Where to eat and drink: Mawlamyine

Mawlamyine: Where to eat and drink

If you scan through our suggested addresses below you’ll see a common theme: Strand Road! Well, it is a long road, and with its delightful sea views it’s an ideal spot to locate a restaurant. Plenty of local curry and tea shops are dotted around the market area and Lower Main Road, but for a cooked-to-order dinner or chilled sundowner, head down to the waterfront.

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Many of these restaurants are clustered around the jetties. First up, Myoma Jetty at the end of Myoma Tadar Street and close to Aurora, Sandalwood and Cinderella is the site of a new – for want of a better word – ‘complex’. Here you’ll find the excellent My City Cafe. Their coffee and fresh juices are some of the best in town and the mostly Western offerings are good. The menu includes sandwiches, salads and a choice of beef, fish or veggie burgers. Neither are their pizza efforts bad either – and if you’re a bit riced-out this is certainly one of your best options south of Yangon. The cheesy mashed potato at a bargain 900 kyat is a sure-fire winner. Pizzas are 3,500 kyat for a small, 6,000 for a regular or 10,000 for a 12-inch and burgers and sandwiches go for 2,000-3,000 kyat. If you want to stay traditional a few simple local dishes are on the menu too, such as fried rice at 1,500 kyat. Staff members have reasonable English levels and the boss is a local history buff, so well worth engaging in conversation. WiFi is workable. Our only criticism: the restaurant is the wrong way around! The kitchen staff has a lovely view of the river while preparing their veggie burgers but the customers have a view of the street.

Lentil and fish curry at a local curry shop. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Lentil and fish curry at a local curry shop. Photo: Mark Ord

On the second floor of the same building, so with fine river views, is the more local style and aptly named Riverview Restaurant. It has a vast menu of Mon, Burmese and Sino-Burmese cooked-to-order dishes plus Thai and even a few European selections. Food is good and reasonably priced and they are open all day. This is a great spot for a sunset drink, whether or not you elect to eat dinner there. They have indoor air-con or smart terrace seating.

Just down the promenade, south of the jetty, Mawlamyine’s night market sets up on the wide riverfront footpath opposite the police station. This is a very popular spot with locals and the various stands offer barbecued meats and seafood such as squid, prawns and whole fish.

There are also soups and noodles available and if an English menu isn’t forthcoming then just point at whatever you fancy. Beer’s available too and this is an all-round fun and cheap spot for an evening meal. Stalls set up late afternoon and go on until around 21:30 or 22:00 on weekend evenings.

Stuffed deep-fried tofu. It’s better than it sounds! Photo by: Mark Ord.
Stuffed deep-fried tofu. It’s better than it sounds! Photo: Mark Ord

The night market is roughly half way between the Myoma and Dawei jetties, with the latter also laying claim to a clutch of decent eateries. The Mya Than Lwin is the more local style but clean with wooden tables and chairs and proposes another huge range of Burmese and Sino-Burmese dishes. Fish and other seafood is heavily represented. An attraction is their draught beer at 700 kyat a glass. Food prices are slightly lower than the smarter YKKO next door.

YKKO is a chain of Burmese restaurants with several branches in Yangon and elsewhere and a good reputation among locals. It also has both an air-con indoor seating area and agreeable waterside terrace. The menu is predominantly Asian but eclectic with Mon, Thai, Chinese and Burmese offerings plus a few generic dishes such as satay and spring rolls. Classic chicken with cashews or sweet and sour go for 3,500 kyat; vegetable dishes are 2,500 and whole grilled or steamed fish is 4,000. (They offer a 10% student discount.) It’s clearly a successful formula and with decent coffee to boot it’s a good spot at any time of the day.

A third option close by Dawei Jetty is Chinese Nadih Laine (or Nadi Hline). Decor is cool with plenty of Chinese lanterns and a pleasant eating area though river views aren’t as good as YKKO or Riverview. Food is excellent quality and prices midrange.

