Remembering The Village Cafe, Siem Reap.
The Village Cafe, Siem Reap.
I think a part of me had always wanted to have breakfast at a 1930s style NYC jazz cafe. Call it a bucket list wish. I suppose this was something I could have done in New York City itself during my visits, but alas the idea never came to fruition. How odd and delightful then that I would end up fulfilling this subconscious fantasy in Cambodia of all places. Enter The Village Cafe in Siem Reap!
Before the damn virus hit, one of the great joys of our Siem Reap routine had been morning blogging sessions at a local cafe. Literally two to three hours typing away over coffee and breakfast. In this respect, The Village was just what we’d been looking for!
Making our way to one of the large tables facing the main bar, Sladja and I drank in the low lighting, the chic decor and the tastefully arranged plants. Meanwhile, the dulcet tones of Louis Armstrong drifted out from the sound system as a waiter handed us the menus.
The Village Cafe, Siem Reap.
This relaxing vibe proved to be the perfect setup for a morning of quiet productivity. Moreover, the chocolate croissant was fluffy and the coffee beautifully presented in a traditional French press. To top it all off, the service came with a genuine smile. “We’ll definitely come back here!” whispered Sladja.
The Village Cafe sprang from the mind of Stewart ‘Strangefruit’ Kidd, a moustachioed Glaswegian with an impressive background in art and design. Among his many life achievements, Stewart worked as the Creative Director of the Indochine Group in Singapore.
Stewart had been in Cambodia for over eight years, starting out with a fashion boutique and clothing label called Established in Phnom Penh. The Village Cafe was his second business venture and, back in the spring of 2020, it had been open for just over two years.
“I pay my staff enough to stay, but train them sufficiently so that they can leave and fulfil their dreams!”
Like all the best cafes and restaurants in Siem Reap, Stewart supported the local community as much as he could. In fact, his team of loyal staff had been with him for years, even before the launch of The Village. His eyes sparkling with pride, he explained how three of his ex employees now work in world class hotels.
Furthermore, a young woman by the name of Sophan, “my baby” as he puts it, recently departed to open her own cake shop. “She could make you the best Ginger Martini. Brew the best cappuccino! Remember your name and give you the best smile ever!”
“Our customers always love the poached eggs with avocado on sourdough with grilled tomato and crispy bacon”.
For the food, Stewart focused on locally sourced ingredients from companies such as Happy+Co and Eggselent. Our favourite breakfast dish, like so many others it seems, is the poached eggs with avocado. Absolutely delicious!
Sladja and I are always guilty of finding a dish we love and ordering it over and over. Nevertheless, we promised ourselves that one day we’d try one of The Village’s famous fusion curries. Especially as Stewart explained that they’re influenced by both Cambodian and Indian flavours. Another house special was their Fish & Chips battered in a savannah cider.
The Village Cafe, Siem Reap.
I don’t ever recall the toilets being such a memorable part of a cafe visit. But at The Village, it seems no area is untouched by Stewart’s love of art and history. Beautifully designed with dark wood and flickering candles, I couldn’t imagine a more pleasant environment in which to do my business.
While you sit/stand, you’ll also find yourself listening to the recorded radio programmes that continually play out independently of the main sound system. One day it might be an archive interview with Alan Whicker reminiscing about Hong Kong. On another visit, Melvyn Bragg discussing the work of Francis Bacon. “I didn’t want to come back to the table” admitted Sladja one morning.
You wouldn’t know it from our sleepy morning visits, but The Village Cafe was a fantastic event venue too. From movie nights, book launches and live bands, to a set from the pioneering house music DJ Danny Rampling, Stewart certainly couldn’t be accused of lacking ambition! He also converted the building’s loft area into an art gallery, which held exhibitions throughout the year. One morning, he was kind enough to take Sladja and I up there and show us around.
Where to Eat and Drink, Siem Reap.
As with most cities around the world, COVID-19 all but decimated Siem Reap’s food and drink scene. Hence Stewart took the difficult decision to close for the month of April in 2020. However, he was keen to reassure his customers with an emphatic “WE WILL BE BACK!” After all, Stewart has deep roots in SR, with a dedicated team of staff, close friends and even an adopted Khmer daughter! True to his word, The Village reopened on May 1st with a new social-distancing-friendly layout.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2022: Sadly, in December 2020, The Village lost its fight to stay afloat in Siem Reap’s damaged economic landscape. I read the news on Instagram, with Stewart and his team resolving to regroup and return in some form “leaner and fresh”.
As it turned out, it took him just a a few months to come up with a new cafe/bar called Stewart on 26. We are so happy that The Village Cafe got to have a rebirth and that this particularly sad COVID story has a happy ending. Stewart, if we ever make it back to Cambodia, we’ll be sure to swing by!
