Siem Reap is so much more than Angkor Wat and Pub Street. It’s a vibrant, bustling city with charming colonial influences, tiny alleys filled with shops and restaurants that feel like secret treasures, and canals that wind through it all.
It’s when you step beyond the most traveled streets that you’ll discover the places that locals hang out. One of those is Kandal Village, a small road closed to cars in the Old French Quarter. This street is the epicenter of the city’s up-and-coming artists, chefs, and designers.
It’s been called a “design destination” by Conde Nast Traveller and one the city’s “coolest mini ‘hoods” by The New York Times.
Kandal sounds the same as the word “candle”, but it actually means “middle” in the local language and, when you arrive here, you’ll find yourself in the middle of dozens of cafes, stores, spas, and art galleries that locals say are changing and improving all the time.
One place that acts as a constant in the bustling district is also the first place locals recommend: The Little Red Fox Espresso.
As a friend of a friend said, “There are other coffee places in town, sure, but…”
We hunkered down on the second floor of the vintage shophouse on a sunny Saturday morning to see what they had to offer.
Owned by Aussie expat Adam Rodwell, the cafe serves what is often agreed upon as the best cup of joe in Siem Reap — and it didn’t disappoint.
We started with coffee. The Americano (US$2.75) was strong, hot, and bold with a slight tang. Still half asleep, we mistook the small vanilla cookie placed on the spoon for a lump of rock sugar and dumped it in the coffee cup. Oops. The sugar is actually on the table. The cookie still tasted nice though.
The cafe serves up all the standard coffee and tea drinks, plus specialties like a charcoal latte, turmeric latte, a coconut and cinnamon mocha, and siphon coffee, which is made with a vapor pressure vacuum, served black, meant to be shared by two people — and as the menu says, “not for the faint-hearted.”
The cafe also serves beer and cocktails and has a second-floor balcony that overlooks the busy, artsy alley below and has live music on Sunday afternoons.
There’s a food menu too.
We tried char sluk bah (US$4.25), two slices of homemade brown bread topped with local sluk bah (a type of spinach), sauteed chickpeas, and garlic. The dish is sprinkled with feta and makes for a flavorful, quick, and healthy meal.
We also ordered the honey roasted pumpkin bagel (US$4.50), a poppy seed bagel with slow-roasted honey pumpkin slices, lettuce, carrot, tomato, and roasted beetroot hummus dressing. If you like your food saucy (which we do) they serve it with a cup of homemade mango chutney, which we unceremoniously dumped over the delicious, if messy, sandwich.
Other interesting menu items included pesto on toast made with a local coriander called girona, sweet potato toast, and the classic Indonesian dish gado gado.
As we deposited ourselves back onto the busy street after our stop, the food and coffee left us with plenty of energy for exploring the street’s other offerings, including sustainable fashion shop Soieries Du Mekong, artisanal beauty and bath product outlet Saarti, and Khmer street food restaurant Baktouk Food House.
Note: Many of the businesses in Kandal Village are only open Thursday through Sunday since this is considered something of a weekend destination.
Header photo: The Little Red Fox Espresso/Facebook. All others: Coconuts Media
The Little Red Fox Espresso
593 Hup Guan St.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Open: Thursday-Sunday, 7am-5pm