Beautifully situated on a hillside next to a running stream, Murni's Warung is a great place to have a drink or two, especially if you venture down the many stairs to the lowest floor of this expansive and attractive restaurant. With its thatched roofs, traditional open wooden architecture, and a vast collection of stone carvings from all over the archipelago, Murni's resonates with all the charm and exoticism of the Far East – until you order food.
Prices are double what you'd expect to pay in a similar restaurant with a less attractive setting, and the food isn't nearly as good as it should be. The service is slow, even when there aren't many customers, orders are invariably botched and all blame placed on the customer. Ordering for coeliacs is a challenge, as checking and double-checking, even in Indonesian, does not guarantee that you will be presented with a gluten-free meal after your long wait.
The pedestrian bridge outside Murni's Warung. Photo by Paul Clarke
We had the nasi goreng, (Rp55,000, or $5.50 plus 10% government tax and 5% because-we-can tax) and the mixed satays (Rp49,000 or $4.90 ) – supposedly gluten-free but served with a peanut sauce that was not. The satays were dry and far less palatable than ones obtainable elsewhere – the marketplace, for example - at a third of the price. Our daughter had French fries (gluten-free, Rp25,000 or $2.50 plus taxes) and grilled fish steak (Rp70,000 or $7.00 ) Of the three meals this was probably the most satisfying and the least likely to contain traces of gluten.
A large variety of beverages, hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic are available, and also many Western-style cakes, all made with wheat. The black rice pudding, a kind of Balinese porridge made with sweet black rice and coconut milk and a personal favourite, is the gluten-free option (Rp27,000 or $2.70 plus taxes). Coeliac alert: apparently the sago pudding is not gluten-free.
The poor service and average food rather spoils the cool breeze and lovely scenery, but I'd recommend coming here at least once for a drink. Beers are Rp27,000 ($2.70 before taxes) for a large bottle of Bintang, or Rp35,000 ($3.50 before taxes) for a San Miguel or Heineken. A limited range of wines starts at Rp155,000 per bottle ($15.50 plus taxes) for a local white, or $35.50 for a bottle of Jacob's Creek, which is about how much it costs at your local liquor shop, but don't forget to add those taxes! Wine is also available by the glass, and there is a bar on the second floor down for those in search of stronger spirits. Banana juice – a kind of smoothie; cool, delicious and gluten-free – costs Rp27,000 , or $2.70, and is almost a meal in itself.
Next to Murni's Warung are two bridges, the old and the new, over a river set deep in a ravine. People walk blithely across the old bridge, built early last century and becoming more decrepit with each wet season, and it's certainly a beautiful place to take the odd picture. Like many things in Indonesia, it's not exactly safe, but you will probably survive.