Fri, 18 May 2001

BANDUNG, West Java (JP): On a recent weekend escape to Bandung, it seemed like half of Jakarta had the same idea, with most hotels booked up and "B" vehicle registration plates seemingly everywhere on the streets.

I decided to head up to the cool climes of Dago, one of the main attractions for visitors to the city. The minivan went beyond the Dago terminal and continued heading northward, when, lo and behold, just where the view southwards across the whole city was at its most spectacular, I came upon a new concrete building, very simple in design but accommodating one of the latest attractions for foodies in Bandung.

I made a booking straight away for a table with a view for that evening. It turned out to be the right choice.

Location: Jl. Bukit Pakar Timur No.73, Bandung 40198. Tel/fax (022) 2531030. It is open at lunchtimes and evenings and major credit cards are accepted.

Looks: As mentioned above, the restaurant is located on a hillside overlooking Bandung, giving the restaurant a sweeping panorama, which at night offers a dramatic view of the twinkling lights of the city below. This view is marred only by a half- finished building just below that obstructs part of the foreground. (I was told by one of the waiters that it was planned to be a hospital, but when it will be finished is anyone's guess).

The restaurant building is an L-shaped barn-like concrete construction that runs down the slope of the hill, thereby offering a number of different levels all under one roof. The ambience is trendy, postmodern minimalist, and two entire sides of the building have windows, to take maximum possible advantage of those views. The floor is bare wooden boarding and stone, and the two solid walls are mainly bare brickwork, with some arty motifs attached.

The lighting, very effective at night, consists mainly of shaded halogen bulbs suspended on long cables directly from the live electrical cables slung between the roof beams. This means that although the tables are well lit, the people sitting at them are in half-light, creating quite a romantic atmosphere. At this elevation there is no need for air-conditioning, or even fans!

McNzie has already been open for about eight months, so a lot of people have already got to know about it. On the evening I was there the place was packed to the gunnels, mainly with Jakarta sophisticates who had come mostly in groups of at least four people.

My companion and I ended up at a table next to some Harley Davidson enthusiasts, dressed in full regalia. The restaurant must have dealt with about two to three full sittings that evening, and as the place can accommodate around 150 covers, that was an awful lot of diners!

The waiting staff, very much to their credit, were the epitome of courtesy, politeness and calm, despite being rushed completely off their feet. Their all-black uniforms complemented well the restaurant's suave and urbane ambience.

What's it got? The menu is dominated by beef or steak dishes, with a smattering of fish, pasta and chicken. Although there were some Asian dishes available, the cuisine is primarily western and presented in the nouvelle style. The fact that almost all the diners on that busy night were Indonesians is a tribute to its popularity. There is also a range of light meals (such as tuna melt or steak 'n' cheese sandwiches), plus desserts. The usual range of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, plus wines, are available.

Taste factor: I opted for one of the "specials" for that day -- spicy steak. It was served almost like a stew, as the beef was cut up, cooked in a rich red wine sauce and served on a bed of seasonal vegetables. It was accompanied by rosemary potatoes. My companion had chicken masala, which was creamy and spicy without being too hot. It was served with vegetables and croquet-like potatoes with a cheese coating.

Both helpings were reasonably sized and the food was tasty. Unfortunately the dessert I'd ordered (mocha tartlet with custard) was not available, and as I'd already waited quite a while before they informed me about this, I didn't bother with anything else. My companion had chocolate and mocha ice cream, which was fine. Two cappuccinos rounded off the meal.

Price points: The meal above, including a Miller bottled beer and a mixed fruit juice came to Rp 162,000, including tax and service. Main courses were about Rp 20,000 to Rp 100,000 and desserts Rp 15,000 to Rp 30,000. Drinks were around Rp 12,000 to Rp 30,000 and a bottle of wine around Rp 200,000 to Rp 250,000. (All the above prices exclude tax and service charges).

Minus points: Although the staff were very good, it was obvious they were stretched to the limit, because the food arrived before the drinks, the beer came without a glass, and it took ages for the dessert to arrive. Bearing in mind the circumstances though, this was a relatively small gripe.

The main problem with Mc Nzie is that unless you have your own transportation, it can be difficult to leave after the meal is over. My companion and I had traveled up as ojek (motorcycle taxi) passengers from the Dago minivan terminal, but when it came to leaving, the ojek were nowhere to be seen. The restaurant said it was pointless to phone for a taxi, as no driver would come out this far so late at night.

There was no alternative but to opt for shanks' pony, and fortunately the last minivan going back down to the city picked us up as we walked. Surely, there must be other diners who might find themselves in a similar predicament, so couldn't the restaurant at least make some transportation arrangement to run guests down to the Dago terminal on the weekend?

Verdict: Strongly recommended for its trendy ambience, the superb views (particularly at night), the romantic atmosphere and reasonable prices. Bring your own transportation though! (Les Coffier)