The Jalan Jaksa area has never been about class and style. It is down and dirty and it affects few airs and graces above its station. Read any tourist guide to Jakarta and it and it will inevitably trot out the tired clichéd description of Jaksa as a ‘backpacker street.’ The only reason this appears to be so is that gullible tourists follow these guides and end up standing bewildered in a street that resembles a post-apocalyptic Khao San Road. Where are all the tourists? Why so many English teachers? Where is the unique ‘Indonesian experience’? Where, for that matter, are the go-go bars, the ladies of the night and the wrestling dwarves? Truth be told, Jalan Jaksa has not been the den of iniquity that its reputation boasts for at least a decade. This myth is mostly perpetuated by those locals who are too scared to go there, for reasons long rendered redundant.
The real Jalan Jaksa is a whole new kettle of fish. It is in the process of gentrification, as sharp-eyed entrepreneurs seek to fleece more revenue from tourists, or even lure Jakartans back to the area as dark speakeasies make way to Kuta beach-style juice and jaffle bars. Sounds implausible? Just imagine touting the gentrification of London’s Soho in the 1960’s and you would have been laughed out of the peep-show. It started with a pool bar at the North end of the street, a massive new hotel, and then a major revamp of the old BFC bar. Following that, an open-air cafe with wide-screen TV, packing the tourists in with bright shiny menus and smoothies aplenty. Several stalwarts left with but a whimper. A bar named after President Barack Obama (seeking to cash in on his many-times postponed visit) actually forbids the carrying of backpacks and bags within. So much for backpacker street!
The Southern end has also undergone a huge transformation. Ya-Udah has moved, Romance is dead (yes, indeed) and the plot of land on the corner of Wahid Hasyim and Jaksa is now a gleaming chrome and glass apartment complex. Directly across the road from this vision of Jaksa’s future is D’Consulate, residing in Tony Roma’s former building, beside Ayam Suharti. Walking into D’Consulate (What is it with the Indonesian habit of replacing ‘The’ with ‘d’? Not cool, my friends.) feels like walking from one world into another – from the broken sidewalks of Wahid Hasyim to the plush carpet within is a major culture shock. Subdued lighting, hotel lobby sofas, sparkling chandeliers and diamante dividers. D’Consulate boasts: (deep breath) a spacious and sophisticated dining lounge replete with iPad menu for the more aesthetic diner, a bar, 4 flatscreen televisions plus projector, a business center with printing and photocopying facilities, a children’s playroom.
Upstairs is a small meeting room seating 9, a larger meeting room seating 12 in executive luxury with teleconferencing facilities and along the hallway a mini-mushollah. They are in the process of fitting out a room as a salon and the whole place will be complete when they open their planned money changer and ATM center. There are certain criticisms which should probably be addressed if they realise that they are going to get a lot of walk-in custom from tourists on Jalan Jaksa. The waitresses currently assume that the guests (as the manager insist on referring to customers) speak fluent Indonesian and this could prove to be a problem when serving tourists who are still trying to get their tongues around the pronunciation of ‘terima kasih’, never mind trying to converse. I realise that television is king in Indonesia, and you haven’t truly arrived as a venue until you have a whopping flatscreen TV bolted to the wall. But 4 of the monsters on different channels?
None of the channels being broadcast seemed to have any relevance either. I can understand the choice of Fashion TV to impart a sense of aspirational cool. However, as I dined, I had Spongebob Squarepants overdubbed in Indonesian whining in my ear. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? I don’t care. Shut up. The food has a Middle-Eastern/Western theme. I had a cream-cheese bagel which was light and herby with some crisp lettuce which stopped the bagel being overly doughy and endlessly chewy. I then had a chicken pitta pocket, with fries and a small balsamic dressed salad. The chicken was good, but they seemed to have included a peanut sauce in the bottom of the pitta as an unwelcome surprise. Although I am not allergic, I do like to be warned of foodstuffs I don’t like. The garlic mayonnaise was great – fresh and leaving a tingle that probably enamoured me to every shop assistant I met for the rest of the weekend. I like this place, despite its little foibley flaws. Only being open a month, it seems harsh to imagine that these things can’t be ironed out. Apart from the name, of course, but I shall just keep my eyes down as I walk in.