Drinking and dining in Vientiane

Drinking & dining in Vientiane

It might be a positively pocket-sized capital, but Laos’ riverside citadel is far from short of superb places to eat, drink and make merry.

WORDS & PICTURES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS

With an estimated population of just less than 800,000 (in 2015), Vientiane might be Laos’ largest conurbation, but it’s one of Southeast Asia’s smallest.

Despite its petite position, though, Vientiane remains a staple on the longer tourist trail. Sitting as close as is physically possible to Thailand’s northern border, its sprinkling of wats, night market magic and, of course, delicious consumables make it a must-visit along the Mekong.

What’s more, a great deal of what makes this sleepy city special lies within easy walking distance – particularly the plethora of tempting eateries. Which should you choose? With so much of Vientiane’s – and Laos’ – charm residing in its laid-back lifestyle, there’s no better activity than restaurant-hopping to find a favourite (or several).

Still, if you’re in need of some inspiration, Modern Traveller took to a few places in particular – all of which are sure to start your night with good grub in your tummy and a happy haze around your head.


Couleur d’Asie

Rue Nokeokoummane

Walls adorned with striking Antony Giblin prints set the tone for this serene concept store, where colours pop and quirky products beg to be picked up. Once you’ve had your fill of the art and design on show – which ranges from prints and postcards to lampshades and silks – take a pew for a refreshing iced coffee, before ordering dinner from the French-meets-Asian evening menu. Intriguing in the day, by night Couleur is a lantern-lit bit of something delightfully different.

MT recommendsTilapia fillet, washed down with a cocktail or two (happy hour is 5pm – 8pm)

Price category: $


That Dam Wine Bar

That Dam (next to)

(In)appropriately named as it may be, this is Vientiane’s answer to wine bar chic. A cosy indoor area spills out onto a softly lit terrace, where drinkers and diners can enjoy an uplit view of That Dam as they sip one or more glasses from the wide range of sweet nectars on offer.

MT recommends: Any of the red wine that’s served from a horn-shaped carafe.

Price category: $


La Cage Du Coq

Hengbounnoy Street

Tucked down a quiet side street (and all the better for it), La Cage combines a retro music mood – complete with menus wrapped in record sleeves – with off-beat decor, courtesy of suspended wicker cockerel cages, the likes of which one can find all across Southeast Asia. French through-and-through, this is refreshingly unique western cuisine, replete with authenticity.

MT recommends: Soup of the day or the very reasonable set menu.

Price category: $$


Pimenton

5 Rue Nokeoukoumane

Ascend the spiral staircase inside this stylish restaurant to discover concrete-clad walls and coolly heavy cutlery, the ideal backdrop to any one of the deliciously prepared meat dishes. Vegetarians will find the set menus and soups to be equally enticing, whilst the air-conditioned interior of this surprisingly smart steakhouse will be a welcome respite from the blazing sun outside.

MT recommends: Any of the burgers, or the set lunch menu.

Price category: $$


The Spirit House

93 Fa Ngum Road

Its name might pay homage to the ornate stilted shrines so ubiquitous with Southeast Asian culture, but there’s nothing other worldly about The Spirit House’s drinks menu: moreish mixes abound, intriguingly named and strong to boot. What’s more, a menu of tapas-style Lao dishes offers the perfect compliment to an evening of cocktails as the sun sets over the Mekong.

MT recommends: Chicken satay, deep fried prawns and vegetables with chick pea hummus, finished off with an East & Tonic.

Price category: $$$


I-Beam

88 Rue Setthathilath

Come here to start the evening, and you might just spend the night. With an array of wines from near and far, friendly waiters and an ambience of anticipation make it difficult not to feel intoxicated by I-Beam itself, as you enjoy a second (or sixth) glass of something grape-based and suitably smooth. Free nibbles are your only saviour from an evening that ends too soon.

MT recommends: Any of the wines!

Price category: $$


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