As with its accommodation options, tiny Takeo has a decent choice of eateries including local-style restaurants, a couple of excellent coffee shops offering international and Khmer choices, some reliable hotel food and fine French dining at Le Petit Bistro.
The trend among the town’s hotels and guesthouses is not to include breakfast but both Daunkeo Guesthouse and Alice Villa have good in-house restaurants offering a range of inexpensive Western and local breakfasts. Daunkeo’s air-con dining room is smart with solid furniture and cotton napkins, though it somewhat lacks character. They do have a couple of tables outside where you could grab a morning coffee. Just around the corner, Alice Villa’s open plan, wooden-decked restaurant set in their lush garden is a delightful spot.
Both of the centrally located coffee shops, Delikes and Friend Coffee, open early for breakfast serving decent brews and fresh juices to accompany their simple but good fried rice or noodle dishes. Friend Coffee is set in a well-restored colonial period building and offers an interior air-con room as well as terrace tables. It has free WiFi plus an extensive English-language menu. It wouldn’t be out of place in certain parts of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, though nearby Delikes, with similar offerings but lacking the air-con and fancy menu, is perhaps the choice for the price conscious. Very good hot or iced coffees go for less than a dollar, juices or shakes for $1 and fried rice options are $2. Their bakery offerings include sandwiches and donuts. Both are fine spots and equally good for breakfast, lunch or just an afternoon break—Delikes does ice creams.
If you want a plusher setting to start the day, Le Petit Bistro De Takeo opens for breakfasts of good coffee, eggs, bacon and house-made bread at very reasonable rates. Towards the other end of the spectrum the seriously grungy local market, Phsar Nat, which offers the usual baguettes and noodles. The market is probably the most rundown one of any provincial town we’ve seen (and that includes Stung Treng), and not the place to risk an iced coffee, but the food is okay and of course cheap.
Any of the above make for good lunch options too, though we wouldn’t push Phsar Nat’s offerings much past midday. Delike’s beef lok lak with fried rice is very good at $3 or a huge quiche Lorraine and salad at Le Petit Bistro will keep you going all day for $5. Friend has a wide range of rice dishes including vegetarian options for $1.50 to $3.50 though when we visited over half of the items on their extensive menu were unavailable.
If you want to try somewhere with a more local feel, then Stoeng Takeo Restaurant is a popular choice. It’s a sprawling, ramshackle wooden affair on stilts on the eastern waterfront road and affords good views of the boat jetty and wetlands. Their coffee was rough stuff so we wouldn’t advise breakfasting here but the wide range of local dishes is fine for lunch. The emphasis is on seafood, including local freshwater prawns and ‘lobsters’ which you’ll see in tanks all along the waterfront road. (They are technically langoustines, a kind of giant prawn with claws.) They don’t come cheap though and are listed on the restaurant menu at $15 and up, but regular prawn or fish soups, of which they offer several varieties, are very good and go for $3 to $5 for small or large servings. We ordered a small local-style tom yam which was very good and easily enough for two.
If you have time to spare, don’t mind a simple lunch and fancy cooling down, you could head out of town 3 or 4 kilometres to S & K Guesthouse, where you can choose between fried rice, fried noodles or spring rolls at around $2.50 a throw and make use of their Olympic-sized swimming pool. We didn’t try their food but pleasant salas set around the huge pool and cold drinks make for a fine cooling-off spot. It can get very busy with local families at weekends and residents did point out the pool cleaning schedule sometimes left a bit to be desired but if you want to give it a try a tuk tuk shouldn’t cost more than $2 each way.
At the end of the day you’re again spoilt for choice in Takeo. Grab a waterside table and cold one at Stoeng Takeo or wander along to Le Petit Bistro where a bar menu includes several brands of beer, Ricard or a gin and tonic. An extensive night market sets up late afternoon along the waterfront road opposite Roka Khnong Lake. Popular with locals, there’s plenty of the usual grilled fare and cold cans with chairs and tables laid out on the footpath facing the water.
Friend and Delike also offer cold beer and Daunkeo Guesthouse even has a couple of cocktails. Alice Villa’s smart eating area comes with a full bar menu but you do pay more for the privilege. Mains on their Khmer/Vietnamese menu go for between $5 and $8. Stoeng or Le Petit Bistro also make for good dinner options. Stoeng Takeo is, as we said, very much local style and though little or no English is spoken they do have an English-language menu. Le Petit Bistro has a chalk board showing the day’s specials and, if you consider the quality, and compare to similar French restaurants in for example Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, then it is exceptional value for money. An enormous and perfectly prepared plate of duck breast in pepper sauce with sautéed potatoes, grilled aubergine and a bottle of Cotes De Rhone came to just over $20. Who’d have thought it: fine dining in Takeo!
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.