I had the privilege of spending 3 weeks in Lembongan – a small island just off the main island of Bali – as part of my yoga teacher training (YTT) course with All Yoga in November 2017. Widely known as the ‘old’ Bali – what Bali was like before it became a tourist trap! – Lembongan offers a fairly authentic Asian experience whilst still catering well for Westerners – especially vegans and the health-conscious – with smoothie and juice bars, and trendy health cafes. There’s not a lot to do in Lembongan besides yoga and diving – the beaches aren’t great (sadly, covered in plastic that washes ashore from abroad) although apparently much better than the main island (which isn’t saying much!) – but I’d say it’s still worth a (short) visit, maybe just 2 or 3 days, as part of an island hopping tour. Although I stuck only to the West side of the island, I got to know my strip of beach and restaurants very well in the 3 weeks I was there (although even then I still hadn’t exhausted all the vegan options!). Safe to say you won’t starve as a vegan on Lembongan, though do be prepared for an upset stomach from time to time (it is Asia, after all!).
A note on water: Green Garden, Ginger & Jamu, and Eco Deli all allow you to refill your own water bottle; it’s free at Green Garden if you eat there (so make the most of it!), but at the other two you still have to pay. It’s good to know in advance though, so keep your bottle handy!
Ginger & Jamu is a health café, yoga space (as well as yoga classes and teacher trainings they also do SUP classes) and guest house (only a few rooms though I think), situated right on the beach, in one of the best settings of all Lembongan’s cafes. While some of the food is a bit disappointing, the dishes that they do well they do very well, and it’s a lovely place to sit, with beanbags and sun loungers on the beach, and tea lights and the sound of the ocean by night. While they definitely have vegan options, they’re not always clearly marked – it’s best if the Finnish waitress is working, she can explain what the vegan options are, otherwise I got conflicting reports from other staff members about certain dishes!
Breakfast-wise the Willy Wonka smoothie bowl (with raw cacao) was very rich but delicious; likewise the pancakes were a little sickly but tasty (though more like crepes than American style pancakes). Second best smoothie bowl was the Dragonfruit, closely followed by the Mango Tango, which was super filling but could have done with more granola and less smoothie. The only breakfasts I probably wouldn’t recommend would be the healthy bread with avo and greens (the greens were way too bitter, so it’s really expensive for what you’re left with), or the granola bowl (which was more like muesli than granola, and the vegan sub is not coconut yoghurt but just coconut milk; the portion is also really small for the price) – neither were as amazing as they sounded on the menu! If you’re after cold-pressed juice, the Alkaliser was amazing, slightly sweet, unlike the Healthy A F which was way too savoury for me (as was the Aloe Skin juice – too green tasting!)! The Tantrick juice was my other favourite – very strong ginger taste but somehow not too overpowering. Yum. Best smoothie was the Moca Loca – so yummy – followed by the Island Garden (which would have been top if the spinach had been blended a little more), the Surf Replenish (which was yummy, but expensive for essentially just banana and peanut butter!), and the Island Blues (nice but not thick enough for me – I like my smoothies so thick you could stand a spoon up in them. Almost.). Unfortunately Ginger & Jamu’s coffee is another of their let downs – the mocha with coconut milk was just too bitter for me, not sweet at all, and I couldn’t really taste any coffee. In any case, they don’t have many vegan desserts or cakes – only the brownie, which again was not quite sweet enough, very rich and a little too dry. They do, however, have the most amazing vegan chocolate ever – Chok Chok Chocolate – it’s ridiculously expensive but sooooo worth it. They had at least three different flavours, but the best was the coconut vanilla almond butter. Mmmm.
Dinner-wise the falafel wrap (with guacamole instead of yoghurt) was delicious, though maybe a little too much cabbage! Likewise, the hummus bowl (tempeh instead of feta) had a little too much cabbage, but otherwise was super yummy and healthy (although I was a bit annoyed at having to pay extra for the tempeh since it was a sub – is that just me?!). Another good choice is the pumpkin bowl, though again way too much cabbage (I’m detecting a theme here…?!). The ones I wouldn’t recommend are the Vietnameasy, which was quite plain and bland, the tempeh was a little dry and there wasn’t enough sauce, and the sweet potato fries (with guacamole and no sour cream), which were super dry and not enough dips for the amount of fries!
Confusingly, Green Garden is not entirely vegan, as their advertisements on the street suggest; they actually serve meat and fish, but they do have a separate – and extensive – vegan menu, so it was still one of my favourite cafes in Lembongan (it literally took me the entire 3 weeks to try all the vegan options… but I did it!). Located a little bit off the main road (about a 5-10 minute walk once you leave the main road, taking a right then left), the setting is nice and tranquil (but mozzie heaven as there are lots of trees around, so be well prepared!), though nowhere near as beautiful as Ginger & Jamu or even Eco Deli. Like Ginger & Jamu, they also do yoga there (out the back) and you can also stay there as they have rooms open to guests. In general, the quality of the food was probably consistently better than anywhere else, however… one caveat: while I never got sick there once (and I ate there almost every day at some point), a couple of my friends did get sick right after eating food from there (not just from meat, either – also from a vegan option!). I think this is inevitable in Bali, and happened in a lot of the more ‘traditional’ style warungs (the exceptions – where no one got sick – were the more Westernised cafes like Ginger & Jamu and Pisang Pisang). I must admit though that after that I did start to notice that several times the smoothie bowls would come out with quite a lot of those tiny ants crawling over them (there are also looooads of ants on the tables in GG since it’s totally outdoors). So the kitchen hygiene is perhaps questionable. Which is really sad because if it weren’t for that it would probably have been my favourite place in Lembongan! Still, I’d go back anyway, especially for their smoothie bowls, which were so unbelievably yummy. The best were the Pitaya and the energy smoothie bowls, but the cacao treat and the avocado (with extra dates) smoothie bowls were also yummy. The mango joy bowl was also pretty good, as was the porridge. The rice pudding joy bowl was a bit of a let down (the rice wasn’t sticky or sweet as I expected), as was the fruit salad with dragonfruit juice (poured over the top) which was really bland and covered in ants! In fact all the other smoothies and juices from the menu (besides the ‘special’ smoothies on the board that can be topped with granola) were really disappointing – I’d stick with water for drinking!
