More Than Four Decades Of Poppies

1973 - 2022

The story goes that during the late '60s and early '70s a small restaurant called Poppies already existed in La Jolla, California, which was patronized by famous Hollywood personalities of the day. The restaurant was named after the state flower of California, the Golden Poppy, which is actually more orange than gold, and grows wild throughout that state.

In 1972 rumour has it that this restaurant closed down; its former owners were holidaying in Bali at the same time as their friends George and Bob, who had met a young Balinese girl named Zenik Sukenny ("Jenik"), with whom they planned to open a restaurant and bar in Kuta, Bali. Zenik was already operating her own highly successful little street-side restaurant called "Jenik's Warung", which served simple meals to the overlanders and travellers of the day, another of which was John, who happened to like laying out gardens.

Jenik's Warung, Kuta 1972

First Poppies Staff Photo, 1973

Ambitious plans for a grand building were shelved in favour of a much more modest idea; George and Bob helped Zenik to modify her Balinese home by enlarging the kitchen and adding a small bamboo and coconut-wood bar. John laid out a garden in the open space complete with ponds and waterfalls and winding pathways. Bamboo chairs and tables were placed around the garden and the concept which is Poppies today was born - almost by accident. A name was needed for this little oasis, and the previous owners of the restaurant in San Diego were delighted to have the name perpetuated.

Poppies opening

Within a few months of Poppies' opening on January 12, 1973 all three of those foot-loose and fancy-free travellers had headed off into the sunset, perhaps to return some day. Zenik was left alone to pay the bills, go to the market each morning, and get on with the real work of developing Poppies as a successful enterprise.

First to succumb to the yearning to return to Bali was John, later that same year. From then on John devoted much of the time he was able to spend in Bali to helping Zenik add and improve things right up to the present day (more than forty five years on). George came back five years later, to find Poppies greatly expanded; he subsequently settled in Bali again. Bob visits Bali whenever he can.

Building the original Poppies Cottages, 1975

The first four cottages were built in 1974/75, on what’s now Poppies 2, and twenty more followed in 1980/81 on Poppies 1, close to the restaurant. A pool was added in 1987, and the newer group of cottages was renovated in 1996, and again in 2006 and 2017. In establishing the layout for the cottages John collaborated closely with Zenik's cousin who was a Balinese craftsman. The combined ideas produced the result so appreciated by visitors - a blending of traditional building styles and details with modern Western comforts, including privacy, which is provided by the gardens and curved pathways.

There are now two other restaurants in Bali - the Kopi Pot in Kuta, opened in 1990, and Strawberry Hill in the mountains at Bedugul, opened in 1993. There is also a large vegetable garden in Bedugul, and an orchard in Luwus, both of which supply the need of all three restaurants.

Poppies, Koh Samui

The idea for a second Poppies in Koh Samui, Thailand, was the result of another chance meeting eighteen years after those described above.

Thai style cottage at Poppies Samui