*Our Indie Asia series is all about shining a light on the best independent businesses we’ve encountered during our travels in Southeast Asia. We will not be receiving remuneration of any kind in exchange for these blogs: these are the hotels, bars, and restaurants that have genuinely struck a chord with us and inspired us to share our discoveries. Sometimes it’s just nice to be nice.*
Fishing House is a spanking new bar and restaurant in a particularly picturesque – and totally *authentic* – part of Kep, on Cambodia’s sleepy south-eastern coast. That meant we were two of the first people to lounge in its felt-soft hammocks while sipping co-owner Alexia’s minty fresh mojitos.
We couldn’t have stumbled across Fishing House more by chance. Having cycled along the coast toward Kep Town for an hour or so, we were in serious need of a drink, and saw a sign for a hostel bar. It directed us down sandy, gravel-strewn alleys into a fishing village of stilted wooden houses hugging the shoreline. The hostel bar turned out to be closed (we were visiting out of season), BUT while making our way back to the main road we spotted Fishing House, with its alluring light blue timbered walls and promise of cocktails. Kep itself is hardly a metropolis – it feels like a small French seaside town, which it kind of is thanks to its colonial history – but the fishing village is tiny and almost completely free of tourist development. But as more Western travellers start to join the expat community in this blissful corner of Cambodia, the two owners – one French, one Khmer – are betting on the area seeing an influx of visitors in years to come.
We visited Fishing House at lunchtime on a balmy midweek day. As its name suggests, seafood – both Asian and European – is very much the order of the day here. From the huge plates of crab we saw being served up to another English couple, it looks fantastic. But as sworn herbivores, we ordered our traditional Southeast Asian lunch (a bowl of French fries, to share) and washed it down with some of the best mojitos I have ever had the pleasure to sip.
The vibe at Fishing House perfectly suits the coastal setting. The traditional stilted building has been decked out with hammocks, seaside trinkets, bowls of tropical fruit and antique chests. Out on the terrace, you can perch on a bench overlooking the sea and watch the slender fishing boats slowly chugging to and from the ramshackle village jetty. Look to the horizon and you’ll see some of the dozen-or-so small islands nestling out in Kep Bay, plus the much larger Phu Quoc, which is actually part of Vietnam (much to Cambodia’s ongoing displeasure). To your left, Khmer children continuously sprint up and down another jetty, pausing periodically to yell “HELLO!” at passing Westerners. On your right, there’s a tiny local pre-school where the kids appear to be enjoying a boisterous game of tag in their seafront classroom. Birds chirp in the nearby palms. Dragonflies buzz quietly by. It is quite possibly the happiest audiovisual combination I have ever enjoyed.
Being of inquisitive mind, we had a succession of questions for the French owner, Alexia. It’s surprising to find such a beautifully styled watering hole in such an off-the-beaten-track location, so we wanted to know more. Alexia was more than happy to oblige, explaining how she’d renovated the old wooden building and how she planned to transform the nearby beach, which – at our time of visiting – was strewn with fishing detritus and rubbish from the village. She also had plenty of helpful insight about Kep – the bar doubles as a tourist information centre – and explained that they also run group fishing trips using the restaurant’s boat. In the evening, the boat can be hired out for up to six people to dine on the billiard table-flat water.
Value for money
Cambodia as a whole isn’t quite as cheap as neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam, with tourist bars and restaurants charging in dollars rather than the local currency, the riel. However, given the setting, Fishing House offers great value for money. Expect to pay around $6 for a meal, while the delicious cocktails will set you back roughly $3. Daily happy hours run from 5-7pm.
Is Fishing House for you?
It’s certainly not the most accessible spot in Kep for a drink or a bite to eat. While it was easy enough to find (albeit by accident) in the daytime, I imagine the route from the main road to the bar isn’t brilliantly illuminated after dark. There’s certainly more convenient alternatives – the ever-popular Crab Market has plenty of bars and restaurants (although none is nearly as pleasant as Fishing House), while Kep Sailing Club – an upmarket spot 3.5 miles up the coast – is better located for sunset.
But for its combination of eye-wateringly splendid vistas, great cocktails, and a unique setting at the heart of the village, Fishing House takes some beating. If you’re ever in town, it’s well worth seeking out for a slow afternoon of cold drinks and sea views.