Like this? For more on Siem Reap’s excellent cafe, restaurant and bar scene, check out my detailed guide on Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.
You can also read my exhaustive overview of What to See and Do in Siem Reap.
Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.
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A good post on the Village Cafe. Thank you 🙏
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, it’s always appreciated.
You are welcome 🙏
I was both sad that this beautiful cafe closed its doors but happy a new one was re-launched by the same owners. The Village Cafe looks just my sort of place especially seeing those avocado poached eggs on sourdough!
Thanks so much Marion for taking the time to read about the Village Cafe. It was such an ideal place to sit and blog over breakfast and coffee. Stewart is a really interesting guy and genuinely warm towards everyone, customers and staff alike. I hope his latest venture has more luck than the Village Cafe did, he certainly deserves it.
Happy Wednesday! You always find the most fascinating places and characters. This is definitely a location that is worth revisiting. And with great bathrooms too. Loved the photo of the young boy focusing so intently on his soft-boiled egg. Brings back memories. And thank the lord this one has a happy ending. Now you have to go back and check out Stewart’s new place.
Thanks Memo for revisiting this as I know you read about The Village the first time around. It would be a blast to go back to Siem Reap one day and pop into Stewart’s new venue. As this message comes through I am working on a long overdue email to you, watch this space…
Looks like a very cool cafe! I hope you can visit Stewart on 26 one day and reconnect with Stewart.
Thanks for your comment Lyssy. I’m curious what kind of place Stewart has crafted with his new joint. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be unique and full of charm.
A glowing report Leighton. So sad when a place closes after the owner pours heart and soul into it. This looks like a tremendous Café. Glad Stewart has started another place. Hope it all works out for him this time. Allan
Thanks Allan, the whole atmosphere at The Village was on point. Even Alan Whicker in the toilet worked, when perhaps it really shouldn’t have ha ha.
Oh what a cool and classy place! I think most days would find me here if I was in the area. I also like his mindset about paying his employees enough but also being so encouraging for them to go out and seek their own path. So glad that they were able to regroup and move forward with a new place! 🙂
Thanks Meg, there should be more Village Cafes around methinks. Lord only knows we could do with one here in off-the-beaten-path Georgia. I think Mark Twain would’ve liked The Village 😉
He definitely would love it-fitting to his style 🙂
What a beautiful front view! You describe it really well … and then top it off with that chocolate croissant – perfect! Oh, and then I got to the poached eggs with avocado … one of my favourites (and it looks absolutely delicious). I had a good laugh at Sladja’s remark on the toilet visit 😁. I like how Stewart was talking about his staff – it seems he genuinely cared for them. Oh, and then that dreaded paragraph towards the end, but fortunately ending on a much happier note! I don’t even know Stewart, but I’m so happy for him!
Aw thanks, Corna. Yes, this closed cafe story at least has a partly happy ending in that he managed to bounce back with something new. I’m glad you liked the look of the food and that Stewart’s personality came through. Those toilets really were something else, I had never and probably will never experience anything quite like it.
Ohhh, I love this place. Breakfast is my favourite meal, I am one of those people who could eat breakfast food all day long. So, the Village Cafe with its chocolate croissant and poached eggs with avocado suits me perfectly. I am so glad that Stewart has a new place, I am sure that it’s as elegant and arty as the Village once was. We need more business owners who genuinely care about their staff. Thanks for sharing, Leighton. Hope your week is going well.
Amelie, bon soir! I thought The Village Cafe might be right up your street, and so it has proven. Arty is exactly right, and not in a pretentious way. Thanks for dropping by and continuing to contribute to the series.
I’m very glad to hear that Stewart has revived his business – even if it is under a new name. The Village Cafe looked like a place that I would’ve loved – especially the avocado toast and bacon – minus the eggs. But I also love art and old jazz. Yes, the Village Cafe would’ve been right up my alley.
Ah, I’m glad you approve Kellye. People do seem to love cooked breakfast variations featuring avocados. So you don’t eat eggs at all, eh? A bit of jazz and art with your breakfast, who could possibly object!?!
I couldn’t object at all, my friend. I will only eat eggs if they’re scrambled and I have to have bacon with them.
Sounds like a good rule!
You’re going to have to stop this series otherwise my to-do list for Siem Reap is gonna keep us there for a month…!
Cheers buddy, I’d definitely do just that and stay for a month 🙂
The Village Cafe looked lovely while Stewart seems like a great host. The pandemic brought the best of us to our knees but I’m sure his new venture will be a great success and enjoy the longevity The Village wasn’t destined for.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, thanks very much for tapping into this series and for your considered comments.
Interesting to read that there are so many great options of places to eat. Also gratifying that many are surviving the covid crisis. But, oh, how much the place seems to have changed and moved on since I was there in the seventies!
