Photo: Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem.

Eat and meet

There are no discrete restaurants on Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach or Sunset Beach, but virtually every guesthouse has its own restaurant. On M’Pai Bei, you’ll find restaurants and bars attached to all the guest houses as well, with the addition of a couple of local restaurants, and a pizzeria.

The prime dining destination on the island has to be Lazy Beach, whose food has been stirring up envy among the expat community in Phnom Penh for years. We tucked into a delicious -- seriously generous -- portion of fresh fish topped with a crunchy, tangy mix of sliced lemon and chives ($8), with sides of a fried mashed potato cake (be still our beating hearts) and green beans. We were aiming for dessert, but there was no room left. So we went back again, and didn’t regret it in the slightest.

Excellent all-round dining at Lazy Beach.

Excellent all-round dining at Lazy Beach. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

The menu features a wide range of Khmer and Asian dishes, with a real tilt towards comfort food. The walk through to Lazy Beach is a lovely way of walking it off if you happen to be staying on Saracen Bay.

On Saracen Bay, we were all kinds of thrilled to find an Italian restaurant at Cita serving house-made pasta ($9), as well as a good selection of penne and spaghetti dishes ($5.50-$8), frittatas, bruschetta, and more, all of which looked divinely fresh. This was a lovely spot towards the southern end of the beach (just above the last pier). The owners were very helpful, too.

The pasta at Cita: Recommended.

The pasta at Cita: Recommended. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

We almost had to be dragged out of Secret Paradise with our nails embedded in the bar. Definitely one of the smarter venues on the beach, there is nonetheless an addictively relaxed atmosphere, engendered in large part by the South African/Polish management team who managed to mix affability with professionalism, as well as life-enhancing margaritas. The Khmer curry that we enjoyed here was rich, packed full of vegetables, and tremendous value whatever we paid for it -- blame those margaritas. They also had an impressive whisky list. The menu includes exotica such as Turkish borek (a triple-layered tortilla baked with cheddar cheese and vegetables, $6.50), Mexican chicken or fish served with avocado salsa and fried rice with beans ($7). We can’t believe we only just spotted the chocolate coffee cheesecake ($4) on the dessert list. We didn’t dine there on our last trip, but former Travelfish forays to Sunset Bungalows, which serves up a mixed Khmer and French menu in a restaurant with 270 degree views of the sea, induced satisfied reports.

Reputedly fine pizzas on offer at Blue Quay.

Reputedly fine pizzas on offer at Blue Quay. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

We didn’t make it to Moonlight’s restaurant Blue Moon, though managed to eavesdrop on a conversation where one very happy customer raved about the pizzas ("beautiful, thin and crispy crust"), and we also failed to get to The One’s very sweet, neo-Mediterranean venue, where you’ll find things like Cambodian noodle soup and tom kha gai (both $6), more pizzas ($8.50), burgers, pasta, salads and sandwiches ($7.50 - $9).

We had breakfast at The Beach Resort one morning, and found this to be the most together at the more affordable end of the market. Like everything else at The Beach Resort, the bar and restaurant is beautifully put together. In fact, they were substantially better than many who would purport to occupy the mid to upper levels.

We had several mishaps on Saracen Bay with deeply irritating, don’t-give-a-damn staff, barely willing to acknowledge your existence and not afraid to huff at it or blank it out entirely, serving up mediocre offerings at grossly inflated prices. While we undoubtedly missed out another couple of stars, we hope you won’t go similarly wrong with the above.

The top-notch build-it-yourself burger at The Drift.

The top-notch build-it-yourself burger at The Drift. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

On M’Pai Bei, we were surprised to find ourselves surrounded by a wealth of options. We loved the build your own burger at The Drift ($4.50), were seriously impressed by the generosity of the pizza at Blue Quay (though clearly still in its experimental stages when we visited) and we adored the welcome at Dragonfly, while dying to go back so we could enjoy that stellar view over a sunset and a drink or two.

Come here for the sushi.

Come here for the sushi. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

In the village, there are two local restaurants facing one another. We had an ample, well-prepared breakfast at Kiki’s (on the shore-side, where all the prices are $2 because the sign-maker apparently had other things to do), but we were told by several that the better restaurant is Mom’s, on the land-side. The Indian curry night at Easy Tiger looks like a thing not to be missed. And sushi fans should head down to EcoSea, where they’ll find a beautiful, breezy restaurant right on the beach, and plenty more to chose from, including a nightly barbecue.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Koh Rong Samloem? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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