Sun, 07 Sep 2003

A luxurious tipplein a wooden atmosphere at the Oak Room

Bill Blade, Contributor, Jakarta

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this week's bacchanalian dissection -- the first for quite some time -- I'd first like to offer my sincere condolences to the relatives of all those who perished in the heinous Marriott bombing, and wish all the injured a speedy recovery.

No doubt, not a few of you out there have had doubts about going out on the town since the event. But, that's just what the bombers want -- to bring the economy and the state to their knees.

But perhaps the next time the bombers see pictures of the victims whose lives they snatched away or whom they left so horribly maimed, they should reflect that terrorism has never brought any state to its knees -- not in the way they want, at any rate.

And that's why people like you and me are important. We mustn't allow the terrorists to win. Don't lock yourself up at home like a turtle in his shell, but get out there and enjoy yourself. After all, and on a lighter note, the odd booze-up does tend to put a brighter complexion on things in times of turbulence and strife.

Especially in my case after a months-long enforced absence from the taproom brought on by credit card bills of horrendous proportions incurred during a recent trip back to Ireland (the euro has a heck of a lot to answer for!).

Anyway, cut to the chase, with all the bills settle, freedom was mine once again and the drought of Javanese proportions that had been afflicting my neck of the Tanah Abang woods came quickly to an end.

With my old mate, the Glug, thirstily in tow, we headed off a singin' and a chompin' at the bit to the Oak Room in the newly refurbished Hotel Nikko (President) on Jl. Thamrin.

Advertised as the next best thing to a British planters' or officers' club for those jaded out by hacking their way through Jakarta's concrete jungle, the Oak Room stands in stark contrast to the rest of the Nikko Hotel.

While the lobby and reception area of this particular hostelry are notable for their stark minimalism, the Oak Room by contrast is a clutter of luxurious sofas and easy chairs, book shelves and French impressionist paintings, with a lovely parquet floor and the sort of carpets that you sink up to your ears in.

However, a planters' or officers' club it certainly isn't. It's way too bright for one thing, not to mention the sad fact that on the evening of our visit (10 p.m. on a Sunday) it was completely devoid of life, apart from a rather overbearing waiter who persisted in hovering around our table rather in the manner of a shark circling around for the kill.

Now, if you want a planters' club, take a trip over to the Long Bar in Raffles over in Singapore. That's what the colonial atmosphere is all about -- time-worn yet elegant, rather than all bright lights and glitz.

As for prices, not as bad as one would expect walking through the Oak Room door. Small bottles of local beer (Bintang and Bali Hai) are going for Rp 30,000, while a bottle of Foster's is to be had for Rp 40,000 and Corona for Rp for 45,000.

As for the hard stuff, shots of Red Label, Bushmills or Jim Beam are all going for Rp 45,000, while premium liquors, such as Black Label, Chivas Regal or Jack Daniels, are all priced at Rp 60,000.

In the line of fodder, they've got all sorts of tasty treats on offer, which myself and the Glug found to be just what the doctor ordered as it meant that the waiter had to clear off to the kitchen for a while.

I found the Duck Liver Parfait with Fig Jam (Rp 32,000) to be particularly tasty, with the tartness of the liver set off wonderfully by the sweet fig jam. As for my mate, he reckoned the Lamb Chops with Tomato Bernaise (Rp 34,500), were well worth stopping drinking for -- a rare occurrence in his case.

So, there you have it. Not much really to add about this place. Nothing in the way of entertainment, not much in the way of a clientele either, and not much to do other than peruse the bookshelves and stare into your glass. But excellent food and the sort of atmosphere I dare say would appeal to those who are avid devotees of luxury and opulence.

But, as for myself and the Glug, give us Blok M any day!

The Oak Room, Hotel Nikko Jakarta, Jl. Thamrin 59, Jakarta 10350. Tel: (021) 2301122. Opening hours: 5 p.m. to 12 midnight seven days per week. All prices quoted above exclusive of 21 percent government tax and service charge.