When you visit Jakarta, Cafe Batavia at Fatahillah Square in Kota Tua (old city) is a must go.
The food is good, like this Nasi Goreng or traditional fried rice. It's just like what we will get at an Indonesia home or village. Flavoursome fried rice with chicken satay (grilled chicken on bamboo skewers) and fried chicken wings but more elegantly plated.
Or, a club sandwich at this gentlemen and ladies' club.
Aromatic Arabica coffee hot or cold are good too.
Prices are upmarket.
But, the strongest draw for me to Cafe Batavia is simply the place. The place was pretty quiet when we were there to get a brief respite from the scorching mid morning Jakarta sun.
The huge building completed in 1837 was once the Dutch Governor's opulent official home. The era is past but the former residents still hung around here silently.
In the silence, I could feel the presence of the illustrious figures who once climbed these same carpet lined 200 year old stairs to the bar.
I recognised some of them from the pictures. In the centre, at eye level is Bung Karno, the Father of Indonesia in his black songkok and General's olive uniform.
Plenty of spirits here at the popular Churchill Bar at the top of the stairs. (Churchill Bar was ranked among the world's best bars in 1996 by Newsweek magazine.)
We took our seats at the bright Grand Salon next to tall Javanese teak wood windows overlooking the sprawling Fatahillah Square.
Colonial buildings typically have high ceilings, whirling hanging fans and large windows to make life in the humid tropics bearable for Europeans during the colonial days.
The Dutch ruled the archipelago from the administrative hub at Fatahillah Square during the colonial era, till the Japanese invaded in 1942. In 1949, Indonesia rid itself of all foreign rulers. (By the way, Batavia was the colonial name for Jakarta.)
Today, street food vendors, wedding couples, school children on excursions and tourists occupy the huge Square.
A mobile stall serving mee soto, the iconic Indonesian street dish at Fatahillah Square.
For the (slightly elevated) price of a sandwich or fried rice or coffee or cold beer or a Perrier, we get to feel the aura of Jakarta's second oldest building - indulge in the high life of old Batavia, if only for an hour or two.
->> Don't leave Jakarta without experiencing Cafe Batavia.
Restaurant name: Cafe Batavia
Address: Jalan Pintu Besar Utara No.14, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 11230, Indonesia
GPS: -6.134496, 106.812728 / 6°08'04.2"S 106°48'45.8"E
Tel: +62 21 6915531
Hours: 8:00am to 12:00 midnight
Date visited: 6 Nov 2013
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