Tiny islands in the middle of nowhere are never an easy place to find raw food. This has always surprised me as they are often abundant in fruit and coconuts, yet they fail to see the concept of a standard fruit salad.
Life has once again brought me to the Gili islands in Indonesia, and I figured that after the 3rd time here, I should really go venturing for good places to eat raw food.
Breakfast at Gili Air
This meal of the day will probably depend on your hotel as breakfast is usually included. I’ve only stayed at Villa Karang and Sunrise hotel, and both of them had set menus.
Watch out for Sunrise, their normal restaurant’s fruit salad is decent, just a plate of cut fruit, but their breakfast fruit salad is a tiny portion of fruit cubes in a sugary liquid.
Villa Karang has an absolutely teeny portion too, so anywhere you stay you may need to tell them in advance that you want a good sized plate full of fruit. Villa Karang did a great job after we asked them for a BIG plate of fruit.
Fruit really is your best bet for breakfast, though you could ask for a salad too, just be specific with what you want in it.
Lunch and dinner at Gili Air
You should prepare yourself as you will only be eating fruit and very simple salads here, nothing dehydrated or in any way fancy.
Below is a list a few restaurants that have good choices for raw meals.
Scallywags (located near the harbour, to the East)
This is by far your best option for a good salad. There’s nothing actually in the menu but the tactic I used was: take their notepad and write “2 salads with lettuce, tomato, avocado…etc”. They actually do have nuts so you can ask for some raw cashews and walnuts too! The salad portion is actually good so you will feel satisfied.
In the evenings they do an all you can eat salad buffet but if you choose not to have the BBQ then you can only come to the salad bar once, which is still better than all other restaurants here.
Above you can see their evening salad bar that opens after 6pm. It has plain lettuce, multicoloured peppers with onions, a spicy tomato and chili thing, tomatoes with pesto and a bit of cheese, cabbage and carrot salad, quail eggs and plain spaghetti. It comes with a large variety of dressings, some of which are vegan.
If you’re flexible: they have a lovely pumpkin soup here that’s actually a decent size, and I recall seeing vegetarian fajitas, though I didn’t try them.
The downside: this is one of the most expensive restaurants on the island, for a custom salad they charge the same amount as for a one off salad bar – 45k. Most other restaurants do salads for 30k, but they only have about 3 ingredients and are super tiny. Also, the salad dressing is very unimaginative and tasteless during the day menu as they give you the balsamic vinegar dressing as a standard (which somehow doesn’t taste like balsamic vinegar) but if you remember the names of the dressings at the salad bar then you can ask for them instead.
Villa Karang hotel (located near the harbour to the West)
The restaurant isn’t too bad actually, they have recently updated their menu and now have a “giant” salad bowl. Well I wouldn’t call it giant, but it is the second biggest salad I’ve had on the island, besides Scallywags.
The downside: the dressing, it seems to be a recurring theme here. These guys use sunflower oil, so just ask for what you want instead.
Cirque restaurant at Sunrise hotel (located 10 mins East from the harbour)
The service may be incredibly slow, but they do have some options when it comes to salads. Bear in mind though that the portions are small and the prices aren’t the cheapest.
If you are flexible: they also do a really nice pumpkin soup (once again it will be small).
Sunrise also do really nice fresh fruit juices for 20k, I would recommend trying the plain banana one – yum!
Caballito de Mar (located 5 mins East from the Harbour, it’s the one with mermaids drawn on the walls)
This one opened just recently and I was surprised to see a very modern and clean restaurant / bar. The atmosphere there is great, very Mediterranean, and you can even see the sunset if you stand by the beach front. The main reason I’m even mentioning this place is because of the atmosphere inside.
There is one small vegetable salad there (though it comes with feta cheese), it only includes salad leaves, green peppers, cucumber and avocado, but they were happy to help when we asked for more vegetables.
The staff there is super lovely and willing to serve and the vegetables taste great (plus it’s one of the few places where they actually use avocados!).
The downside: the portion size is small, is it’s a little more expensive than most other places, to compare: a salad here costs 40k, whereas it’s 30k at Sunrise, also I was disappointed with the overly diluted mango juice that cost a whooping 25k!
Snacks at Gili Air
I was shocked at the fact that fresh young coconuts here as not as popular as in Bali, even though I saw plenty falling on the island. I was excited when I saw a smoothie with coconuts at Youpy cafe, only to find out that they use powdered coconut! You will have more luck inside the island (e.g. Tahuun warung just North from the harbour) or further up North along the beach if you go East from the harbour, there are coconuts in big hotels like Gili Air hotel (which is also where they do the best pizzas…not that we raw foodies talk about that shh), as well as some of the warungs (cafés) nearby.
Gili Air hotelIf you’re really craving something during the day, I would recommend a fruit juice or two – try just a plain banana juice, those are great! These you can find anywhere for about 10-25k and they will fill you up nicely.
You can find the cheapest fruit juices on the East side of Gili Air, places like the shisha bar, which I think is called Gita bar for 10k, most of the little local warungs inside the island will do fruit juices for 10k, some of the cheaper warungs along the East coast like Youpy, Star bar and Raja will do them for around 15-18k. Villa Karang does them for 16k but watch out as some of the girls don’t know what they’re doing and will put milk in there.
Markets at Gili Air
There is a small local market located just by the harbour (go left as you enter the harbour from the sea) under the big tree (you’ll see what I mean when you get there). I still don’t understand if it has specific times or if it’s just random as everyone told us different things, however you will probably have better luck catching it early morning.
The difference in price here is incredible, I bought a bunch of rambutan at the market for 15k, whereas in other places it was 40k.
There’s also a supermarket on the inside of the island (about 5-10 minute walk if you go North from the harbour) where you can buy fresh vegetables to prepare at home.
Vegetarian food at Gili Air
There are some good options for vegetarian food on the island, though I will be honest, I didn’t really compile a proper list for them. I do remember Raja restaurant on the East (about 15-10 walk from the harbour) had a lot of vegetarian options, such as burgers, pastas, fajitas and curries.
There was a Mexican place where I saw some veggie options about 20-25 walk East from the harbour, but I can’t remember the name of it and I didn’t go in there either…sorry that’s not very helpful, but if you’re really craving Mexican then you at least know there is one.
The best pizzas, as I’ve mentioned before at at Gili Air hotel in the North. I know it’s a bit of a walk, but it’s worth it. Be warned though, its incredibly filling!