Bensley Collection Siem Reap

Comprising of ten ‘private oasis villas’, Bensley Collection Siem Reap could easily be described as a secluded playground, or a hidden palace where escapism is the norm. This extraordinary property in the heart of Siem Reap, the brainchild of famed hotel architect Bill Bensley, has impressed and astonished discerning guests since opening in December 2017, whilst continuing to deliver the highest levels of design, privacy and service in equal measures. Our staycation at this gilded palace playground was truly memorable on many levels. This is a unique option in Siem Reap that will impress even the toughest of nuts to crack with it’s secluded location, the stylish interiors and plentiful plant based food from Executive Chef Som Ann.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Entrance 1
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Entrance 2
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Arrival
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Arrival

We have never before considered commencing a ‘room’ review with a paragraph about the shower. If Bensley Collection Siem Reap didn’t have a multitude of other impressive, creative and innovative features, we’d probably have gone ahead and written a long and gushing (excuse the pun) accolade about the indoor/outdoor rain shower with integral bluetooth speaker in the shower head which enabled the most exquisite singing in the shower experience. But, as we say, there are too many other noteworthy points to mention about this visionary masterpiece of a villa.

Check in takes place in the villa, safe in the hands of your very own butler. It’s a job title that could evoke visions of a formal and stuffy service but rest assured our Bensley Butler is more like a friendly yet efficient guide; an external brain to ensure you don’t have to think about anything during your stay, with a huge dose of that famous Khmer charm to boot. Once the paperwork is done there’s a quick tour of the amenities including a complimentary mini-bar stocked with some of our favourites; almond milk, local beer, vegan wine from Yalumba and decaf coffee to fuel the coffee machine. Our outside bath is filled with lotus petals arranged in a hypnotic pattern which looks like it took nearly a whole lifetime to carefully arrange, and laid casually on the side, bespoke vegan menus created by the talented Executive Chef Som Ann.

Both indoors and outdoors are filled with carefully tended greenery and foliage, presenting verdant views through the expansive windows and sliding doors. There’s a real sense that the villas were designed for pleasure, with multiple areas to lounge in comfort, our favourite being the Sky Lounge which at night was converted into a romantic wonderland, complete with a candle lit stairway to access this beautifully transformed oasis. During the day, the Sky Lounge becomes a space for dining, massage and admiring the view, which includes a giant mural of the words ‘Dance First, Think Later ‘ which certainly helps to set the fun and playful tone for your stay.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Pool Villa Pool
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Pool Villa Bedroom
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Bedroom
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - Bathroom

The Vegan Food

Not wanting to leave our villa (which we are sure is how everyone who stays here must feel) didn’t present a problem when it came to breakfast  We ordered room service and oh boy, what a veritable vegan feast we received. Starting with a platter of mini carrot muffins and freshly made soy milk, chilled over ice. Surely a breakfast that starts with muffins is bound to be a success? If there ever was any doubt about this, that doubt didn’t linger for long. The tiny moist morsels packed full of carrot and some crunchy peanuts too, with a hint of salt to finish were superb, leaving us ready and waiting for the main event to arrive.

From a selection of ten, yes 10, vegan breakfast options we selected five to share. Does this make us greedy? Perhaps it does, but someone has to do it, don’t they? First was ‘Keuy Teav Char’, a Southeast Asian dish made with thin rice noodles and fried spring rolls served on a bed of chopped cucumber, lettuce, beansprouts, fresh basil and mint. Served with a sweet and sour dressing and crushed peanuts to pour/sprinkle over the top. Another local favourite, ‘Banh Hoy’ was made from nests of thin rice noodles, garnished with leaves, cucumber, beansprouts, mint, basil, chilli and lime with a similar liquidy sweet peanut dressing. Both dishes offered a locally inspired, fresh and healthy start to the day.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - vegan kuy tav char

Western dishes on the menu were equally as delicious. A scrambled soft tofu with juicy king oyster mushrooms served on slices of seeded toast. Creamy soft tofu, peppery mushroom and crispy toast, a winning combination. The ‘Savoury Vegan Breakfast Bowl’ came with sautéed potatoes, more scrambled tofu, wilted spinach, roasted baby tomatoes and slices of fresh avocado. Ingredients that are well known for their compatibility on a breakfast plate for a reason. Delicious. And for those who love a sweeter breakfast, a stack of light fluffy pancakes served with caramelised bananas and strawberry definitely won’t disappoint. Extra maple syrup to pour over the top because let’s face it, you can never have too much syrup with your pancakes.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - vegan full English breakfast
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - vegan pancake stack

Bensley Collection Siem Reap has mastered the Chef’s Table dining experience, which we enjoyed poolside in our villa. If you love food like we love food then we’re sure you’ll be impressed. Not only impressed with what’s on your plate, but also with being able to watch Chef at work, including the unflustered and generous way he stops to listen to questions and explain what he’s doing.

