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Travel Report: Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Tertulia Restaurant Where to Eat and Drink in Kampot

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

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July 2020. It was our first night in the Cambodian city of Kampot and Sladja and I were strolling though the old town. Following the success of our guide on Where to Eat and Drink in Siem Reap, we couldn’t help but wonder if Kampot’s culinary landscape would hold its own.

As if in answer, we soon came upon Tertulia Restaurant, a Portuguese eatery housed in a magnificent old French colonial building. Strolling inside under the thick stone columns, we found ourselves greeted by Miguel, the Portuguese man who runs the place with his wife Carolina.

Tertulia Portuguese Restaurant.

Miguel.

Miguel and Carolina have been running Tertulia since May 2019. They took over the business from another Portuguese couple, “quite by accident” according to Miguel. In fact, they’d been travelling around Cambodia when they came across the old joint. Having enjoyed some drinks and a chat with the owners, they were surprised to learn that the business was for sale.

Miguel and Carolina Tertulia Restaurant Kampot

Miguel and Carolina.

Tempted by the promise of an adventurous new life in the south of Cambodia, Miguel and Carolina figured what the heck, you only live once. Thus Miguel took the brave decision to leave his job as a corporate events manager back in Lisbon. Likewise, Carolina bade farewell to her marketing post with McDonald’s.

Tertulia The Food Corner Kampot.

Miguel says the takeover was pretty smooth. “We kept the kitchen staff and retained the name” he explained, with his trademark grin. “Then we brainstormed how we could build the menu and  personalise the marketing”.

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Tertulia Restaurant Kampot Cambodia.

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Miguel certainly made us feel at home that evening. Talking us through the menu, he explained how Tertulia is all about simple, fresh, Portuguese influenced dishes. “Plenty of olive oil, garlic, coriander… and lots of love!” he declared.

Portuguese flavored dishes Tertulia Restaurant Kampot

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Having ordered a bunch of dishes, Sladja and I were left privately congratulating Miguel and Carolina on their decision to keep the restaurant’s name. I had never heard of Tertulia, a Portuguese word which describes “a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones”.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian.

The word dates back to the 16th century when King Philip II of Spain began holding get togethers to discuss the works of the great writers, poets, playwrights and thinkers. One of his favourite topics was the revered writer Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian, known as “the father of Latin Christianity”. 

Fernando Pessoa.

Inside Tertulia Restaurant Kampot.

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

With this in mind, it’s impossible to ignore Tertulia Restaurant’s large mural of Fernando Pessoa. Born in Lisbon in 1935, Pessoa packed a lot into his forty seven years.

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As a talented writer, literary critic, translator, philosopher and publisher, he eventually became one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, he was also a prolific drinker, which proved directly responsible for his premature demise.

Fernando Pessoa mural Kampot Cambodia

Fernando Pessoa.

Happily, Tertulia has the substance to match its excellent sense of style. Everything we ate that night was absolutely delicious, starting with a bowl of Salada de Pimentos, a roasted bell pepper salad with fresh bread.

Next came the Peixe Grelhado, a perfectly smoky and tender portion of sea bass, served with tomato rice and watercress salad.

Last but not least, we polished off a tray of Pastéis de Massa Tenra, a deep fried Portuguese meat pie. Crispy on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside, this was my favourite dish of the evening.

Tertulia Restaurant Kampot.

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Amusingly, our dinner smelled so damn good it even attracted a neighbourhood cat. After circling us for a bit and even attempting to jump up onto our table, he finally installed himself under the glass tabletop. And there he sat, glaring up at us with envious eyes. “I am so sorry!” laughed Miguel nervously. “It’s the fish, he just loses his mind for that sea bass!”

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

Hungry cat Kampot.

“Are you done with your fish?”

After dinner, Sladja and I kicked back with some drinks. Miguel and Carolina have a selection of Portuguese wines, including red, white, rosé  and Vinho Verde. Perfect for an extended spell of lingering. And, in true Tertulia style, for discussing our recent explorations into the filmography of Sir Ridley Scott.

Portuguese wines Tertulia Restaurant Kampot

Moreover, Miguel gave us an excellent overview of Kampot’s food and drink scene, along with some solid recommendations. Carolina also pointed us in the direction of some of our favourite sights, such as (the already reviewed) Nibi Spa.

Tertulia.

Tertulia Restaurant, Kampot.

I’m so glad we stumbled upon Tertulia on our first night in Kampot. What’s more, I’m delighted to hear that, unlike some of the cafes and restaurants we went to in Cambodia, they have made it through the pandemic.

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Even more encouraging is the news that they’re about to open their second restaurant in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. For this, and everything else, we wish Miguel and Carolina all the best! For the latest news and their full menu, check out Tertulia’s Facebook page.

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28 Comments

  • WanderingCanadians

    Sounds (and looks) delicious. I love how even the cat was interested in your food, that’s how you know it’s really good.

