Eat and meet
BattambangWhen we first started frequenting Battambang it was more or less White Rose, White Rose or ... White Rose, but these days, as with accommodation and bars, the restaurant situation in Battambang has improved dramatically. The good old Rose itself is still going strong but there are plenty of alternatives these days local food-wise, plus you'll have a choice of other Asian, some fine Western eateries and plenty of good quality pub-grub type offerings. Indeed with its provincial town pricing, Battambang is even becoming a promising food-lovers destination.
The White Rose on Street 2 is a Battambang institution and is still going strong with the addition a couple of years back of an upstairs dining area and balcony tables. Yes, service is as erratic as ever, and the menu still resembles a phone directory, but aside from the attempts at Western dishes and avoiding the seafood (Battambang's a long way from the ocean!), it's all good stuff and servings are copious and cheap. Main courses are around $2 or $3. Open daily until approximately 21:00.
Nary Kitchen opened in 2009 and is tucked away in a very obscure section of town, but offers by far the best fish amok in town. The atmosphere is very simple; it's just the owner's house with four tables under an awning. The cook, Nary, prepares your meal in her own kitchen using only fresh ingredients. Expect to wait 40 minutes for your meal to be prepared as everything is made from scratch. In addition, Khmer cooking classes are offered for $10 per person for a three-course meal. Highly recommended.
Tucked away down 2.5 Street, Fresh Eats Cafe (47 Street 2.5; T: (053) 599 944) was set up to help local disadvantaged kids learn hospitality skills and English in a similar scheme to the famous Friends Restaurant in Phnom Penh. All profits go towards providing accommodation and the aforementioned teaching. Their shakes and juices are very good while food covers Khmer and Western choices including quite a range of breakfasts and salads, crepes and sandwiches. More substantial dinner fare may require booking in advance though. Prices are average and service is friendly though be prepared to wait a while. Open daily 09:00-21:00.
Small cafe Woodhouse (opposite Royal Hotel; T: (070) 496 402) is somewhat tucked away unless you're staying at the Royal, in which case it's directly opposite and offers a little bit of everything: a comprehensive range of breakfasts, some simple Khmer lunch and dinner options, salads and sandwiches, good coffee and juices for the morning and beer and cocktails for the evenings. Free WiFi, friendly service and reasonable rates mean this is a decent spot, though nothing special.
Angkor Thom is a large bar restaurant located between 1 and 2 streets – diagonally opposite White Rose – proposing Western options such as burgers and pizzas and a wide range of Khmer dishes. The former aren't too bad and probably better than the offerings over the road if it's home comfort food you're after but the reverse is true for the Khmer options. WiFi and happy hour run from 15:00 until 19:00. Open daily 08:00-22:00.
Located in the heart of Battambang, Khmer Delight (T: (012) 434 746) offers a wide range of typical Khmer cuisine and fine Western favourites such as burgers, fish and chips and Aussie-style meat pies. For breakfast, a gluttonous $5 big breakfast is available if you're starving; otherwise, more sensible (and cheaper) options are offered. The New Guinea coffee, served in a European-style coffee press, is excellent for those in need of a strong brew. The free WiFi is fast and reliable. 50 cent drafts run from 17:00 till 20:00. Open 07:30 till late.
The night market sets up along the river bank just south of the town's museum from late afternoon onwards, and is a lively spot to join the locals for an evening beer and snack. Noodles, nibbles, beers and juices are available in a string of pavement stalls -- fun and cheap.
Flavors of India (85, Street 2.5; T: (053) 731 553) is run by the same guys behind the well-known Phnom Penh branch. This recent addition to Battambang's eating scene adds to your dinner alternatives. Food is fairly standard 'Anglo-Indian' fare with a few extra Nepalese flourishes (the manager is Nepalese). The opening of an Indian restaurant usually indicates a town has well and truly hit the tourist map and while there may well be better options from the sub-continent available in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, Flavors isn't bad at all and seems to be doing very well. Starters go from $3 to $5 and mains are around $5 to $7. An extensive menu and, as usual with Indian food, plenty of decent vegetarian options.
Beautifully decorated Pomme D'Amour – run by the same French guys who own Madison – is another great food option on 2.5 Street. The French and Khmer kitchen staff serve up some excellent Khmer, French and fusion dishes which considering the quality are very good value for money. Treat yourself to some fine dining – it's well worth a bit of a splurge here.
Caberet Vert is another French-run location proposing 'fine dining'. Cabaret Vert offers more classic or traditional French dishes than the previous entry though lacks the sumptuous decor and convenient location. It gets good reviews from the small Francophone community though and prices are comparable to La Villa.