Beer snacks at the night market. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Beer snacks at the night market. Photo: Mark Ord

Heading back north on Strand Road, past the Myoma Jetty, you’ll find another couple of very popular Mawlamyine eating spots. Grandmother and Grandfather Restaurant is a simple little cafe, lacking much in the way of decor but with a waterfront location and serving very good Burmese food. A portion of their proceeds go to help the aged. (You’ll sometimes see the name written as Help Grandmother and Grandfather Restaurant.) Proceeds certainly aren’t spent on decoration and it is a bit like eating in a hangar but it’s for a good cause and the food is excellent and inexpensive. Their tea-leaf salad was the best we’d eaten in a long while. Dishes average around 2,000 kyat. No beer served.

Our final recommendation along the Strand is Pon Ngy (or Ngi). It’s on the town side of the road but has a good outdoor seating area nonetheless and is already a firm backpacker fave in town. In the evenings it’s the one restaurant outside of hotel ones where you’ll see more foreigners than locals. It’s convenient for Aurora and Breeze and serves up decent fare at cheap prices. The cheap beer is certainly another attraction. There’s a wide choice of fish, curries and vegetable dishes cooked in either Burmese or Mon styles with prices averaging between 1,500 and 2,000 kyat.

For something a bit different — and not on Strand Road — check out the small Indian cafe Mi Cho just a short way back from Attran off Bogyoke Road. They serve up curries and dahls accompanied by nan or chapattis plus a cracking biryani from early morning onwards. Don’t leave it too late since they often run out by early evening. It’s local style, friendly and tasty and you’ll eat your fill for 2,000-2,500 kyat.

Chillies and thanaka at the Central Market. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Chillies and thanaka at the Central Market. Photo: Mark Ord

Otherwise a few hotel restaurants are worth a mention, such as Cinderella with its very cosy garden area and a choice of Burmese or Western food. Drinks are cheap and they’ve a well-stocked bar but you pay for the service and decor with food prices. As you’d expect local is a much better deal – though it is very much prepared for tourist tastes. The Western options aren’t too bad but aren’t so cheap either. (We paid 8,000 kyat for a pretty good mutton steak with pesto sauce.)

For local specialities – Burmese, Mon and Sino-Burmese – then the best hotel restaurant is probably Attran with its fine wooden decking area directly overlooking the waterfront. Their spicy chicken in black bean sauce is a wonder. Main’s come in at around 4,000 kyat and drink prices are okay, though the bar’s not as well stocked as that of the Strand or Cinderella. Ngwe Moe Hotel’s newly refurbished in-house restaurant looks very good, with a choice of enclosed air-con or terrace seating, though we didn’t have time to check that one ourselves.

Drinks wise you’re spoilt for choice for a waterfront sundowner, with perhaps Attran getting our vote as it gives directly onto the water.

Fried seaweed salad, Kyaikkami. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Fried seaweed salad, Kyaikkami. Photo: Mark Ord

Riverview and YKKO are close runners up. Riverview advertises live bands at weekends. The Strand does have the best stocked bar and would be your best bet for a cocktail and though they do occasionally set up tables outside on their lawn the interior eating and drinking area is uninspired. A drink in Cinderella Hotel’s garden or Pon Gyi’s terrace provide the best opportunities for mingling.

Attran Hotel: Corner of Strand and Bogyoke Rds; T: (057) 25764-5; open daily 17:00-22:00.
Cinderella Hotel: 21 Baho Rd; T: (057) 24411, (057) 24860; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Grandfather and Grandmother Restaurant: Strand Rd; T: (057) 21366, (094) 300 5038; open daily 06:00-22:00.
Mi Cho: Bogyoke Rd; open daily 10:00-21:00.
Mya Than Lwin: Dawei Jetty, Strand Rd; T: (094) 2532 4008; open daily 10:00-22:00.
My City Cafe: Myoma Jetty, Strand Rd; T: (095) 979 1825; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Nadi Hline: Strand Rd, near the Dawei Jetty; T: (057) 21111, (094) 981 0016; open 08:00-23:00.
Night market: Strand Rd, near the Myoma Jetty; open daily 17:00-21:30ish.
Pon Gyi Restaurant: 1B Strand Rd; open daily 09:00-21:00.
River View Restaurant: Myoma Jetty, Strand Rd; T: (097) 9355 1755; open daily 10:00-22:00.
YKKO: Dawei Jetty, Strand Rd; T: (099) 7711 8803-4; open daily 10:00-22:00.

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Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.