Three times while I was living in Dili I wrote a blog post listing some of my favourite cafes, restaurants and bars (one, two, three). Today, I’m doing the same again. I’ve only been back in Timor-Leste for just over a week, but I’ve spent most of that week inside coffee shops and canteens, and have some new-to-me places to share.
Everyone’s favourite Fatima previously worked at Letefoho Specialty Coffee before opening her own place in 2019. That cafe, a skinny, tiled shop in Formosa, near Starco warung and behind Qulina Supermarket, has local art on the walls, clean white tiles on the floor, and sells quality espresso coffee and the same banana bread as Letefoto.
In early 2021 she opened a second location, with a breezy upstairs and ocean view, in Kampo Alor, just east of Castaway Bar. Both places are beautiful — warm and friendly staff, good coffee, lovely ambience — but it’s upstairs at Kampo Alor overlooking the ocean that I have really fallen for. I’ve visited three times since returning to Timor-Leste.
Another Letefoho alumnus going out alone is a man nicknamed Ameta — a young barista and entrepreneur from Atsabe sub-district in Ermera municipality. He’s spent time in New Zealand learning how to process, roast and cup, and has won the Timor-Leste Coffee Association’s top prize for his specialty coffee.
Ameta’s plant-filled cafe is on the main road in Palapaso, between Thai Herb restaurant and the beach. It serves beautiful specialty coffee — I had a pour-over here this week I described to a friend as the best coffee I’ve ever had — and prices are far cheaper than you’d expect for the quality.
Dilicious, UN House
Dilicious Restaurant is a well-known Dili favourite, and this one isn’t a new recommendation. But its canteen at the back of UN House opened while I was away, and I hadn’t tried it before — my go-to at Dilicious, as a vegetarian, was always the sweet potato gnocchi for dinner. At UN House they’ve got the warung-style bain marie you’d expect of any canteen, with the beautifully prepared, tasty, and local foods you love from Dilicious.
I know ‘the UN’ isn’t the most accessible lunch recommendation — you need to be visiting someone who works in the compound to be able to eat here. But it’s worth the effort to find someone to lunch with — Black Box (my favourite Dili coffee place) has a coffee cart here, and I paid $5 total for this plate of food and a beautiful iced Americano.
This Metiaut beach warung
I’ve moved to a different area of Dili since coming back, and passed these unfamiliar plastic chairs in a leafy courtyard around the point where Bidau meets Metiaut on a run this week. I returned when I wasn’t sweating my life out to see what it was about. It’s wonderful! A little family run, Indonesian-style resto whose name I don’t know.
A friend later described this place as Dili’s best warung, and I can confirm the food is delicious. Indonesian barbecue — fresh fish on a smoky charcoal grill, a tub of turmeric-stained nasi kuning, beautiful stir-fried cassava leaves, spicy sambal on the side. They also serve bakso and nasi goreng, made in the owner’s home across the road. The food is very cheap and drinks — gin and tonics, admittedly average caipiroska — are just $3.
It’s very close to the Bidau fish market, just slightly further east, towards Early Sun Restaurant. You’ll see the chairs appear at dusk.
I found this restaurant by accident after walking to Acadiru Hun, a suburb 500 metres and a produce market away from my house, to find The Ahoc Coffee and Restaurant — that black canopy you can see pictured above, which was recommended to me by the inimitable Brandy Roberts. It was closed when I arrived at lunchtime, but the two-storey restaurant over the road was busy, so I wandered in.
I’m glad I did — Restaurante Linivon is lovely. It’s a very standard Indonesian warung with a full bain marie. Four things set it apart from a regular resto for me: that it has katupa as a rice option, the cheap meals prices for what looks like a mid-level restaurant, the excellent barista-made coffee, and the breezy air of that second storey verandah. The food isn’t a patch on a place like Dilicious, but it’s a place I suspect I’ll visit frequently for a working-from-home lunch break.
Do you live in Dili? What have I missed? She’s always taking restaurant recommendations and keen to know what’s new.