    February 27, 2021 - 11:43 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely! Thanks for reading.

      February 27, 2021 - 12:05 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    It looks to be a very welcoming restaurant with delicious food, so pleased to hear that it’s made it through these difficult times. Hope you have a good weekend. M.

    February 27, 2021 - 12:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, the same to you. I recently got the Serbian residency visa and on Monday we are moving into a long term apartment. Cheers!

      February 27, 2021 - 12:56 pm Reply
      • Little Miss Traveller

        Oh that’s wonderful news Leighton. I’m so pleased for you both. Marion

        February 27, 2021 - 12:57 pm
  • Memo

    You discovered this gem on your first day and just wandered in. That alone is a good story. I’m so glad that you had been perfecting your food photography before this find. I had to look up Vinho Verde. Now I just have to find some. Thanks for a great post.

    February 27, 2021 - 12:51 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was thinking you’d like this one. Are there Portuguese cuisine possibilities in Oaxaca?

      February 27, 2021 - 12:57 pm Reply
      • Memo

        There is a La ttertulia Cafe (sic) but it is more of a coffee shop. No wines that I know of.

        February 27, 2021 - 1:04 pm
  • InsideMySlingBag

    A lot of delicacies and an interesting restaurant Leighton❣️

    February 27, 2021 - 4:33 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      February 27, 2021 - 4:36 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Pretty amazing that two foreigners with no restaurant experience or intention to get into the business made such a success out of this restaurant. The food looks perfect and a great atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit if I’m ever in the neighborhood. Great review!

    February 27, 2021 - 6:15 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Totally concur with all your points. Kinda inspiring for all of us, thanks for reading!

      February 27, 2021 - 6:43 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    What a wonderful find! Who would guess there was Portuguese food in Cambodia? Your photos complement the description. A great place to spend an evening.

    February 27, 2021 - 6:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Ruth, it was a special find and the perfect opener to our Kampot adventure.

      February 27, 2021 - 7:08 pm Reply
      • rkrontheroad

        I will have to check out Passoa. One of my favorite authors is Jose Saramago, a Portuguese novelist.

        February 27, 2021 - 7:22 pm
  • PedroL

    so cool, it is a fact: there are portuguese all around the world and I love it because, when I’m on the road for long periiods, I miss our food eheh thanks for sharing Leighton, have a great weekend, PedroL

    February 27, 2021 - 8:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I thought you would like this article! Thanks for reading, have a good one too.

      February 27, 2021 - 8:14 pm Reply
      • PedroL

        eheh it was really amazing to read!! you’re welcome Leighton 🙂 PedroL

        February 27, 2021 - 9:39 pm
  • Rebecca

    Portuguese food in Cambodia?? That’s a first! It’s wonderful that the Portuguese couple took a bit of home and placed it into their restaurant. The pastéis de Massa Tenra is something that I hadn’t had in Portugal, but it sounds divine…and it’s no wonder the cat wanted in on your meal. Bon appétit to that!

    February 27, 2021 - 9:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Living around that restaurant, that cat must be something of a tortured soul ha ha. I’m sure they give him/her the odd bite from time to time.

      February 27, 2021 - 10:34 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    The food looks delicious and Miguel & Carolina seem like some awesome people! I would love to quit my corporate job and do something I love!

    February 28, 2021 - 6:13 pm Reply
  • jasonlikestotravel

    I figured from the title of the post, and following on from your Spain series, that this was going to be somewhere in Spain so I was a little surprised to see this restaurant was actually in Cambodia haha.
    It became clearer why as I read on of course. It’s great to see they were inspired to stay in Cambodia and have made a success of it and even expanded with a second restaurant. I’ll have to check it out if I’m ever in the area 🙂

    March 10, 2021 - 6:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Jason! I haven’t eaten a whole lot of Portuguese food, so this was a great introduction.

      March 10, 2021 - 6:12 pm Reply
  • maristravels

    I imagined this to be a Spanish restaurant in Cambodia as I hadn’t come across the word in Portuguese (not that I know more than a couple of ‘foodie’ words in Portuguese. I would love to visit that restaurant if only to support that lovely couple you talk about, for their bravery in giving up corporate jobs and for their ability to survive in the awful times we are living through. I loved the mural of Pessoa, whom I had heard about, but I hadn’t realised he looked so like James Joyce!

    March 28, 2021 - 8:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you so much for this lovely feedback. They are great people and I’m sure you’d be as charmed by them as we were. I hadn’t heard of Pessoa prior to our visit and yes, I see what you mean about the similarities with Joyce!

      March 28, 2021 - 8:59 pm Reply
  • arv!

    I like pictures and writing on your blog. Great work, Leighton!

    May 2, 2021 - 8:44 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks again, that’s very kind. Appreciate you catching up with my recent posts.

      May 2, 2021 - 8:45 am Reply
      • arv!

        🙂

        May 3, 2021 - 12:39 pm

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