Fri, 18 May 2001

Feeding a need for nightlife at Manna

JAKARTA (JP): A new bar has opened in Jakarta and is gaining a reputation as the hottest place in town, the place to be. Manna by Dionysus is along the same lines as Cinna Bar and upstairs at Paprika, which is good and bad.

Like these other bars, Manna is a classy little spot that is a welcome change from the typical four-star hotel bar/club that seems to dominate the Jakarta nightlife. It is bad in that there is little to distinguish Manna from these other bars and make it a unique experience for those seeking an escape from the rut of the Jakarta nightlife.

This is not to imply that Manna is a bar to be missed. On the contrary, it is a fashionable establishment that does a lot of things right and deserves its burgeoning reputation. And while Manna may not be exactly heaven sent, it should satisfy the appetites of those lost in the desert of the Jakarta's bar and club scene.

Location: Manna by Dionysus is located in the Taman Ria Senayan complex on Jl. Gatot Subroto, situated under Love's restaurant. I could not find any signs announcing the presence of Manna, maybe that's part of its mystique, so you may have to poke around a little to find the place. You can phone them at 574- 5494.

Hours: Manna is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., seven days a week.

What's it got: There is a very large selection of wine at Manna, in keeping with the new trend in bars. There is also, of course, the usual selection of beer and liquor common to all bars.

Bill, please: Standard pricing for your upper-class establishments. The prices are higher than what you will find down on Jl. Jaksa, but no more so than other bars in the same class as Manna.

Here's looking at you: You enter Manna through a small hallway lit by candles spaced along the floor near the walls. Inside is a long bar and a number of couches and chairs arranged around low tables. These couches are on the far side of the room, next to the large window overlooking the Taman Ria lagoon.

Apparently, it is possible to call ahead and reserve a couch, which may be a good idea. If you don't have a couch and the bar is full, as it was on Saturday night, you will find yourself just floating out in space, wondering where to put your drink and your cigarette ash.

The room is low-lit, intimate but not so dark you can't see the people around you. The design is classy, clean and spare, giving the room a sense of openness so you don't get the feeling of being hemmed in.

Oddly, to my mind, the room is carpeted. It seems an odd choice of floor covering for a bar and there are the inevitable cigarette burns forming their own little design on the carpet.

Odds and ends: The music at Manna is pleasingly hip, an eclectic collection you are not likely to recognize but adds to the overall classiness of the bar. The music is not intrusive, but rather adds to the atmosphere.

The crowd at Manna is generally well dressed. If you show up in scruffy jeans and a T-shirt they won't kick you out, but, if you are the kind to feel self-conscious, you may feel like you've crashed the wrong party.

This is also a bar that is best to go to in groups. It is not filled with floating singles looking to be picked up, but rather one gets the impression that everybody knows everybody else there. An exaggeration, true, but still it will probably make for a more enjoyable night if you come as more than a party of one or two.

Last call: Manna by Dionysus is the latest entry in that new trend of classy bars catering to a well-heeled, distinguished crowd. And it succeeds in providing an atmosphere of elegant ease and sophisticated frivolity. While it does not stand apart from other bars of this type, Manna is a welcome addition. (Penn Dawson)