I’m sure it’s almost unrecognisable. Thanks for checking back into the series Geoff and getting in touch, it’s much appreciated!
I have to echo the comment about your uncanny ability to find fascinating places and characters. This place is so cool and so seemingly out of place in SR. The setting and your use of it for writing reminded me of La Terraza de Cojimar, a seaside bar and restaurant in Cuba that Hemingway used to frequent. He met a fisherman there who is said to have been the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. Maybe the amazing Mr. Kidd will be your inspiration for a fictional tale.
John, so great to hear from you! I hope you have enjoyed your WordPress hiatus and that all is well in your world. I would be all over that bar should I ever make it to Cuba. It would make a nice addition to my blog on Pamplona featuring Cafe Iruna. Thanks for reading about The Village Cafe.
The hiatus was enjoyable and lasted longer than I’d planned. Inertia is tough to overcome sometimes.
Just reading the title of your post, I was afraid to read about the closing of this lovely café…however, it does have a happy ending with the rebranding of a new storefront! I’m all for chocolate croissants and genuinely-welcoming service, both of which The Village Cafe had! Cheers. 🙂
Cheers Rebecca for reading about this Siem Reap cafe owner who lives to fight another day. Albeit under a new guise in a new location. Appreciate your support of the series!
The Village Cafe looked like a place I would have loved to have visited! If I ever get back to SR I would definitely look for Stewart’s new place!
Thanks for checking in Anna!
You found so many amazing spots in Siem Reap. Glad this one ended up re-launcing. Maggie
Thanks for your comment Maggie.
Stewart certainly pours his heart and creativity into his business! Looks like it was a local treasure. It’s sad it fell victim to the relentless pandemic, like so many others. Hopefully, his new creation will be equally special. Thanks for sharing!
Cheers Tricia, The Village Cafe gave us so many chilled out mornings in the early days of the pandemic. We’ll always remember it and hope that Stewart on 26 goes to greater heights!
I’ll be sure to seek out Stewarts new place as his old cafe looks just my kind of place. SR seems to be a place full of fascinating, alternative and quirky characters. Love this series so much, Leighton.
Thanks, Nieves! Do let me know how it goes if you make it to Stewart on 26.
What a fun place, it sounded so much thought going into it. I hope the new place does just as well
Thanks for dropping by Alison. The Village was indeed a very carefully crafted cafe and I’m sure the same amount of thought has gone into Stewart’s new venture.
I hope you get to visit one day
What an interesting themed cafe in Siem Reap. The food looks amazing and I love that it’s all locally sourced. The owner seems like he genuinely cares about his staff. It’s such a shame that they had to close their doors, but I’m not surprised to hear that the owner has started a new venture. He seems like the entrepreneurial type.
Hey, thanks for keeping up with these stories. Sadly, even some of the companies supplying locally sourced ingredients also went under during the pandemic. What an unholy mess it all was, but as you say there’s no keeping certain people down. They will always find a way to bounce back.
another stylish venue full of character and with delicious looking food. what a time you must have had there with all these places at your fingertips. i’m so glad stewart has gotten a second bite of the cherry with a new establishment
Cheers Stan, I’m sure Stewart will nail it this time, assuming there isn’t another unprecedented world catastrophe on the horizon.
What an exquisite cafe, Leighton! Your heart must have been so full as you experienced the richness of such a delightful place—the Village Cafe, Siem Reap, a genuine treasure. As always, thank you for allowing us to share in your beautiful journeys.
Thank you Juliet, I’m glad you enjoyed this one.
Yet another wonderful place, Leighton. As I was sifting through your photos, it felt like I was given a peak into a place with a mixture of a European cafe of the last century or perhaps the lobby of a movie theatre in a provincial town fifty years ago – I love its interior as much as the exterior. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx
I like your descriptions Aiva, which feel about right. Thanks for checking out The Village Cafe!
Wow, what an amazing place and not what you expect when you picture Cambodia! So glad Stewart was able to set up again 🙂
Thanks for dropping by Hannah.
Sounded like a great café. I’m happy for its rebirth and in related news, been binge reading your posts on cafes in Siem Reap and can’t wait to visit too.
Hey Amarachi, thanks for leaving a comment and indeed for diving into the series. I am also a fan of your work, but am unable to comment on WordPress. There’s no facility for that right? From time to time I have left a comment directly through your site, but not sure if you get those. Hope all is well with you and Mark!
Not sure what’s wrong but I’ll look into it. I also had to change my email to be able to leave comments on yours, so it’s probably an issue with my account. Thanks for letting me know and Mark and I are doing well!
This seems like such an amazing coffee stop! The chocolate croissant looks amazing!!!
Thanks for stopping by The Village Cafe, Allie!