Roast Wars (Kampot Edition)

It’s a widely discussed and often derisive topic throughout Cambodia. Among the expat noticeboards and Facebook groups the question will be asked with unrelenting regularity ‘Where is the best Sunday roast in town?’ it seems, at first glance as innocuous as asking ‘where’s the best place in town to buy pillowcases?’ but alas no, this is almost inexplicably a far more personal and potentially explosive question as the pros and cons of the answers offered up by those souls brave enough to express an opinion will be scrutinized and weighed and given wholehearted support or else dismissed out of hand. All in the usual expat fashion of civility and respect…. Okay maybe not.

What however these commenters don’t realize is they are unwitting combatants in an old and fierce conflict that seems to have been going on since some pale face woke up on a Sunday morning and wiping a nostalgic tear from their right eye (and perhaps another hungover headachy tear from their left one) and felt the need to bring a time-honored tradition that historically began in fifteenth century Britain to their new home in SE Asia, just hungry and perhaps a little homesick they inadvertently began the Sunday roast wars . These are very real wars and not without casualties. Consider the competition out there, the time spent finding the right cuts of meat, creating the perfect gravy, the original twist on the tradition and then the marketing. The roasts are heavily advertised and beautifully photographed at times, the serving time given due diligence and the exact composition of the meal given careful consideration. A business that becomes synonymous with a good roast can expect a busy Sunday and repeat custom from well fed patrons who will sing its praises but conversely a business that fouls it up can expect a very clean unused kitchen come closing time and a struggle to grab a piece of that special weekend action. The public are unforgiving and have a long memory so getting it right is imperative.

The reasons we love a Sunday roast are of course many. For many us of the culinary highlight of the week at home growing up (and indeed, beyond) was Sunday’s special dinner and that feeling of blissful fullness that followed it while one was sprawled across the sofa after finishing a mouthwatering feed is something we don’t want to forget or forego. That little piece of home is important, worthwhile and a shared enjoyment many of us have. Sitting and tucking into a morsel of roast chicken or strip of roast carrot I’ve occasionally given and received a little nod of mutual appreciation and knowing from another likeminded diner at another table. If you know, well then you know. There are of course detractors who will tell you that a mountain of meat and vegetables are not compatible with the tropical climate or healthy but of course these people are to be ignored and to a degree pitied at what they are missing out on but no argument is needed, somethings you just can’t explain. Sundays for us civilized ladies and gents are for a roast.
So, a quick synopsis of what many of my fellow citizens consider to be the four best places in Kampot to fill that sentimental hole in your belly on Sunday. They are all extremely tasty and fairly priced and so are not listed in any particular order. There is no criticism because frankly, none has been warranted. Each place has a particular element that makes it a tasty choice and of course what else the establishment has to offer might help sway you in that direction. My only advice would be to try them all once and come to the same conclusion I have; that they all have something that will have you smacking your lips and wishing it was Sunday every day.

The Hot Roast Company (at Bohemiaz Resort)
Steven and Jodie have been serving up all your favorite UK comfort food for quite a while now. From delicious kebabs and pasties to gammon with egg and chips. So, it’s no surprise they do a top-notch Sunday roast as well. From midday, there’s chicken, beef and pork on the menu with an array of veggies and a Yorkshire pud. The best components here have to be the beef which is tantalizingly tender and juicy and the creamiest mashed potatoes in Cambodia. The biggest compliment to which I can give being they taste like my mom’s. No small thing for an Irish man to say. Bohemiaz is a chilled out relaxing spot for a meal with a pool and a Jacuzzi to lounge about in as you digest what’s a huge portion.

Rusty Keyhole 2
Rusty Keyhole 2 is as much a landmark in Kampot as the Durian roundabout and that status comes about when you are good at what you do. Rusty is well known for doing some of the best pizzas and pies in town but it does a damn good Sunday roast as well. From 11am you can enjoy a generous sized portion of pork or beef. The highlights for me are the roast potatoes which are cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside and warm right through along with the Yorkshire puddings which more than pass muster being a big size, fluffy and hot. Rusty is a sports bar showing every and all kinds of sports from on a number of screens so there’s always something to watch while you’re enjoying your meal.

The Kampot Yacht Club
The center meeing point of the international village for many people has a well-deserved reputation for great food. It has a varied menu going from big tasty prawns to perfectly cooked New Zealand ribeye steak and its Sunday roast is a personal favorite as well. Whether it’s the pork or chicken they are both set off really well with the seriously scrumptious gravy and the roasted veggies are mouthwatering with the pumpkin in particular a real treat. There’s always some good music playing in the bar with a lot of Kampots musicians gravitating there due to the famous Thursday night jam sessions.

Jim and Lilly Bar
Lilly has been cooking up a storm since her Sihanoukville days and she continues to do so in Kampot. The bar is known for serving only a couple of dishes every night and they always go down a storm with everyone having a favorite day. Well worth trying are the excellent chili con carne on Thursdays and humongous fish and chips every Friday. The Sunday roast available from 5pm is another big serving with chicken, pork chop and lamb available. The lamb is a something different and well worth savoring and the gravy is good enough to have you asking for a second jug. There’s always sports on the big TV screen here too and it’s popular with cricket fans in particular.

Kindly submitted by Kampot Jack.

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