Some visitors may choose to play it safe by sticking to the well-known restaurants and bars of Pub Street, but we encourage you to venture out and explore the many charming lanes and alleyways of Temple Town.
Siem Reap is so, so, sooooo much more than Pub Street. The much-neglected streets that immediately border it are sometimes spookily empty while the party hub is heaving.
We’re going to start off on Alley West, because that’s where Gelato Lab is. Everything should start there, seriously. The ice creams and sorbets are as good as anything you’ll find in Italy, and we’re not just saying that. The owner has dedicated himself to his art like nothing you can imagine, and has been trained by the world’s Master craftsman. They also roast their own coffee.
Suitably sweetened and caffeinated, you can start to tackle the rest of the alley. This has long been the loveliest lane in Siem Reap, with its pretty shop fronts and pedestrian area. Here you’ll find one of town’s most sociable bars, Picasso, cleverly designed with a horseshoe-shaped bar so that even the most shrinking violet will soon find themselves immersed in conversations being held across it, often with the able assistance of the amiable bartenders. The Ten Bells a couple of doors down is a very cool spot with a clubby vibe, live cool music, and a great menu including oysters, Champagne and some knockout cocktails.
The Purple Mangosteen is a boutique hotel with six stylish rooms, some elegant archetectural characteristics, and a roof terrace affording exceptional views over the city centre.
Bambou Indochine, and their sister store Rêveries du Mékong down along The Passage, will make sure you’re best dressed for the occasion, with their range of light and breezy clothing, much of it made from bamboo cotton. Meanwhile, you can pick up some finely crafted homewares at Khmer Ceramics.
The Passage, straight across the road from Alley West and parallel with Pub Street, is where you’ll find a slew of shops, bars and restaurants. Check out Amok, Champey, Cambodian BBQ and The Original Khmer BBQ for some delicious takes on Cambodian cuisine, each in its own unique way, while Chamkar is Siem Reap’s favourite vegetarian restaurant.
Once you’ve eaten, you can pop in to Garden of Desire for a look at Ly Pisith’s stunning silver and semiprecious stone creations. His work is very meditative, not just because its lovely, but also because of the huge amount of thought he has put into each work.
Crossing over to the other side, The Lane is a lively little spot with a gentle mix of shops, bars and restaurants that are a world, a galaxy, away from Pub Street’s bawdy offerings. This is where you’ll find Il Forno. In a very sweet little space, they knock out the most delicious wood-fired pizzas, pastas (including homemade), and primi that you’ll find in Siem Reap. All recipes are based on those of owner Ed’s 94-year-old grandmother, who in his words is still “rocking her kitchen back in Italy”. All the ingredients, except for produce, are sourced from the grandmotherland. There are also some excellent and more experimental weekly specials to watch out for.
Things take a French turn at La Creperie Bretonne, which serves up Brittany’s second-favourite export (the first being salty butter – whatever you do, don’t tell them we already knew). The buckwheat galettes are as nutty and full of flavour as you could hope for, while the crepes are sweet and savoury, and hugely popular with roamers looking for a quick bite or completely hanging with hunger.
Just across from there, Yellow Sub is a cool hang-out, literally, as it’s one of the only bars in Siem Reap with air-con. There’s a pool table upstairs and a long line of expat Beatlemaniacs at the bar down below. There’s even a rooftop bar for breezier evenings.
Numerous arguments have broken out over which is the best Indian restaurant in Siem Reap, with each establishment fiercely defended by its favoured patrons. One name that keeps coming up is Dakshin’s, renowned for its more classical takes on Indian cuisine. The deliciously hot and spicy food is tempered by the air-con.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities on The Lane as well. Blush Boutique is home to a sweet blend of clothing, cosmetics, jewellery, and accessories, much of it made in Cambodia. And look, there’s Yellow Sub – don’t tell us it’s not time for another quick drink!