Kampot has a good selection of places to eat and drink around town, with more variety than you'd expect.
Ask any expat for a Kampot eating experience, and they'll recommend Rusty Keyhole, the most popular restaurant on riverside which overflows nightly onto the pavement. The extensive, mostly Western, menu includes shrimp and pepper, barracuda and a delicious chicken with mushroom sauce, but the biggest draw is the ribs. Half a rack will set you back about US$5, or there's the "Dinorib" for those with eyes bigger than their belly. Usually shared by four people, finish this bad boy by yourself and get a free dessert or a pint -- not that you'll find room for either. Also on the riverfront, Rikitikitavi serves tasty meals using fresh local produce and the best imported items on a pleasantly breezy balcony, with mains from $6.
Around the newly restored Old Market, there's plenty of good value options. Malay has a cracking German breakfast with sourdough bread, liver sausage and coffee while the homemade ravioli with a tasty tomato sauce makes for a filling dinner, topped off with chocolate mousse. At Ecran, you can watch your noodles being pulled and twisted into shape before being added to soup or fried up with meat. The boiled or fried dumplings are a steal at $2 for 12 little parcels of deliciousness.
For honest to goodness Khmer food, those in the know stop at Penh Chet, a family-run roadside eatery behind a cute green and white painted fence. Breakfast pork and rice is a steal at $1 and the stunning sour soup comes with large chunks of fresh fish and plenty of chillies. At the eastern end of the Old Market, Captain Chim's crew also serve up cheap local fare -- get on the outside of noodle, rice and seafood dishes or try the smoky-sauced thin steak with fries washed down with a 60 cent beer. A little further in, Kampot Jack's shares a menu with the Heng Leap cafe opposite the Magic Sponge. At either location, there's good strong coffee served with sweet milk, a selection of soups and Khmer favourites lok lak, amok and char kroeung. Fruit shake stands open up in the evening along the old bridge road -- a yummy taste sensation for a few thousand riel. These stalls also serve cheap fried noodles, soup, rice porridge and Cambodian desserts. The new Night Market, near the Durian roundabout, also has barbecue and hotpot stalls for a truly local experience with free karaoke performances.
Ta Ouv, a riverfront Khmer restaurant next to the new bridge, is also a good choice but you'll need to get there early to snag one of the waterfront tables. It has a range of Cambodian dishes, with an emphasis on seafood. The coconut green curry crab is spicy, slightly sweet and a favourite.
In off the river, Epic Arts Cafe offers good meals along with house-made cakes and other snackies. The breakfasts are quite good and we recommend the bagels with apple cream cheese. They employ deaf people in an inclusive working environment and profits go to support their education project for deaf and disabled young people. Try out some of the sign language in the menu, or sign up (pun intended) for a Friday class. Around the corner, Cafe Espresso "don't make regular coffee". Instead, their ethos runs from roasting and grinding coffee beans on site to baking delicious pumpkin bread served with their own yoghurt. Customers take their time over eggs benedict or sipping the alcoholic ginger beer in the understatedly hip surroundings.
For a taste of something sweet, search out the Kampot Pie &Icecream Palace, down the street from the old bridge. The menu reminds that "Life is short. Eat dessert first." -- good advice particularly as the best stuff seems to run out before lunchtime. Anything from the display of brownies, scones and sweet apple and banana pies is unlikely to disappoint, especially with a scoop of icecream on the side.
Mea Culpa serves fantastic wood-fired pizza. And it lives up to the hype. Set in an outdoor patio beside the hotel of the same name, this place is worth the 10-minute walk south of town. The staff is as kind as the Australian owner, and seem genuinely excited to serve exceptionally good food. While the pizzas are as good as pizza gets, try to squeeze in an appetiser, as these are equally top-notch. For a touch of romance, the fairylit terrace of La Java Bleue has a daily woodfired barbecue with barracuda, sword fish and steaks served with sautee potatoes, seasonal salad and garlic bread. Leave some room for the creme caramel or flambe bananas, which will have you oohing in delight.
Among the guesthouse restaurants, Blissful and The Magic Sponge, with large, affordable portions, are recommended.
Out for a beer? Oh Neil's on the riverside is open late, serving a good range of drinks along their coin-encrusted bar. Also by the river, Madi's Bar and Bar Red are pleasant and often lively spots to sink a few jars. Heng Dy supermarket by the Durian roundabout stocks plenty of cheap booze as well as all manner of Western food stuffs on their higgledy-piggledy shelves.
Bar Red: River Rd, Kampot
Cafe Espresso: Around the corner from Epic Arts. Open 8am -5pm daily
Captain Chim's: north east of the Old Market, Kampot. T: (012) 321 043. Open daily.
Ecran Noodle Shop: north side of Old Market, Kampot. Closed Tuesdays.
Epic Arts Cafe: A block back from the OldMarket, Kampot. Open daily.
Heng Leap: Near Salt Mine Workers roundabout, Kampot. Open daily.
Kampot Jack's: Near Year 2000 roundabout, Kampot. T: (012) 941 773. Open daily.
Kampot Pie &Icecream Palace: Old Bridge road, Kampot.
La Java Bleue: Near Year 2000 roundabout, Kampot. T: (033) 667 6679
Madi's Bar: River Rd, Kampot
Malay: north side of Old Market, Kampot. Closed Sundays.
Oh Neil's: River Rd, Kampot.
Penh Chet: south side of Old Market, Kampot.
Rikitikitavi: River Rd, Kampot. T:(012) 235 102. Closed Mondays.
Rusty Keyhole: River Rd, Kampot. Open daily.
Ta Ouv: Next to the new bridge, Kampot. T: (033) 932 422, (012) 820 832. Open daily.
For a small southern Cambodian town, Kampot has a surprisingly good selection of places to chow down. So when you’ve had enough of contemplating the river, or you’ve worked up an appetite crawling round caves, here’s our pick of some of the best eats in... Read our full review of Best eats in Kampot.