Nearly a year ago, I wrote a long blog post called My favourite places in Dili, where I listed the cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants I found myself returning to, time after time. Since several have shut down and I’ve found new favourites, I thought it prudent to update this list.
Here are my new favourite places to eat, drink and play in Dili.
Drinking coffee in Dili
A year ago, I told you to visit Letefoho Specialty Coffee, the Spa Cafe and Grandace Cafe, and just six months ago I added Beachside, Kaffe Uut and Agora Food Studio in a supplementary list of my favourite Dili coffee spots. There’s undeniably a lot of good coffee in Dili, but I’m bored with my each-way bet: now, my very favourite place to drink coffee in Timor-Leste is Black Box, the coffee-shop-cum-bar brainchild of Nuno Ridenio. It ticks my every box: good coffee, nice staff, pretty views, relative quiet, and cheap prices.
Find it: in Farol, on the road that stretches from the lighthouse to Comoro Road — it’s the two-storey building on the western side of the road, just opposite the school.
Coffee and lunch and brunch in Dili
Ah, ok; Agora and Beachside and Kaffe Uut make their appearances on my old list in a section I titled if you want coffee with food. A year ago, I recommended brunching or lunching at any of them, or at the now-sadly-closed Cafe Wesae. I do still think a sand-side Beachside brunch or a pristine plate of Agora’s thoughtfully prepared soft scrambled eggs are two Dili dining experiences utterly deserving of their godly status in cashed-up expat circles; but again, I’m a bit tired of suggesting hollandaise made by an Australian to Dili visitors.
Instead, I’m suggesting a masala dosa at Bayleaf, the old Royal Beach Hotel, on the Kampong Alor beachfront just above Letefoho Speciality Coffee. Crispy, cheap, filling and delicious, with a beautiful ocean view and easy access to Letefoho’s delivered-upstairs coffee.
Find it: in Kampong Alor, close to Castaway Bar.
A fuss-free lunch-break lunch
Grand banquet dining this was not; last year I suggested you four easy lunch places; two of them cafes and two of them warungs. I actually stick with all of my recommendations, even if I’ll hate myself if this accidentally sends an influx of hungry readers to Haburas or Agua de Coco: my go-to lunch place remain the veg-friendly Haburas Foundation, and if I worked more regularly in Lecidere this year I’d still be visiting Agua de Coco for a pillowy salad sandwich and a cold fresh coconut once a week.
Find them: opposite Kaffe Uut in Farol; opposite Starco warung in Lecidere.
Dinner in Dili
With last year’s recommendations I sent you to Turkey, Thailand, Italy, Bangladesh and Australia — recommending Turkish Ottoman restaurant and Litty Pattaya in Metiaut; Valentino Trattoria in Farol; Queen Tundriee in Marconi; and the old classic beachfront Castaway Bar. Again, I still eat at all of these places, but want a single, sweeping recommendation, and I’m going with Dilicious restaurant, run by larger-than-life Cesar Gaio. Local flavours, friendly prices, sweet young staff, a commitment to buying local — it may not be Dili’s poshest restaurant, but it’s good fun tasty food and a worthwhile business to throw your support behind.
Find it: in Marconi, behind the soccer pitch opposite Tiger Fuel.
Impressing a Dili date
I don’t quite know who I was trying to impress with this list, but I suggested date night at Nari’s, Diza, or Prata, the posh Portuguese restaurant totally kneecapped, in my opinion, by its sad relocation from breezy beachside Metiaut to the Pateo carpark, next to the gym. A year on, Felix and I have been impressing one another by suggestion sunset date-night drinks at Nha Casa in Metiaut and then never following through, which will be my suggestion here — although I’ve also heard good things about Caravela, which is what I think Diza used to be? (I’m very confused about the origin story of both of these restaurants and would surrender the entire dish of free olives to someone would could explain it to me).
A Dili drink
Why didn’t I include having a drink in last year’s list? I drink a lot in Dili, probably too much, probably it is bad that I went to Castaway during happy hour last night ($2.50 gin and tonics) and the guy looked at me and guessed my order, anyway, I love a knock-off at Castaway and a nightcap at Black Box, but my favourite place is the place I promised a friend I wouldn’t promote, where they give out free popcorn and had Little Creatures stubbies for $3.50 for a bit before Craig and I drank them all and it’s walking distance from one of my jobs, the one I’m finishing, so I need to find a new cheap friendly courtyard drinking place, I don’t think I will have any trouble.
My favourite places I never go to
Adding a new category this time around because there are always so many places I want to mention and can’t squeeze into my prescribed little lists. A quick top-five summary of the restaurants I go to, think, oh, I love this place, don’t visit again for six months, then visit and repeat. Remind me of this next time?
- Timor Thai for dinner (in Farol, near the New Zealand Embassy)
- Osteria for great pasta (in Pantai Kelapa, next to Castaway Bar)
- Food L Do for a surprisingly sophisticated drink in the silliest-named place in Dili (at Timor Plaza, near the cineplex)
- Jeitu Burguer for a good greasy burger with BYO wine (in Bairo dos Grillhos, in the Quilina supermarket courtyard)
- Kaffe Uut, even though it’s already on my list, but for brunch — fun fluffy scrambled eggs inside a panini roll for I think $3.80 (in Farol, or the Pateo complex)
And here’s a sneaky sixth, because I’ve technically never been here — the Himalayan dumpling place, also in the Pateo complex! I’ve eaten their samosas at markets and near-wept at how delicious they are; why haven’t I visited their shop yet?
What have I missed — where do you like to eat and drink in Dili?
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