More classic French fare in very classical French ambience is on offer at La Villa. Prices are very reasonable for the quality you're getting so these days you're spoilt for choice French food-wise in Battambang. Expect to pay around $15 to $20 for starter plus main course, with a good selection of wines available.
Surprisingly few entries in Battambang's new cafe scene have riverfront locations but Cafe Eden (Street 1; T: (053) 731 525) is one of them with a Street 1 address between Psa Nath and Sar Kheng Bridge, and offering pavement, interior or upstairs seating options. The cafe styles itself as a bistro and food choices are eclectic. There's a wide range of breakfasts including crepes, bagels and tortillas followed by a similarly wide range of lunch, dinner and bar snack options including Thai, Khmer, Korean, Japanese, Chinese plus pasta, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. If that's not enough there's a board with daily specials. You'd need several weeks to try everything on their menu but the dishes we sampled were all pretty good and prices reasonable – for instance pizzas at around $6, sandwiches between $4.50 and $5.50, lok lak at $3.75 or crepes at $2.50. There's a also a comprehensive drinks menu: coffees, juices and a popular happy hour from 15:00 to 19:00. Decor is simple but fun and we liked their use of old wine bottles as menus and old jam jars as drink containers. Eden also has a boutique selling locally created art and handicrafts. Friendly service. Open Monday to Sunday from 07:30 to around 21:00.
A pioneer of the town's new bar and cafe scene, the popular Gecko Cafe (Between Streets 2.5 and 5; T: (017) 712 428) has been around for some time at a central location between roads 2.5 and 3. Downstairs is a boutique selling, well, boutiquey things, as well as offering motorbike hire and travel tickets, with the bar being located upstairs in this nicely restored old colonial period building. The upstairs terrace is a great vantage point
The friendly and popular Bamboo Train cafe (T: 012 517 125) just off the river road near Wat Sangkar is open from 06:30 with a range of breakfasts between $2 and $5 then continues throughout the day with an eclectic mix of Khmer dishes, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches as well as coffees and juices. Fine dining it isn't but reasonably priced bar food it does have with say Khmer dishes costing between $2 and $4. There's a pool table and TV for sports so evenings sees more of a bar atmosphere emerge. Officially open until 22:00, this is a friendly and cosy spot.
Slightly out of the centre but convenient for Star and Asia Hotels, Cappuccino Coffee House (Street 102; T: (092) 720 192; (067) 484 849) is a very friendly little cafe/bakery located on 102 Street near the bus company offices. Sandwiches, burgers, quiches and even pies and pasties are all made on the premises and we particularly liked their thick sliced wholemeal bread. Coffees, juices and beers are to be had too plus there's free WiFi. Open daily from 06:00 until 22:00. Good spot and convenient if you're staying opposite and don't like the hotel breakfasts.
As with the eating options, the town's nightlife has picked up considerably of late and it's now possible to have a night out, and manage to find a drink after 22:00 without having to resort to a local karaoke. Yes, the popular riverside night market with beers and snacks is still going, as are said karaokes and local-style night spots but there is now a good choice of day time cafes and coffee shops plus several tourist orientated bars offering drinks, happy hours and pub grub as well as a couple of lively late night spots.
It's well worth checking out the bar at Here Be Dragons (Street 155 (riverside road, east, by Wat Sangker); T: (089) 264 895) even if you're not staying in the guesthouse. It can get pretty lively as it's popular with expats as well as visitors and stays open later than most bars in town. Wednesday evening hosts a pub quiz and there is occasional live music. Indeed at time of visiting the excellent Phnom Penh band Cambodia Space Project were down on the list of upcoming attractions so that's a serious bid for Battambang's top night spot designation! Choose from indoor, outdoor plus rooftop sitting areas and Khmer, Thai and Western food options are available. Open daily from early until the last customers have gone home. Happy hour daily 16:00 and 20:00.
Another excellent addition to Battambang's bar scene is the French-run Madison Corner (Street 121 and 2.5; T: (053) 650 2189) at the ... yes corner of 121 and 2.5 streets. Expect draft beer, cocktails, pub grub with a French twist and crepes. Madison is open all day until late.
The long-standing Balcony Bar is still going though whereas a few years ago it was the only decent bar in town it now has competition and seems to struggle somewhat with its slightly out of town location. Maybe it's just that little too far to walk (a couple of kilometres south of town on the riverfront road) – especially back to town at night, so if you haven't got your own transport it's best to set a time with a tuk tuk to pick you up since they are hard to flag down out that way. Drinks and a few dinner choices are served on a wooden terrace overlooking the river. It's a shame that it doesn't open until 17:00 since the bar has great views and is conveniently placed on the road out to Wat Kor, the winery and Phnom Banan.
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