrella to protect yourself from the burning sun, and have a bottle of water with you.

Address: Jalan Pintu Besar Utara 14, Kota, Jakarta

Opening hours: 8 a.m. till 12 a.m. (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 8 a.m. till 1 a.m. (Friday-Saturday)

Contact number: 021 691 5531

3. Bunga Rampai

Bunga Rampai. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Built in the early 1900s, the building had witnessed meetings of Indonesia's founding fathers. Its colonial interior was redesigned by Agam Riadi who kept the original atmosphere and made each floor have its own main theme: colonial elegance on the first, Chinese vintage style on the second and rustic-wooden finish on the third. Bunga Rampai's rooftop is covered by a glass ceiling.

(JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Bunga Rampai can mean two things — traditional flower arrangement or an anthology. For Pakis Culinary, which runs the place, it means fine dining brought to a higher level.

Address: Jalan Teuku Cik Ditiro 35, Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Opening hours: 11 a.m. till 11 p.m. (Monday-Sunday)

Contact number: 021 319 26224

4. Plataran Menteng

This building served many purposes before it was reopened by the Plataran Group as a restaurant on March 5, 2017. It was once a dormitory for students of the University of Indonesia. Then it was bought by renowned doctor, Lukito Husodo, who was one of former President Suharto's most trusted physicians and a family doctor of the building's current owner. The Plataran Group kept the 80-year-old mango tree in the courtyard and recreated the gardens that once decorated the first floor of late Dr. Husudo's estate.

Yozua Makes and his wife Dewi Makes, who now own the place, are especially fond of Indonesian architecture and decorative styles. Their first restaurant, Plataran Dharmawangsa, is also located in a historic building in Jalan Dharmawangsa.

The entrance to Plataran Menteng screams luxury. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

The restaurant's interior design remains faithful to its original colonial style, with vintage vases and plates, majestic chandeliers, wooden mirrors. The exterior screams luxury. Free valet service is available for the guests.

Plataran's interior is kept in the style of the building's period. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

What many do not know is that Plataran Menteng has a rooftop, Langit Menteng. It can host up to 20 people, which is perfect for more intimate gatherings.

Plataran's cozy rooftop is a perfect place for small cocktail parties. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Address: Jalan H.O.S. Cokroaminoto 42, Menteng, Jakarta Pusat, 10350

Opening hours: 11 a.m. till 10 p.m. (Monday-Sunday)

Contact number: +62 21 2962 7771 / +62 813 9890 8336