One of the great things about being in the media business is the fact that it brings me into contact with professionals in so many fields: airlines, taxis, hotels, retail, schools, apartments, art and culture, and of course restaurants!

Food is such a pervasive element in our lives (being rather essential to our health and wellbeing!) and in fact is prepared and served in almost all the businesses noted above (except taxis and artistic centres as far as I know). Food is subject to intense scrutiny and criticism at many levels, from the usual grumblings about airline meals to the learned debates about the fine dining experience. Like it or not, everyone has an opinion on food!

When we started the Best Restaurant, Bar and Café Awards many years ago the idea was pretty simple: come up with a formula that everyone would agree is the best way to find out who is really doing a good job, and award them with suitable recognition. Well that of course is not as easy as it sounds! Filling in paper forms was difficult to control as some people filled in many with different names (!) and going online is even harder. The vote creation schemes were rampant! But I think we have nearly solved these technical glitches, and this year’s Bali awards produced a pretty good bunch of candidates and an amazing number of people (over 750,000) who viewed our dedicated website and a huge 75,000 who actually voted. That’s a lot of people who think they know about food!

The results of the Bali voting are in this issue and online at and the winners seem to be a pretty fair reflection of the very good standards in the industry. Well done to all, and many thanks to everyone who voted. Last month’s winners in the Jakarta Best Restaurant Café and Bar Awards are also online at Take a look before your next dinner!

But the industry does face some quite serious challenges: one, traffic! Even if you want to go to a fantastic seafood restaurant in Ancol you will be lucky to manage to get there by dinner time if you live in the south. Jakarta has become compartmentalised by traffic, and Bali is increasingly the same, where diners staying in Nusa Dua are loathe to hit the Seminyak traffic.

Two, ingredients. It seems that Jakarta is not quite as fortunate as Bali in developing home-grown supplies of the highest quality, and imports are simply a major headache with some items banned from import or severely restricted often with no logical reason from the authorities. Not good for creating the best possible menu. Bali’s organic farms are doing much better.

Three, alcohol. It’s banned, it’s restricted, it’s taxed, it’s all over the place! Every day there is a new story in the news, with law makers trying to gain popularity by being tough. But sorry, alcohol is absolutely essential for a hospitality industry that needs an international market and reputation. Banning it would be the kiss of death to the tourism industry – and to some extent international investment.

So far Jakarta is doing all right as a dining city and Bali is booming and expanding but our neighbours (according to some experts) Singapore, KL and Bangkok are doing even better. We cannot rest on our laurels. Let’s take it to the next level, with wine included!

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.