Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tables, temple-side, at Frank Coffee

Tables, temple-side, at Frank Coffee

The outdoor setting of Frank Coffee makes for a relaxing meal or drink.
The outdoor setting of Frank Coffee makes for a relaxing meal or drink. Hong Menea

Tables, temple-side, at Frank Coffee

Within the compound of Wat Svay Popé, a verdant turn off of the bustling Sothearos Boulevard, is the unfamiliar sight of a café, a small venue which has gained a reputation as a charming spot for drinks and food.

While the monks are giving their morning sermon in the temple, a handful of servers are keeping busy under the watch of golden stupas. Seated at the assortment of tables and chairs, some made from repurposed car tyres, are monks, students and office workers, all enjoying breakfast and a sweet drink at Frank Coffee – housed in a refurbished shipping container painted in blue and yellow stripes with a wooden café counter.

“We are Frank Coffee, but people usually make fun by calling us Bai Wat,” or “temple rice”, says owner Boeun Chamreoun. “I am not sure about the others, but I believe we are the first to put a café inside a pagoda.”

Chamreoun, an executive at FM99 radio station and perhaps better known by his on-air nickname “Vitou”, says the concept originated from the popularity of street-side drink stalls. About two years ago he noticed the popularity of street beverages among Cambodian youth. The sight of happy faces sipping away at sweet drinks carried from crowded stalls enticed him to cash in on the street-drink craze.

Vitou, the owner.
Vitou, the owner. Hong Menea

To that end, he and his wife, Pen Chan Chakriya, set up a street stall by his office, but the traffic sent him looking for a more attractive location. The couple then had the idea to ask Bour Kry, the supreme patriarch of the Dhammayuttika order of Cambodia, for permission to open a café inside Wat Svay Popé.

The Wat also houses the Sihamoni Raja Buddhist University, where Chakriya works as an administrator. Part of their pitch, Vitou says, was that the university lacked a canteen, and the café could provide affordable food for students.

Running the business inside the wat’s grounds presents some quirks.

“The monks cannot eat after 12pm but they can drink, and they especially need the sweet drinks which give them the energy for the rest of the day,” Vitou says. “We also have the customers who come here to pray or offer the food to the monks, and our old loyal customers.”

But there’s no doubt the pagoda grounds provide a relaxing environment. The whole café is shaded by a large old cannonball tree – said to be as old as the pagoda itself – which partially insulates patrons from the noise of the busy city. An acoustic guitar hangs on the wall behind the café’s counter for customers to pick up and play in the absence of the chanting monks.

The num banchuk namya ($1.50).
The num banchuk namya ($1.50). Hong Menea

“It is quiet and peaceful, and the [monks’] sermons calm my mind. I also love the food and drinks here,” says 29-year-old office worker Phun Pearun, a regular.

To eat, Frank Coffee offers up some simple delights such as plate of white rice and dried beef served on a banana leaf ($2) or num banhchuk namya ($1.50), a traditional cold thin rice noodle dish with fish curry, edible flowers and fresh herbs which makes for a healthy and tasty bite, especially in the outdoor heat.

To drink, Post Weekend sampled the iced milk coffee with chia ($1) and the Tea Layer ($1), a sweet-tart solution of red tea, green tea and fresh milk, which has a mild taste unless stirred.

“Our place may not be big or visible from the road, but we have everything,” Vitou says. “We have tasty drinks and food … and even Wi-Fi, but please do not order alcohol because this is a pagoda.”

Frank Coffee is located within the Wat Svay Popé compound, off Sothearos Boulevard near street 830. It is open every day from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm. Tel: 012 44 98 89

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism