The port town of Labuan Bajo in Flores, Indonesia is small, but it attracts quite a fair number of travellers thanks to the beautiful islands surrounding, as well as the only place in the world to see Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat, as well as diving and snorkelling opportunities, which has brought in a host of tour operators, diving operators, hotels, hostels and the whole like.
There's some great food to be found at Labuan Bajo, though it might not be the most authentically Indonesian, primarily because the main street of Jl. Soekarno Hatto is pretty much catered to tourists.
And just as how some tour and diving trip operators were set up by tourists who eventually settled in Labuan Bajo, so have some of the restaurants and hotels.
This is a short guide I've compiled of some of the good food around town.
1. La Cucina
An authentically Italian restaurant, La Cucina is always bustling and the restaurant is almost always close to full.
Featuring a cosy atmosphere styled and decorated like you're in the Mediterranean alongside a little terrace overlooking the busy harbour, La Cucina serves up great pizza, pasta, sandwiches and foccacia.
You have plenty of toppings to choose from so customising your pizza's easy, and service is quick and efficient.
Bread is served with the pasta, along with a side of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which makes for decent value for money, I think, and is certainly a fraction of the price you'd pay in Italian restaurants in other parts of the world. Mind, it's still however, incredibly expensive by local standards, and so are many other eateries, so you can't really find 'local favourites' here as a measure of quality and taste, but it's a definite favourite amongst other travellers.
We had the Magherita (tomato and mozzarella), Rucola & Grana (smoked ham, rucola and parmesan), Bacon & Patate (bacon, cream, potatoes and rosemary), and the Polipo & Peperoncino (tomato, octopus, garlic and parsley), alongside a serving of fries.
All prices are subject to a 10% government tax, so all in all, amongst a group of 4, we paid about IDR 400, 000 which is certainly expensive local standards, but is a fraction of the price you would pay in larger cities in a similar establishment.
2. Warung Mama
If you're looking for Indonesian food, Warung Mama is a popular spot for travellers too.
It works on a pick and choose concept, where you choose your base whether it's rice (traditional red rice, yellow rice and white rice) or noodles, and you choose which dishes you like on display, from fried chicken to eggs to chicken curry to sauteed tempe in soya sauce to fish in curry sauce and a whole lot more. You'll be charged per dish based on the number of portions or pieces served. I had a heavy meal here with a meat, vegetable and tofu dish and paid over IDR 40, 000 which is of course, a fraction of the price of meals of cuisines from other parts of the world.
Their signature dish though, is Beef Rendang, beef cooked in coconut milk and spices.
If you don't fancy the dishes on offer, you can order Fried Rice / Noodles with Rendang, or Chicken, or Egg straight from the counter.
3. Le Pirate
Le Pirate is one of the most popular hotels in Labuan Bajo, thanks to fantastic social media marketing through visual content, especially on Instagram, and offers a restaurant that overlooks the street and is packed most nights.
There's live music on some nights, or pizza or taco deals depending on the day of the week.
Seeing as we stayed here, we ate here the most, so we got to try quite a lot of the food, including Indonesian favourites as well as Mexican and Italian grub.
Prices here are comparable to La Cucina, and a tad more expensive than Warung Mama for the local stuff for a smaller portion, but the food served up is definitely of quality.
The only dish I was a little disappointed with was the Fish & Chips, which was a pretty small serving and didn't look all too appealing, and I've definitely tasted and seen far better elsewhere around the world. But apart from that, other dishes were pretty good.
If anything, I loved the atmosphere of this bustling restaurant, with many big groups dining here.
I saw the staff here almost day in and out just because we were staying here, so I'll have to add massive brownie points for the friendly service here.
4. Bajo Bay Fisherman's Club
Situated a little away from the busy main road and facing another part of the harbour down the end of Jl. Soekarno Hatto is a 2-storey establishment that is Bajo Bay Fisherman's Club.
Featured on the menu is a predominantly Western fare, with a sprinkling of Indonesian dishes here and there, with a far wider variety of selection with fish, meat.
Expect to pay around IDR 75, 000 to IDR 100, 000 for food alone, with taxes not included yet, and we had the Fillet A La Muniere (pan fried fish fillet with lemon butter sauce), which I thought was a pretty small portion for IDR 90, 000. We also had the Ikan Goreng Dabu Dabu (fried fish fillet with Dabu Dabu tomato sauce served with steamed rice), which I'd say the same thing as the Fillet, albeit for IDR 75, 000 this time. I liked the Chicken Tangine (slow cooked chicken leg, Morrocan-style with couscous) for IDR 80, 000 because of the sauce the chicken leg was served in, which was fantastic, and the chicken was marinated and seasoned well too. Lastly, we had the Vegetarian Banh Mi for IDR 55, 000, a big sandwich with tofu and tempe served with a side of salad and fries).
My only criticism here, besides the small but expensive fish dishes, would be that the wait for the food was quite a bit longer, and I have a feeling there might not be enough chefs to go around in the kitchen.
5. Cafe In Hit Coffee Shop
If you're looking for a cosy coffee place, Cafe In Hit Coffee Shop, located right next to Le Pirate might just be the spot.
Serving up Frappes, Lattes and Mochas for IDR 45, 000 to IDR 55, 000, alongside cakes and brownies, this is a nice, chilled out place for drink and dessert, and is never quite bustling or busy. Oh, that and air conditioning.
They also do sandwiches, granola bowls and the like for breakfast.
6. LaBajo Flores Coffee
A cosy and quiet spot both times I was here, it's situated on the main road but because the cafe itself is deeper in from the shop front. I'll state here that food here wasn't amazing, but it was one of the cheapest ones we found, so if you're looking for a more budget option, this is a decent place, and I had the teriyaki chicken rice set for IDR 24, 000. The great thing here is that prices are net, and you can have juices, cakes, coffee and brownies for really decent prices.
Saying that, I would avoid the noodle options on the menu, just because they're just indomie (Indonesian instant noodles) paired with chicken, veggies and the like, and I'd rather have something fresher.
From my trip to Labuan Bajo in Flores and Indonesia, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to this part of Indonesia, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!
View the full product catalogue at the shop here.