Kampot and Kep’s dining and drinking selection is always expanding and consistently delicious. Most of the bars and restaurants are located either on the riverfront (known locally as just ‘the front’), or around the downtown traffic circle. In the evenings, the views across the river provide the perfect setting for a sunset cocktail, and the establishments here serve up some quality fare.
There’s a wide selection of Khmer foods, with seafood in abundance, as well as a host of eateries owned by expats from France, Germany, Australia, England and the US, which has resulted in Kampot earning a reputation for one of the best dining towns in Cambodia. The local market showcases many traditional favourites, with cheap prices and a definite lack of tourists.
Kampot and Kep seem to be in a constant state of flux, and many places change names or owners regularly, but never fear – you won’t have to wander far to find a decent meal. Prices at local stalls start as low as 2,000 riel, while Western-orientated restaurants are naturally more expensive than in other cities, with mains usually running US$4-$15.
In such a small town, all of the restaurants are bars, and all of the bars can be restaurants, so finding a drink is no problem either. In Kep, the options are basically limited to hotels, with just two dedicated restaurant areas, but the dishes are of a temptingly high standard.
Kampot restaurants and dining
Jasmine Restaurant: Offering both Khmer and Western cuisine in a lovely colonial building on the front, with the decor a stunning combination of Khmer artwork and photos in addition to a good selection of reading material. Run by a friendly US-Khmer husband and wife team, the pleasant downtempo music compliments the views. Jasmine’s steaks are revered among the expats, and the WiFi and weekly movies are a nice touch.
Bamboo Light Cafe: A rare find with excellent Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine dished out from a tiny shopfront window in the downtown area. A lovely interior of thatched bamboo huts adds atmosphere, while the house speciality, Sri Lankan Roti strips, is uncommon in these parts. The menu is decent but the proud chef will most likely tell you what is best for you, and she really does know what she is talking about so put your faith in her culinary hands.
Akashi: A true upmarket lunchtime dining establishment, everything here has a touch of class including the decor and the meals such as their signature quiches that include goat cheese, beetroot and walnut or pumpkin, feta and rosemary. Delicious soups served with freshly baked bread, homemade ice cream and gourmet sandwiches are all popular, but local sweet-tooth’s head here for the molten dark chocolate cake.
Sundowners Tavern: One of the newer places in town, just down from Epic Arts Cafe, the Australian owner has plans to turn this place into a kind of boutique bakery with designer pies and pastries trucked down from the capital. Definitely the place for Kiwis or Aussies homesick for a decent pastry fix, there is also a big screen showing rugby, league and AFL games.
Mea Culpa: The best pizzas in town, with its own wood-fired oven, but the selection of appetisers are equally tasty. The ten minute walk is scenic and a warm welcome awaits from the Australian owner.
Rikitikitavi: Definite flashpacker material, with the upstairs dining area the premier sunset spot. Serving up a tasty combination of Western and Asian,their Saraman (Cambodian Beef Curry), Amok Trai (Fresh Fish Curry) are among the best along the coast.
Kep restaurants and dining
Kim Ly: The pick of the places along the strip of local restaurants at the crab market, Kim Ly has been a consistent favourite in Kep. More expensive than its Khmer neighbours, the crab is nonetheless superb.
Breeze’s: Kep’s newest restaurant is located on the road to the Tonsay Pier, and overlooks a pretty garden and the ocean. In addition to the plentiful seafood, there are some more Vietnamese dishes such as duck-breast pancakes and even Korean noodles thanks to the Dutch-Korean owner, who also has a penchant for Jazz. They also offer free pick-up from your hotel.
Kampot and Kep bars and drinking
Along with Battambang, Kampot offers the best fruit shakes in all of Cambodia thanks to the verdant surroundings and plentiful water supply. Stalls set up at dusk along the riverfront (though the selection drops a little in the rainy season). The expat community is considerably more gentrified than those in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, meaning the drinks and service are top notch. In Kep, there are no truly dedicated bars, as all the hotel and guesthouse accommodations have their own in-house watering holes. Veranda Natural Resort and Vanna Bungalows have the best views, the widest cocktail lists and the best reputation among travellers.
Bar-Red: Just off the front sits this Welsh – Khmer run establishment that calls itself a brothel-cum-opium den without the prostitution or drugs. One of the latest opening bars, they also have a tasty range of late-night snacks and even guesthouse rooms. This is also the home of The Kampot Survival Guide, one of the best and most hilarious publications in Asia – grab a copy, a drink and a chat. Grubby backpackers reportedly shot on sight.
What’s Hot in Kampot: A chic wine bar that also does breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can also organise private, off the beaten path tours here. Inside the store in a clothing and music shop for the travelling iPod generation.
WunderBar: Long time Kampot favourite, this stylish bar its pleasant garden area plays good tunes and has a decent selection of local and international snacks. They also have one of the best selections of imported beers and whip up some classy cocktails. Very popular at night, thanks to the new pool competition on Thursdays and Saturdays (US$2 entry), along with darts and chess games, WunderBar is a good traveller’s meeting spot, especially among Swiss and German travellers.