Scribble down a shortlist of South East Asia’s great culinary hubs and I doubt many people would find a spot for the Cambodian city of Siem Reap. However, in recent years this dusty little place has really put itself on the map! As the gateway to the world-famous Angkor Temples, Siem Reap caters to the tastes of international tourists. Consequently, a sizeable ex-pat crowd has settled here. Moreover, they are the very people who lead the way, with a glut of highly inventive, atmospheric and wallet-friendly cafes and restaurants. Dig a little beyond the uninspiring Pub Street and one can unearth some truly world-class joints. Luckily, I’ve done the aforementioned digging for you. Thus all you need to do is sit back, put your feet up and join me for a look at my Top 10 of the best cafes and restaurants in Siem Reap (in no particular order)…
Wild Creative Bar and Eatery – gourmet spring rolls hoisted to your treehouse table!
Have you ever been to a restaurant where your dinner gets pulleyed up through the branches of the treehouse you’re sitting in? Neither had I… until that is I went to eat at Wild Bar! Set in yet another deep-green Khmer jungle garden, this mind-boggling restaurant is immense fun!
Similarly wacky, is the fact that Wild Bar’s menu focuses mostly on spring rolls! But boy oh boy are these the best spring rolls you’re ever likely to taste. They come in a tantalising array of flavours. Take Wild Wild West for example, stuffed full of beef, cheddar, caramelised onions and pickles. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, how about Taco Loco, a winning mix of chicken, bell peppers, tomatoes, cheese and Mexican spices. I loved Wild’s spring rolls so much, I ended up ordering an absolute feast that evening!
Wild Bar’s French owners, Lorraine & Renaud, have done a sterling job building up their restaurant into one of Siem Reap’s must-visit dining spots. The young couple at this fantastic Siem Reap cafe is also deeply involved in the community. For example, they insist on supporting local businesses in the sourcing of fresh, organic ingredients. They pay their loyal team generous salaries and provide both health insurance and holiday pay. Wild Bar gives financial support to a local primary school near Bayon Temple! Consequently, dinner here directly benefits the local children and families of Siem Reap! Amen to that.
The Village Cafe – channeling the spirit of 1930s New York and easily one of the best places to eat in Siem Reap
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to breakfast I’m always looking for a cafe with a sleepy vibe. Somewhere I can really chill out. I need time to fully wake up, check-in with the morning news, maybe do some writing. In these respects, I knew I’d found a lifelong friend the moment I walked into the gorgeous Village Cafe. Chic, 1930s decor? Check! Louis Armstrong drifting across the airwaves? Uh, huh. Freshly brewed coffee served in a beautiful French Press? You know it!
Furthermore, the food is top-notch at this top Siem Reap eatery, no matter what you opt for. With western and Khmer dishes abound, there’s certainly enough here to suit all tastes. My morning staple is the poached eggs and crispy bacon with avocado on sourdough. Alternatively, I might go for the continental platter, featuring chopped watermelon, a chocolate croissant, orange juice, yogurt, toast and jam. For afternoon and evening visits, there are salads, steaks, curries, burgers and more. In the evenings The Village is transformed, with live music, movie screenings and some mean cocktail mixing.
The Village Cafe is the creation of Stewart ‘Strangefruit’ Kidd, a down to earth Glaswegian with a background in art and design. His artistic touches are all over the cafe, from the framed paintings and the gallery upstairs to the simply amazing toilets. Surely the only place in the world where you can do your business to the sound of Alan Whicker waxing lyrical about his early visits to Hong Kong.
Krousar Cafe – a place to be yourself and one of the top cafes in Siem Reap
My award for best all-rounder goes to the wonderful Krousar Cafe, located in Siem Reap’s hip Salakamreuk neighbourhood. This Australian owned eatery never lets me down, whether I drop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are literally so many cherished dishes here, I hardly know where to begin. For breakfast, I might plump for a cheese and tomato toastie, a chocolate muffin, a fresh pineapple juice and a creamy flat white. They also do an awesome bacon, eggs, toast and baked beans for just $4.
For dinner, it’s usually a toss-up between their cottage pie and fried chicken & rice with green mango salad. With a motto that proudly states “We are family!”, Krousar Cafe puts a huge emphasis on a friendly, all-inclusive atmosphere. They cater to vegetarians, vegans and are paleo and keto-friendly. Everything here is recycled and they say no to plastic! Above all, Krousar is committed to supporting the city’s LGBTIQ community through their own NGO, APTBY (A Place To Be Yourself).
A visit to Krousar Cafe always makes me smile. There’s air-con inside for those wanting to escape the often fearsome heat. Or you can settle down outside, in the courtyard garden. The Wifi is great for working and I love their colourful, beautifully designed crockery. In fact, Krousar owner Jason and his partner spent over three years collecting cups and saucers! Easily one of the best places to chow down in Siem Reap!
