Having a butler spoils you for life. You need to know this before you check into the Legian Bali; afterwards you may never again be able to pour your own drink or fold your clothes. You may even struggle to walk.
With my knowledge of butlers gleaned mainly from movies, I try to imagine the real thing as we travel to Seminyak. Will we be waited on by a penguin-suited Lurch intoning, ‘You rang, sir?’ Or perhaps a quaintly English Jeeves who will iron Mr Smith’s newspaper while being implicated in various murder mysteries.
But first, we must find the Club, a super-private 11-villa hideaway close to its established mothership hotel, the Legian. Its entrance is so discreet our taxi driver misses it and instead delivers us to the much more visible lobby of the Legian itself, where the elegant bellboys summon a sleek black Lexus to relocate us across the narrow street. It’s such a short distance, we protest. We could walk. The driver looks astonished and we realise that the Club, which describes itself as ‘an oasis of sophisticated relief’, intends to spare us even a whiff of exertion. There’s a brief flash of Seminyak street bustle, a security-patrolled gate, then absolute peace. The villas stand around an ornamental pond, tropical gardens and the Club Lounge, with its bar, restaurant and nearby pool.
The Club delivers Legian luxury wrapped in an extra layer of personal attention. Each villa has a dedicated butler, and ours is Vina, who is not even slightly Lurchesque or Jeeves-like, but a smiling Balinese lady who combines serenity with the efficiency of an elite military unit.
She unlocks a wooden door and we step into our secret garden. There’s a 10-metre swimming pool fringed by hibiscus and frangipani, an outdoor dining balé, manicured lawns, day-beds and, in the middle, a Balinese palace that, thanks to further ponds, appears from certain angles to be floating on water. Vina’s introductory tour has more highlights than we can immediately absorb: a welcome bottle of Taittinger chilling in the fridge, bedroom with four-poster, bathroom with his ‘n’ hers wardrobes, a drinks cabinet proffering decanters of gin, vodka and whisky, jars crammed with cookies and nuts, and a minibar of further tipples. They’re complimentary and refill magically whenever plundered.
The roll call of goodies continues: two sarongs, with tying instructions; tasteful straw sandals, a yoga mat, beach bags; board games, magazines and two iPods loaded with music for every taste. And my favourite: a huge bath outside among those ponds.
Left to our own devices, we explore our walled garden and conclude that it is, indeed, completely private. So we skinny-dip and Mr Smith takes a sarong-less stroll, communing with dragonflies. I’m concocting puns about bare-bottom botany when the doorbell rings, sending him scrambling for cover. No need, as Vina is clearly accustomed to guests exploring their inner naturist and allows time for modesty between ringing and entering through her special butler’s door.
Want to know the truth about butler service? It’s a little weird at first. Being resourceful travellers who, if necessary, will build a fire or catch dinner, we’ve unpacked our own suitcases and poured our own champagne. Then we remember that’s Vina’s gig.
I fear we’re under-achieving at being butlered, so we rustle up some dirty laundry and ask Vina to book a table at a much-recommended restaurant, La Lucciola. ‘Think of more tasks,’ I urge Mr Smith. You haven’t known real luxury until you’ve suffered from butler angst.
Normally, we’d walk around the corner to La Lucciola, but this is the Club, where feet don’t touch the ground. At sunset, Vina, black Lexus and driver arrive and deliver us to the door in moments. La Lucciola perches on a tranquil stretch of Seminyak Beach, and waves, candlelight and delicious Italian food paint a romantic idyll so dreamy that although we walk home we reckon Vina wouldn’t mind – since it feels like floating.
The villa is so richly appointed you could nest indefinitely. But the next day we want to explore the Legian, as its facilities are available to Club guests. We recline on a sunlounger and watch the two-tier infinity pool and Indian Ocean vying to out-blue each other. Then, at risk of disappointing our butler, we walk along the beach towards Kuta and back along streets lined with shops running the gamut of tat to tasteful.
After the hubbub, we relish our private paradise. Apparently, some guests only emerge from their villa cocoon to visit the Club Lounge. Others punctuate their seclusion with trips to the Legian’s spa, Pool Bar and the Restaurant, where we dine that night. Being VIPs (Vina’s Important People), we’re escorted to a prime table on the terrace. My river prawn sambal is spicy and fresh; Mr Smith’s red snapper with chilli oil and water spinach is his favourite dish yet.
By now, we have endless errands for Vina. We’ve got her tracking down friends, finding shops, and asking the chef to make us a local dish called martabak. Just as we’ve finally surrendered every last shred of self-reliance, it’s time to leave. Vina helps us pack and farewells us at the gate. ‘Come with us and run our lives!’ we want to cry, because after two days of splendid, cosseted indolence, we are convinced that survival skills are vastly overrated.