Food with a view of sorts
While some might argue that a large bowl of glistening French fries is the best accompaniment to any dish, sometimes it doesn’t quite do the trick. In fact, what might work best is simply a better view, and this can be hard to come by in Siem Reap.
The colour green is said to create feelings of comfort, laziness, relaxation and calm. And what could possibly make everything taste better than that? There are a couple of restaurants in town that are set in gardens, helping you to get away from the hustle and crowds, and perhaps soothing your fevered brow as you browse the menu.
My favourite is the RiverGarden Hotel, which also has a great restaurant. Set in the north of town, the temperature has already dropped along the leafy riverside road that takes you to the front gates. Once inside, the path takes you back towards a small pool area surrounded by trees, plants and flowers. You’ll find a swing, day beds, a massage booth and, of course, dining tables here perfect for spending a quiet day, not just a meal. Use of the pool is free to diners and drinkers. The menu is a mix of Khmer and Western fare and is mid-priced.
Back in town, Peace Cafe just off Wat Bo Road is one of the longer running restaurants in town and is set in a large, peaceful garden. The vegetarian restaurant also features a community centre, fair-trade shop, yoga centre and all kinds of activities from time to time, including weekly monk chats and, for example, permaculture courses. Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices are a big draw here, vegan options are available and the menu is very reasonably priced.
Out of the other side of town, Jungle Junction is a garden with a difference. Especially if you’re six. This is a great spot for kids, and their parents. A huge garden is filled with adventure frames, trampoline, games, and even a bouncy castle, while indoors you can find a play room, cinema, karaoke room and a full-service restaurant and bar. They have WiFi too, so parents can catch up on work or friends while their children run themselves into a coma. The menu is a mix of Western and Khmer and their food has received excellent reviews, especially the burgers.
I’m going to include this one only because I’m addicted to them, and it’s sort of a garden, kind of. Haven is a training restaurant for Khmer young adults who are making a transition from institutional care to independence. This year they have three students learning how to cook in their kitchen, and one who’s learning front of house skills. Their garden is more of a stone garden (though it’s far from a concrete jungle!). It is outside, on gravel, with carefully planned and tended flower beds on the side. It’s not busting with greenery as, for example, RiverGarden and the Peace Cafe are, but it does offer its own solaces. Haven’s food, atmosphere, responsiveness and general air of relaxed care combine to make this place stand out for me, and it’s a real pleasure to take time out, enjoy a coffee and just relax here.
Last but not least, Cafe Moi Moi is a hidden away little gem in the north of town, as you’re heading towards the toll-booths for entry to the Angkor Park. It’s a small Japanese and Khmer restaurant set around a little sort of courtyard garden that you could cheerfully spend hours in, chasing butterflies, and spotting skinks and lizards and funny looking beetles that look like they’ve got their own pom-poms. The food here is good, and mid-priced.
Incidentally, green is also said to be good for your heart, so you can probably order that portion of French fries anyway.
113 Mondule 111, Phoum Treang, Khum Slorkrum
T: (063) 963 400
T: (089) 351 571
Peace Cafe Angkor
Street 26 (off River Road)
T: (063) 965 210 / (092) 177 127
High School Road
T: (010) 527 568
Sok San Street (20m past the X-Bar, on the right)
T: (078) 342 404
Cafe Moi Moi
General Oung Oeng Park,
Off Charles De Gaulle Avenue (Road to Angkor Wat)
T: (092) 255 563 / (012) 627 277
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Siem Reap