Joe Bar – great value British grub with…motorbikes!
As a Brit living abroad, I have often found solace hiding out in places that serve up an authentic taste of home. Somewhere that offers a bit of comfort in the form of traditional British dishes. In Siem Reap, my favourite such place is the excellent Joe Bar Garage and Grill! The joint is owned by an incredibly hardworking couple, Chris from Scotland, and Jully, a local Siem Reaper.
The ever-cheerful Jully takes care of the cooking and it would be an understatement to say that she can turn her hand to anything! Having managed an Irish bar and spent eight years in Malaysia mastering Asian cuisine, Joe Bar has one of the most impressive cooks in the city. Our favourites? Well, if we’re talking British, I love their bangers & mash. They also do a grand Sunday roast from time to time. Elsewhere, Jully is famed for her macaroni cheese, homemade beef burgers and Irish stew. Not to mention her delicious Khmer curries that come with a tangy Malay twist.
With many of Joe Bar’s meals coming in at $5 or under, this is one of the best value restaurants in Siem Reap. Especially when you consider that all mains come with a free iced glass of Cambodia Beer! What’s more, their jungle garden is such a peaceful spot to hang out. You can watch Smoky the cat mooching about between the trees, or observe Chris and one of his mechanics tinkering with a motorbike. Actually, the bikes are a key part of the business! Hence you’ll often see someone drop their machine in for servicing, before promptly ordering the honey sesame chicken. I mean, why wouldn’t you? I loved this fantastic and quirky Siem Reap restaurant and I’m sure you will too!
Ivy Guesthouse & Restaurant – a veritable slab of Siem Reap history from one of Cambodia’s most inspirational women
Fancy trying some fantastic food in a divine Seim Reap restaurant simply oozing local history? Then why not swing by Ivy Guesthouse and Restaurant in Kandal Village. A visit here is all about paying tribute to the wonderful Som Sovannary, a local woman known simply as Vann to her friends. As one of the most celebrated chefs in town, Vann is equally at home with Western and Khmer cuisine. She is also the author of a brilliant and beautiful cookbook, Vann’s Shared Secrets.
I can personally vouch for the grilled duck breast, with garlic, mushrooms and sailor’s potatoes. It comes served in the most delicious sweet onion balsamic sauce. Her crispy pork chop with mashed potato isn’t too shabby either! This one comes drenched in a creamy mushroom sauce!
Dating back to 1999, The Ivy is Siem Reap’s first budget guesthouse for expats and foreign tourists. Back in the day, the Tomb Raider construction crew used to come here for late-night drinks and bleary, hangover lunches. Even Angelina Jolie herself popped in one evening! Stroll around The Ivy’s large courtyard and you’ll see tributes to Vann’s late husband Karl. And none other than Pol Pot’s toilet seat framed on the back wall! Vann’s story is a sad and touching one, for a deeper look at this inspirational woman and The Ivy, have a read of this cool article.
Georges Restaurant and Rum Distillery French fusion food and home-distilled rum from the tiny island of Réunion
Even by Siem Reap standards, Georges Restaurant offers particularly impressive dining with a unique twist. This French fusion bistro is the full-time passion of the Fevrier family, who hail from Réunion, an island situated between Madagascar and Mauritius. The idea is to offer beloved family recipes, stunning cocktails and lovingly crafted homemade rum in a lush garden setting.
Arguably the best meal I’ve had in Siem Reap, Georges is a restaurant where you can really treat yourself, without having to pay an arm and a leg. Start off with a couple of appetisers. I’d go for the goat cheese bruschetta and a plate of sliced French baguette with melted Reblochon Cheese. They come with three cutesy pots of homemade jam. For your main, perhaps the homemade craft sausages with bacon and mash. Or the melt-in-your-mouth pacific dory fillet, complimented by tomatoes, rice, Kaffir lime and mixed spices. Got room for dessert? It’s got to be the gooey caramel samosas with a generous serving of ricotta ice cream.
Think you’re not really into rum? Hm, you might want to reassess! If you’re even a little curious, I’d suggest the Rum Experience in the onsite Distillery & Showroom. You can learn about the history of rum and how Georges produces its own creative flavours using local, organic sugarcane. Trying their 12-shot platter is an absolute must! My favourites? It’s a tricky one, but I’d whittle it down to a top 3 of coffee, caramel and cinnamon. As if all of this isn’t enough, the magic of Georges also comes down to its many unexpected surprises. A needy cat called Cheese, a Khmer cocktail mixer by the name of Tom Cruise and an edible flower, The Electric Daisy, that will send your taste buds into overdrive!