For lunch/dinner the choice at GG really feels almost endless: the tempeh burger and fries was amazing, so was the gado gado (but it doesn’t come with rice, if you’re expecting rice, as I was!) and the tempeh curry. The cap cay tempeh was disappointing (it’s just like a broth, like chicken noodle soup – very bland), so was the mie goreng tempeh, the nasi campur tempeh (which weirdly came with vegan chorizo on swekers! Very bland though), and the tempeh satay (which I was really looking forward to, but there wasn’t nearly enough sauce). It’s still definitely worth a visit, in any case.
Eco Deli is a little veggie café right that was right around the corner from my YTT on the main street, so very conveniently located for us! While the setting is lovely and relaxing the food lets it down, plus there’s not a great choice for vegans. Some of the staff are super lovely and friendly and know what’s vegan and what’s not, but one or two of the staff (one in particular) were quite rude and unpleasant, so it kind of put me off going there more regularly. The best smoothie without doubt was the Morning smoothie, which had this beautiful chai flavour – it was amazing – followed by the muesli smoothie which was also yummy. Their coffee is a little bit hit or miss: the first soya cappuccino I had there was amazing – sooo good, just a little bit sweet and not too strong. But it was never like that when I ordered it again! On the other hand, it was one of the few places where I could get an iced caramel soya latte, which was a really nice treat on super hot days! For lunch/dinner they only actually have three hot dishes, none of which were very nice: the thai green curry didn’t have enough sauce and the veg rice was quite boring, when I ordered the fried rice with pineapple the tempeh was off (I told the waitress but they refused to believe me so I had to just leave it!), and the wild rice and veggie salad had a very strange spice in it – not very pleasant – and was super dry. It’s definitely more of a place for a quick smoothie, or to sit and work with a coffee (although none of their cakes are vegan, annoyingly), rather than to eat.
Unfortunately I only found out about this place towards the end of my time in Lembongan – I wish I had gone sooner as there were so many things I still wanted to try! Situated just off the beach (a bit of a walk from the main road) further up from Ginger & Jamu, Pisang Pisang also serves fusion type dishes, with a bit of a healthy twist, and caters really well for vegans. It’s a bit of a mission when it’s been raining as the lane leading to the restaurant floods quite badly, but it’s worth the trek, because the food is amazing, and the owner is super lovely if you get a chance to chat with her or her family.
For breakfast I had the tofu scramble which was really tasty and a huge portion, though some toast or something with it would have been perfect, and the mocha shake which was unreal – one of the best smoothies I had! Of the lunch/dinner options the best by far were the power tacos – so amazing but I could have had double the portion! The vegan masala dip was also yummy though a little spicy. I also tried the potato tofu curry and the summer salad – both were nice but not as good as the other two. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is the vegan shake, ironically (made with silken tofu) – the tofu taste was just way too overpowering.
Tigerlilys is an oasis of calm off the main road; it’s also a guesthouse with a pool, which is right next to the restaurant so the setting is amazing, but you pay for it – it’s crazy expensive, and actually the food is not worth the price. And the options for vegans are quite limited. I only tried the acai bowl which was really disappointing – way too much papaya and coconut, not enough granola, and super expensive for such a small bowl – and the green machine smoothie which was tasty but not very sweet or thick.
Pondok Baruna (the one on the main street, not on the beach! Almost opposite Eco Deli)
Pondok Baruna is one of the more traditional warungs on the main street in Lembongan – it was therefore also one of the places were people got sick most often! For this reason I wasn’t too keen on going back, but also because the food, to me, wasn’t amazing, and the choice for vegans is not as good as at other places. The gado gado (without egg, although they still bring prawn crackers!) was nice but the portion was quite small, it could have had more veggies, and it doesn’t come with rice, and the mie goreng (again without egg) was really tasty, although it would have been nicer with tofu… But apart from that, the veg curry was too spicy and too runny (not enough veggies or rice), and, likewise, the pepes tofu was way too spicy and very plain (no veggies, just tofu). I think there are enough other options if you’re only in Lembongan for a few days that you could give this place a miss.
Maria’s (opposite Hotel Locomotive)
Maria’s is a pretty rustic, authentic Balinese warung – as such, you probably don’t want to think about the hygiene too much (you can see into the kitchen from the seating area and it’s very basic), but, if you’re willing to risk a little ‘Bali belly’, then they actually have a few vegan options on the menu, such as pumpkin curry or tempeh curry. The tempeh curry I had there was really tasty and (perhaps luckily?!) I didn’t get at all sick from eating it. I’d say it is definitely worth a visit for a more authentic Bali experience 😉
Warung Prancer (way at the end of the main street, a little past the turn off for Pisang Pisang)
One of the last restaurants on the main street before you arrive at the beach, Warung Prancer is a traditional Balinese warung with a BBQ out front. Their menu is extremely limited (in general, not just for veggies/vegans) so pretty much the only option was the veggie nasi goreng (with no egg), which was super disappointing – essentially just a small portion of veg fried rice. Definitely give this place a miss!