Bensley Collection Pool Villas
Comprising of ten ‘private oasis villas’, Bensley Collection Pool Villas 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 its’ secluded location, stylish interiors and ‘plant-forward’ food philosophy from Executive Chef Chanrith.
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 that G1, 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 (yes, there was soya milk in our mini-bar) 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 Chanrith.
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 treetops view, this really is elevated perfection in the heart of Temple Town, in more than one way.
The Vegan Food
Not wanting to leave your villa, which we are sure is how everyone who stays here must feel, doesn’t present a problem when it comes to breakfast. You can order from the vegan breakfast menu (yes, there’s a vegan breakfast menu) and have it delivered to your villa, to be enjoyed in bed if you really can’t move, or next to your private pool, tough choice indeed. However, we wanted to take advantage of being so close to the Siem Reap river, waking up early each day for a quick coffee and a riverside walk, returning to enjoy breakfast in both restaurants, Baitang and Kroya, during our 2 night stay.
Avocado on toast is a favourite of ours so of course we ordered that, we ordered the scrambled tofu on toast too, both were excellent and this trusty duo of vegan breakfast favourites certainly hit the spot. We also loved the ‘Vegan Bowl’ which featured avocado, grilled tomato, baked beans, roasted potatoes, mushrooms and sauteed spinach, all perfectly cooked and all delicious. Asian inspired dishes included ‘Kouy Teav Char’ and ‘Bai Char’, wok fried rice noodles and wok fried rice respectively. Packed with veggies and tofu, they were both super tasty vegan breakfast options. The bread was vegan (baked in house) and there was homemade vegan yoghurt which was a real treat, and for another sweet treat we enjoyed their ‘Mango and Banana Bowl’, made with almond milk and topped with crushed nuts for an extra protein hit. Vegan breakfast at Bensley Collection Pool Villas is a veritable vegan feast and this made us very happy indeed.
Kroya by Chef Chanrith
Words struggle to describe just how remarkable our meal at Kroya by Chef Chanrith really was. This was modern Khmer cuisine with a twist, with passion, and with a sprinkling of genius. Course after course of delightful plant based food, presented with style and panache, whilst tasting simply divine. The Shinta Mani philosophy of ‘plant-forward’ dining is championed here, there are two menus to choose from, the omnivore menu or the plant-forward menu. For clarity, ‘plant-forward’ means that plants are centre stage throughout the menu, which is 100% vegetarian but not vegan. However, each and every dish can be prepared vegan upon request. Your only dilemma is whether to select 4 courses or 6 courses, we chose the latter. Why did we order the 6 course menu we hear you ask? Two reasons, one being that we didn’t want to miss out, and the other being that we are both just a little bit greedy. We didn’t take any photos, we were too busy enjoying the experience, and in the same way that words struggle to describe our culinary experience, we are sure that our photos would not do justice to our wonderful meal. So we will leave you with our Vegan Food Quest guarantee that if you choose to dine at Kroya by Chef Chanrith for a special occasion, you will not be disappointed, it’s outstanding in every single way.
The images below include Chef Chanrith hard at work, plating and presenting with that passion we earlier mentioned, and also a sneak peak of our appetiser. Banteay Srei village jackfruit curry dip, crispy rice crackers, cucumber jade and vegetable crudite. Sounds good? It tasted even better as did everything that we were served during a memorable evening. Thank you to our friends at Shinta Mani Angkor for the use of these two images, as we mentioned we were too busy eating to take photos…
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 soya milk in the fridge and a selection of vegan snacks upon check in were well received ‘essentials’ that made us smile. There is an all day vegan menu available too, meaning that whatever time of day, they’ve got you covered at Bensley Collection Pool Villas.
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 life’s 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.
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 Pool Villas 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.
We were guests of Bensley Collection Pool Villas but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
Bensley Collection Pool Villas
Junction of Oum Khun Street
Telephone: +855 63 969 234
Cost From: £600 / $745 – Dec 2022