Dakshin’s Restaurant – sublime, award-winning Indian food
Siem Reap has plenty of restaurants claiming to knock out the best curries in town. But if like me you take your Indian food seriously, you probably want to cut to the chase and dine at the best. Enter Dakshin’s Restaurant, from the award-winning Singaporean restaurateur Mr. B Pannirselvam.
Pannir, as he prefers to be known, built up his reputation from humble beginnings. Having started out in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, he eventually settled in Siem Reap and launched Dakshin’s. Before long, his delectable range of northern and southern curries saw him scoop TripAdvisor’s Best Restaurant in Siem Reap award. Even Lonely Planet has given Dakshin’s dishes a resounding thumbs up!
I’ve eaten at Dakshin’s on a handful of occasions. My dream lineup? After your complimentary poppadoms and a starter of vegetable samosas, I’d combine a creamy butter chicken and an earthy bhindi okra masala. With garlic naan and a saffron-infused biriyani, naturally! The food is just outstanding! And no wonder, as Pannir goes to great lengths to scour India for “the right chefs, with the right attitude”. Admitting he is “not an easy guy to work with”, Dakshin’s perfectionist owner says it’s imperative that his cooks put their hearts and souls into their creations.
Bayon Pastry School – a good cake for a good cause!
If coffee and a sweet bite is your thing, look no further than Bayon Pastry School! Located in… yes, you guessed it… another peaceful garden in the heart of Siem Reap, this is a wonderful place to come for your caffeine fix. And a big old wedge of cake!
Managed in partnership with the NGO Bayon School, their food and drink sales go directly to training underprivileged local women in the art of baking and hospitality. Safe in the knowledge that your hard-earned cash is going to a good cause, it feels extra special to be sipping on that latte and diving into one of their lemon meringue pies.
Bayon Pastry School is a great place to read, work, study, or just enjoy some much-needed quiet time away from the pesky tuk tuk drivers. For those wanting to improve their kitchen skills, the school also holds cooking classes! It’s such a modest little place in many ways, and yet it has also played host to the British celebrity chef Nadiya Hussein. She came here as part of her Cambodian journey of self-discovery in the TV series Nadiya’s Asian Odyssey.
The Little Red Fox – hands down the best coffee in Siem Reap!
Oh Little Red Fox, where would I be without you? On those all-important days where nothing but the absolute best will do, this is where coffee lovers flock from all over the city. Australian owners Adam Rodwell and David Stirling have really nailed it with their coffee. Using five different styles of brewing techniques and three types of coffee beans and blends, no matter what you go for, you’re gonna be in heaven!
We’ve tried a decent chunk of the menu, from their rousing flat whites and wondrous coconut & cinnamon mochas, to a more risqué hipster latte or two. I’m talking pink beetroot, blue butterfly flower and yellow turmeric & pepper. Rest assured, it’s also a cool place to hang for a while thanks to an eclectic mix of music, fascinating Cambodian pop art and impeccable service from the team of Khmer staff.
A popular breakfast spot, The Little Red Fox also has some phenomenal food on offer. My favourite is their giant breakfast bagel, a towering beast of a thing packed with bacon, cream cheese, free-range eggs (fried or scrambled), sliced green olives and cheddar cheese. Should you be so inclined, one can add extra bacon and spinach!
Wine O’ Clock – for lovers of wine, cheese, artisan sandwiches and more
“What’s the time Mr. Wolf?” “It’s Wine O’ Clock!” Actually it’s always Wine O’ Clock in Siem Reap, because this excellent restaurant, cafe, bar and deli counter is open 24/7 for visits and home deliveries.
As its name suggests, they have an absolutely massive collection of wine. Despite this, Wine O’ Clock isn’t the kind of place where you’re expected to pay silly money for a bottle of something vintage and unpronounceable. In fact, Bahraini owner Reyes is keen to point out that his place is a wine cafe, not a wine bar. As a result, there is a strict motto of “no snobs allowed!”
As someone who doesn’t care all that much about wine, I come here purely for the food. I’m particularly fond of their epic baguettes, which literally overflow with fillings. On the classic front, there’s cheese, ham and salami. Or maybe you’d prefer a delightfully rich egg mayonnaise. Feeling like something more exotic? Try the smoked chicken with squashed avocado and sliced mango, it might just blow your mind. Not bothered about sandwiches? No worries, they also do amazing cheese, meat and keto platters, along with salads, omelettes, croissants, muesli and way too much more to fit into this article.
These are my top 10 cafes and restaurants in Siem Reap. This is a rapidly evolving city, with many new places opening and closing in the blink of an eye. There are so many talented people here putting their hearts and souls into the city’s food and drink scene. Wherever you go and whatever you try, there’s a good chance you’re going to strike gold!