Aug 08 2012
A while ago, I wrote about where to go if you’d like to sprinkle a little good karma on your dinner or your bed by eating and sleeping at places that help to support NGOs or the people of Siem Reap. These included Sala Bai, Joe-To-Go, Soria Moria, and Green Star all of which I’m pleased to tell you are still excellent and still going strong. They have, however, since been joined by a few more establishments who also work to support Cambodians either directly or indirectly and are worth a mention of their own.
One of these is Haven, the creation of a Swiss couple who had a notion that something more needed to be done to support teenagers who are making the difficult transition from institution to real world and it is, I have to admit, one of my favourite all-round restaurants now. They decided that vocational training could help, so they went back to Switzerland, set up a foundation, raised the funds, came back to Cambodia in April last year, found the land, designed the restaurant, built it, found students who wanted to train, opened the restaurant, and then they really went to work; they’ve barely been able to sit down for a cup of coffee since the launch in December. It’s been a huge success, not just because it’s a good idea, but because the menu is interesting, the food is tasty, the set-up is fresh, vibrant and lovely, plus they’re very responsive to their customers’ needs.
Haven has a small open-plan dining area that is stylish without boasting about the fact. You can see right into what’s happening in the kitchen from the bench tables inside, while the garden in front has a larger area that can be covered during the midday sun, and the rains. The menu counts many favourites including pastas, burgers, soups, and traditional Cambodian dishes, but also some really interesting additions like their, yummy, pumpkin burger — to which this non-vegetarian is addicted – Schnitzels and an Australian beef entrecote with blue cheese sauce, among many others.
And even if you’re not hungry, Haven is a great spot to hang out, drink coffee or a refreshing lime/mint juice, and listen to the brilliant music on the unobtrusive sound system (this is post-punk fan heaven). Haven’s slogan is “Where helping tastes good”, and it’s true. It sounds good too.
Another newcomer to Siem Reap is one that has been well established in Phnom Penh for a long time now and finally expanded to temple town. A local NGO, Nyemo Le Rit’s, opened up a very attractive boutique hotel on the north riverside a few months ago with rooms decorated using drapes, curtains and decorations created by women who are part of Nyemo Le Rit’s social business in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Indeed, you can see some of them at work in a small workshop towards the entrance of the hotel. You can also buy the lovely decorations at their dedicated shop, helping the women involved to support their families as well as contributing fully to the local economy.
The rooms are $40 to $45 per night each (deduct $5 for the single rate) and very respectably turned out. The bright, silk furnishings are smart and genuinely attractive — I can’t imagine any visitor not wanting to buy some for home too. The house is a typical Cambodian villa, so expect some odd tiling here and there and the bathrooms, while perfectly adequate, do not really live up to the rest of the building. Le Rit’s does not offer a full restaurant yet, but a small cafe offers snacks and drinks as well as a small breakfast.
Nyemo Le Rit’s has long been popular in Phnom Penh both for its restaurant and their hotel, not just for the facilities offered at very good prices, but also for the friendliness and professionalism of their staff – a feature the Siem Reap hotel seems to share.
Sok San Street (20m behind X-Bar)
T: (078) 342 404
Le Rit’s Guest House @ Siem Reap
House #0197, Treang Village
T: (063) 763 390 / (012) 800 815
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.