An amuse bouche of cubed, firm tofu cooked in soy and palm sugar, then dipped in toasted chopped peanuts like little toffee apples, served with a ginger pickle on top certainly let us know we were in for a real treat. That savoury sweet caramel and peanut combined with the lightly picked slivers of ginger won us over from the start. Then there were handmade seedy crackers, loaded with rich buttery smashed avocado (perfectly seasoned), chunky, juicy slices of king oyster mushroom finished with dressed leaves and a scattering of purple water hyacinth flowers for that nod to local cuisine. Next a pale yellow sweetcorn and coconut milk soup that had the texture of velvet, garnished with a shaved apple, cucumber and tomato salad with kernels of juicy sweet fresh corn. Perfection in a soup bowl.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - tofu
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - avo on toast

Our final savoury course came in the shape of broccoli, long bean, carrot and sweet potato vegetable fritters. These delicious little crispy fried vegetable patties were topped with a mango salsa and served alongside a delicately scored panfried eggplant steak which melted in the mouth, and a smidge of carrot purée which was so vibrant, it could be a cream of pure sunshine. Dessert was a vegan chocolate cake so we instantly awarded top marks and embarked on a journey to a food induced coma after polishing the entire thing off after an already filling meal. A slice of rich chocolate and peanut butter laced torte topped with a light chocolate cream and a strawberry coulis, this was not a dessert to pass on.

Chef’s Table, next to the pool, in your private villa at Bensley Collection Siem Reap is something everyone should experience in life at least once, or twice, or maybe even thrice. Simply fantastic.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - grilled avocado
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - vegan chocolate cake

The Vegan Essentials

No plastic bottles, no plastic straws, bathroom amenities in refillable containers and non feather bedding available upon request. Nothing more than you would expect from an ultra luxe brand that cares for the planet and the environment. Having almond milk in the fridge and a selection of vegan snacks were well received ‘essentials’ that made us smile. But it was the freshly bottled and homemade soy milk, served on ice and delivered to our villa each morning that raised the bar just that little bit higher. And as for the chilled bottle of Viognier from Yalumba that was in our complimentary mini bar, that elevated the list of ‘vegan essentials’ to the very top.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap - homemade soya milk
Bensley Collection Siem Reap - vegan wine

Shinta Mani Foundation

The mission of Shinta Mani Foundation is to empower rural Cambodian families and communities, so that together they can escape the devastating cycle of poverty. This is approached through education, healthcare, interest free loans and direct assistance to those that need it the most. This can include building homes to provide shelter and installing water pumps which allows access to safe and clean drinking water. Families are also supported to become self sustaining with their own vegetable gardens and chickens for eggs. Not vegan we know, but combined with shelter and fresh water the ability to feed your family is one of lifes essentials. In addition to these excellent initiatives, on the outskirts of Siem Reap they have just developed a 3 hectare organic farm that will produce fruit and vegetables for their hotels, and also to sell. These sales will provide much needed funds to the foundation, allowing them to move towards their vision of a strong and prosperous Cambodia where access to education and positive life opportunities are available to all.

Shinta Mani Foundation - water well
Shinta Mani Foundation - house

The Vegan Food Quest Verdict

Perfect. It’s hard to add much more to this verdict as every element of our stay was indeed perfect. This is a luxury resort for those who truly enjoy the finer things in life (with a price point to match) but you can rest assured that the memories from your stay at Bensley Collection Siem Reap will live with you for a very long time. Also, the knowledge that your stay at this unique resort will support the work of the excellent Shinta Mani Foundation adds an extra special level of feel good factor.

Vegan Food Quest small banner logo

We were guests of Bensley Collection Siem Reap but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.

Bensley Collection Siem Reap
Junction of Oum Khun Street
Siem Reap
Cambodia

Telephone:  +855 63 969 234
Email: bcsmsr@shintamani.com
Cost From:
£405 / $555 – Jan 2021 (discounted rates during COVID)