Being away from your family at Christmas time can be challenging. The further apart from your loved ones you are, the more you realise that the Festive season isn’t really about the tree, presents or traditions, but about spending the holidays with people who are important to you. It’s lucky, then, that although Andrew and I decided to spend Christmas in Jakarta this year, we were going to be doing it together.
Despite being a predominantly Islamic nation, there are plenty of options for celebrating Christmas in Indonesia’s capital city. Most if not all of Jakarta’s upper class hotels and restaurants offer special wine and dine packages, which can make choosing exceedingly difficult. In the spirit of trying something new, Andrew and I settled on the Christmas buffet at the acclaimed Keraton hotel, with a reputation as one of Jakarta’s finest dining establishments.
The package ran for three hours – which may sound excessive until you realise the sheer volume and variety of food to be sampled. For 1,200,000RP (exc. tax) per person, we opted for the free-flow wine and champagne package, and the staff were certainly not stingy on the refills. As we were seated, we were promptly served up two glasses of bubbly, which never sank below two fingers the entire time. While the per head price might sound expensive, Andrew and I were sure to drink our money’s worth, not to mention eat our way through over six courses of gourmet delights.
Having sampled a few buffets in Jakarta (see my post about the delightful Grand Kemang), I’m aware that Indonesians spare no expenses when putting on a spread. Kicking things off at the seafood stand, we sampled our way through freshly shucked oysters, Singapore chilli crab, prawns, scampi, sushi and sashimi with lashings of fresh ginger. Aussie Christmas and fresh seafood going hand in hand in my family, it was this course that I was most looking forward to, and the Keraton didn’t disappoint. You had me at black caviar.
Moving onto the cured meats and salad bar, we munched our way through seared tuna, cerviche beef, juicy anchovies, smoked salmon and a selection of salty delights including olives and caperberries. Already starting to bulge, we paused for twenty minutes to or so to regain our energy before hitting the Mexican bar for some make-your-own nachos, graze through the Indonesian section and finish up with some plum-seared duck from Chinese corner.
The Keraton grill had an impressive spread of meats and seafood, including a whole turkey ripe for the carving. We simply placed an order with the chef – which included lamb cutlets, lobster and prawn skewers – and waited in our seats for it to be cooked. In case we hadn’t eaten enough, we then moved on to desserts and, my personal favourite, cheese, crackers and grapes. Drinking all the while, I was somewhat surprised to note at this stage it was already 2:45pm and time for last drinks and one more sneaky piece of chocolate cake.
Considering how much you could easily spend in Jakarta on a three course meal with a bottle of wine, the Keraton’s Christmas buffet was, in all fairness, reasonably priced and certainly did not scrimp on quality. More than that, the ambience was relaxing and cosy, with the smaller-sized seating plan at the restaurant meaning no long queues while vying for the last oyster. Certainly the afternoon conjured up visions of new family traditions for the budding Reid/Fleming family, in which cooking, cleaning and washing up were definitely not on the agenda.