1st Floor East Mall, Grand Indonesia
Jl. M.H. Thamrin No.1
+62 21 2358 1818
A lot of people find it strange that shopping isn’t on my list of favourite things to do. What? A girl who doesn’t like shopping? Sadly, it’s true. On any given day, I’d rather eat rotting whale carcasses than spend hours at Melbourne Central looking at and trying on clothes, making small talk with shop assistants and carrying bags of shoes that I’ll probably only wear once.
If Melbourne’s malls bore even a remote likeness to the ones in Jakarta, however, I probably won’t be as much of a hater when it comes to shopping. In Indonesia’s capitals, the palatial-sized malls are filled with treasures in every corner. From standalone Christian Louboutin stores to xiaolongbao kiosks to multi-storied Timezones (what, they still exist?) to ice skating rinks, they have it all – and we’re only talking about the smaller malls here.
Grand Indonesia, in Central Jakarta, is one of the bigger ones not just in the country but also in Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s so big that it’s actually made up of two separate malls: East Mall and West Mall with a bridge between each one. Throw in a hotel and a residential complex by the Kempinski group, a 58-story office tower and lots of designer boutiques and world-renowned restaurants (Benihana, anyone?), and you’re pretty much set for the whole day. This complex also happens to be owned by Indonesian clove cigarette manufacturer PT Djarum which just goes to show how lucrative the tobacco industry still is in Indonesia.
One of my favourite bars in Jakarta, Social House happens to be in this very mall. Oned by the Ismaya hospitality group, it’s an all-day restaurant, wine bar with a wine shop attached if you wish to take home any of the 300 varieties available. When I first visited in 2009, it was located inside the Harvey Nichols department store. In 2013, however, Harvey Nichols was no longer there and due to the construction works, it took my sister Janice, my cousin Abigail and myself a while to navigate the intricate web that was Grand Indonesia’s East Mall redevelopment.
Social House is open from morning right through to the late night. When we rocked up just after 3pm on a weekday, we were just keen for some shared plates and Social House’s famous lemon iced tea that we enjoyed by the jug-loads all those years ago. Unfortunately, we were told that only the bar menu was available so I wasn’t able to enjoy the lime-cured kingfish sashimi that I had last time. Not to worry.
Because this bar is where a lot of gweilos congregate, the staff here speak fluent English. At night, this bar is full of American expats and pretty young things but during the day, it’s mostly young travellers wanting to take advantage of Social House’s free wi-fi. We were fortunate unfortunate enough to sit next to a group of loud Queenslanders who happened to stopping in Jakarta en route Bali for a surfing trip. Of course.
I absolutely adored the cute message that was printed on each napkin.
The normal lunch and dinner menus are divided into ‘east’ and ‘west’ sections with dishes to represent both Asian and European cuisines. You might want to order a Vietnamese beef and papaya salad from the east section, for example, and get your partner to try the burnt butter gnocchi. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that luxury (damn that awkward 3-5pm timeslot) so we settled on a BBQ chicken pizza from the bar menu.
Comprising of chicken pieces, mushrooms, BBQ sauce and mozzarella (Rp. 85,000/AUD$8.50), it wasn’t bad but for a restaurant of this quality I did expect something way better than only slightly better than Domino’s. Hell, I don’t even know why we agreed on this pizza as I normally shun pizzas with BBQ sauce on it.
Janice was keen on a slice of red velvet cake (Rp. 65,000/AUD$6.50) so we grabbed that too. Layered with cream cheese frosting and topped with crispy almonds, it made for a better alternative to the effking rainbow cake that seemed to be all the rage when we were there. Both Janice and Abigail liked it a lot, but I found it a bit too sweet (man, I’m such a killjoy haha).
This is what we came here for: a jug of Grandma’s homemade iced lemon tea (Rp. 115,000/AUD$11.50 for a jug). Janice and I fell in love with it the first time all those years ago. We loved that it was so zesty and fresh, perfect when you’re in hot and humid Jakarta. We also loved the crushed mint and the sugar cane stick that came in each glass for that extra bit of sweetness. For some reason, we weren’t as awed by the tea this time around. For me, it was a case of too much sugar and not enough lemons while Janice could have sworn that we got a bit more tea for our buck last time.
In the end, we were a bit underwhelmed. The food wasn’t as amazing and our tea did not blow our minds. The bill was Rp. 289,000/AUD$28.90 which, for a jug of tea, a small pizza and a slice of red velvet cake, is expensive by Indonesian standards. Mind you, this included sales tax and the ‘compulsory service charge.’ We were better off going to Grand Indonesia’s food court (which is actually impressive in itself) and eating kebabs there.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think that Social House is fab. I love its chilled yet sophisticated atmosphere. I love the friendly staff members and the fast service. Moreover, I like that there is not an ounce of snobbiness in this place (which is a bit of a surprise considering that a lot of high society Jakartans can be fickle). However, I would not come here during the 3-5pm period. Instead, go for the proper lunch or dinner experience or even better, wait until it’s really late and just enjoy a few glasses of wine while trying hard not to eye-roll at bogans.