The title of this post is a bit of misnomer: it should be places to eat in Toul Tom Poung. (However, that wasn’t quite as alliterative.) This is the area where I spend most of my life. It’s home to the Russian Market and many, many, many western-style cafes and restaurants.
Most travellers’ criteria for whether to rate a cafe or restaurant highly is primarily based on the food, drink and service. These are, of course, a factor. However there are other criteria I use to decide where to go. This depends on how whether I need the internet, how sweaty I am or, to put it delicately, how well I feel. So, WiFi, air-con and bathroom facilities all play an important part. (I have been known to move from cafe to cafe in search of different requirements.)
I’ll start with my favourite three.
Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay is probably my favourite haunt, but this is due to familiarity and that I know the staff. It’s actually become a joke with my Khmer teachers. They ask me what I’m doing after my lesson, and I always tell them I’m going to Jars of Clay (regardless of whether I am or not).
It’s relatively cool and the air-con is better upstairs. However, I tend to stay downstairs. This is mainly because I like people watching, and you can see those coming in and out as well as watch those passing on the street. The other reason I tend to go downstairs is that the slight change in altitude seems to affect the flavour of the iced tea and coffee. I like mine very sweet and whoever makes it downstairs adds more sugar.
The WiFi can be a bit intermittent, especially, it seems, in the afternoon.
There are two bathrooms, which are both satisfactory. However, they can be a bit stuffy, so if things have taken an unpleasant turn, then it can be a bit tortuous. (Come on guys, this is part and parcel of travelling: stop being squeamish.)
After that, you will want to know about the food. There’s a good range and the breakfast food is generally really good. There is a mix of western style food (including pie) and Khmer dishes.
Jars of Clay gives employment to women as well as giving profits to charity helping women that have been victims of trafficking. See their facebook page for more information.
Jars of Clay is usually closed for public holidays.
Joma is a Thai chain of coffee shops. There are three in Phnom Penh and it’s quite popular, especially with expats. I’ve often been in there and forgotten I’m in South-East Asia (which often results in bizarre feelings of being out-of-place and frustration).
The main reason I go to Joma is for the chicken pesto sandwich. I’m not going to lie; sometimes I wake up in the night thinking about the chicken pesto sandwich. It has olives and cheese and pesto and mayonnaise. For another $2, you can add a side salad.
The WiFi is usually quite good and the air-con is brilliant (if not sometimes over-enthusiastic).
However, Joma does tend to be a bit expensive. But, the chicken pesto sandwich is worth it.
Also, Joma puts its profit back into charitable giving. Read more about it on their website.
It’s open usually during public holidays, but with reduced hours.
Xotique Coffee and Bakery
It’s nice, if not a bit generic. The food is relatively good (although sometimes on the small side) but there’s a god range. The price is also similar to Joma.
However, the WiFi is really good (it’s what I’m currently uploading this post on). The seats are quite comfortable, there are plenty of plugs for laptop/phone chargers. It’s all pretty good. You’ll mostly see Khmer and westerners on their laptops not talking to anyone.
The other thing that it has in its favour is nice bathroom facilities. They’re quite roomy and airy and feel more private than the ones in Jars or Joma. Sometimes you do have to wait, but if you know that’s going to be a problem then just don’t leave the house/hotel room. Come on guys.
I’m currently here, trapped by torrential rain. I only wanted one caramel frappe but so far have had the frappe, chai tea latte, a cheese and ham croissant and now about to have a Reuben sandwich. With the way the weather is going, I might just book myself a room.