An outstanding meal for a good cause
Sok San Street (20m behind X-Bar), Siem Reap
T: (078) 342 404
There are few restaurants in Siem Reap, if any other, where you need to book a couple of days in advance in high season to be sure to get a seat. The well-deserved popularity of Haven Training Restaurant means you need to plan this one in advance and not just rock up if the idea of quality, fairly priced food that’s all for a social cause, sounds appealing. Don’t do as I did and get turned away one low-season lunchtime because the place was completely packed. Lesson learned.
Hungry travellers may descend on Haven but thankfully the compact size of the restaurant means table covers are limited and it retains a sense of intimacy, so even if a small tourist group is shipped in and out you won’t feel like you’ve just been “tour grouped.”
Located in the centre of downtown Siem Reap, Haven is tucked away past X-Bar on Soksan Road. Bamboo encloses the alfresco garden dining area. You can savour local flavours under umbrellas or in the canteen-style seating near the open-view kitchen.
The ambience is welcoming and relaxed. The decor simple, modern and, like the food, unpretentious. The range of options on the menu covers a wide variety of Asian and Western classics – family-friendly and vegetarian-friendly aplenty. Yes, it all tastes good – you’re unlikely to be disappointed. Think consistent, well-presented flavorful dishes as opposed to creatively challenging fine-dining fare – there’s no dress code here, no swanky furnishing, no air-con, nor a heavy price tag. Most main courses cost around the mark of US$5.50.
Relish the food indeed, but even more so the social cause. Supporting disadvantaged young people who have left orphanages or shelters, Haven offers a free one-year training programme which equips the cohort with skills for employment and a better future, providing further support through meals, medical care and a training allowance. Walking across the gravel to the seating area you will pass a small room with the straightforward sign “Classroom”: English and computer lessons are part of the programme.
Service is impressively unobtrusive, though naturally there can be some fluctuation as staff learn the ropes which is easy to forgive. You will likely want to lick your plate clean – and it’s worth noting that quality and ethics are also prioritised with the ingredients sourced.
It’s hard to resist helping when it’s so enjoyable, so you might also like to consider Marum or Tangram Gardens where you can similarly dine for a cause with ambient outdoor dining, especially when it’s full up at Haven.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 28th March, 2015.