On the left was a life-sized Santa Claus figure, on the right was a pastel mural colouring Central Javanese lifestyle during the colonial era, perfected to every inch in details, with a touch of emphasis on women that was requested by Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno.
These were hard to miss as I headed towards the SamaZana restaurant at The Royal Ambarrukmo, Yogyakarta. In a hotel that’s over five decades old and survived the massive 2006 earthquake in Yogyakarta, I found myself here on the morning of Boxing Day to savour the two times award-winning Indonesia Leading Breakfast Hotel 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 breakfast buffet spread.
“Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta has consecutively won the Indonesia Leading Breakfast Hotel award for the past two years, since this category was introduced at the Indonesia Travel and Tourism Awards (ITTA) for the first time in 2018. Winning it last year was critical; it motivates us further to evolve and be consistent in the coming years,” said the General Manager of Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta, Ian Cameron.
Seating 250 people, the SamaZana restaurant has been recently renovated to offer a unique ambience steeped in the heritage and traditions of the Yogyakarta Royal Palace – but with modern and luxurious touches. Foodies staying at the hotel or otherwise will embark on a wonderful journey, tasting foods from Asia to the Mediterranean coasts.
“SamaZana is Sanskrit for togetherness. We want guests who eat here to feel the warmth of gathering with their family or friends whilst being away from home. We ensure that the food is inspired by “Mediterrasian” which’s a combination of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines,” explained the hotel’s Executive Chef, Geert Dirk Vermeulen.
Since around 75 percent of in-house guests are Indonesians and 25 percent are foreigners, not only is the variety of food vital – especially for breakfast – but also the complete authenticity of local spices used to flavour those dishes. Chef Geert pointed out that the local chefs are responsible for the specific local dishes, while he still oversees the quality and hygiene aspects. “By doing this, we can maintain the authenticity of the guests’ favourite local foods,” he added. “I have been in Indonesia for 18 years now – yes I’m familiar with Indonesian cooking, but I believe the locals give it a taste of home. That’s also why we serve jamu and gudeg directly whipped up by vendors in Yogya.”
He wasn’t wrong to do that. I had a small serving of gudeg, essentially because it is listed as one of the most highly recommended foods to try for breakfast – along with the handmade Lamien noodles and varieties of pastry – and breakfast hunters in SamaZana seemed to really devour it since every time I passed by the gudeg station, it was finished.
Finally, I’d had my fair share of this beloved pulled, young jackfruit (gori) seasoned with Javanese sugar (gula jawa), served with a sweet and thick coconut-based gravy, called areh in Javanese, sambal krecek, pulled chicken, and bacem or sweetened versions of tempe, tofu, and boiled egg. Gudeg doesn’t look too Instagram worthy in most cases – including this one – but I assure anyone who’s never had gudeg to give it a try, especially if you have a sweet tooth as it kicks it just right. But if the sweetness reaches overboard, then add more sambal krecek – a type of sambal that includes cooked dried cow skin, thus isn’t plant-based friendly, however rectangular cubes of tempe or tofu are normally added.
Another Javanese breakfast favourite is pecel sayur. Those who can’t handle spiciness should just skip the coconut tofu gravy. But make sure to garnish with some peyek for that crunch and savoury essence, complementing the mildly sweet peanut sauce poured all over steamed vegetables. Cenil, a traditional jajanan pasar from Yogya, made out of tapioca and sprinkled with coconut flakes, is great to finish a morning Javanese food journey.
Meanwhile, a young lady wearing a modern kebaya stood by the jamu corner. She claimed that her mother made the concoctions of kunyit asem, beras kencur, daun sirih, and pahitan. Jamu is known to be a natural remedy to cure sickness and maintain one’s health. As I’m feeling under the weather, I requested a mixture of kunyit asem and daun sirih. One glass down, I sought out another one, hoping that my sore throat would go away.
As for the Western options, behold a variety of cheese, sandwiches, salami, pastries, granola, cereal, chicken sausage, beef bacon, a salad bar, etc. “Personally, I like to start my day with a bowl of granola and fresh fruits with a Danish pastry, a cup of coffee, and juice,” said Chef Geert.
During the festive season the hotel is packed with families vacationing in Yogya. Luckily, parents can enjoy their breakfast while their children splish-splash in the pool, as this all-day restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the pool and Royal gardens. Children’s tummies eventually start to grumble. Parents can choose from an array of treats specifically made for their bundles of joy such as cupcakes and a chocolate fountain. Adults too are treated with the hotel’s homemade gelato, made up of au natural, local, fresh ingredients.
Ian ensures that all food served at the breakfast buffet, as well as the a la carte menus, are Moslem friendly. “Many people coming from different backgrounds dine here so we make it a point to accommodate their distinct dietary requirements such as providing vegetarian and non-vegetarian options,” confirmed this ITTA winner of Indonesia Top Hospitality Leader in Yogyakarta 2019/2020. “Besides catering to everyone’s nutritional needs, Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta has received Food and Beverage, along with Safety and Hygiene certifications from HACCP and ISO 22,000,” Ian added.
As for the new decade, Chef Geert is looking forward to switching up the menu at SamaZana, both for the breakfast buffet and a la carte options. “Picking out whatever is available in the market and identifying the customer needs based on testimonials are a couple of ways to get the menu changes rolling. It will be a lot of work yet we’re sticking to the “Mediterrasian” concept, infused with the practice of sharing food between everyone on the dining table so that it brings guests closer and topped off with a memorable dining experience,” he said.
Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta marked its third year winning the Indonesia Leading Five-Star Hotel in Yogyakarta and the Indonesia Leading Independent Hotel awards at ITTA 2019/2020.
Open as an integral wedding, leisure, and MICE destination in the heart of Javanese culture, guests may choose out of the 247 rooms and suites with balconies overlooking Mount Merapi or the city whilst exploring the wonders of Yogyakarta. In 2020, Ian has stated that wedding packages will be revamped with possibly the most authentic Javanese wedding experience set out at the 18th century building, once utilised as the former Sultans’ resting home, within the property.
Day, Time & Price:
Daily at 6am-11pm, with the last order at 10pm.
Breakfast Buffet Spread: Daily at 6-10am inclusive of the room package for in-house guests and non in-house guests at Rp160,000 net per person.
Friday and Saturday Buffet Dinner: Rp155,000 net per person.
Sunday Mediterrasian Brunch: Rp175,000 net per person and half price for children 6-12 years, inclusive of swimming pool entrance and access to The Lare Kids Club.
Address: Jl. Laksda Adisucipto No. 81, Yogyakarta
Reservations: +62 274 488 488 or email to [email protected]