Going for pizza in Asia is like buying new David Bowie albums – you remember how good it’s been in the past, and you really want it to be good this time, but you know in your heart of hearts that disappointment is the only likely outcome. You wander in whistling Heroes or Life on Mars, you shuffle out humming Hello Spaceboy.
Luxury travel isn’t just about travelling by private jet/limo or staying in 5* hotels, though that is of course part of it. What’s equally important is enjoying unique, authentic experiences and really getting under the skin of a destination, and seeing things that most tourists miss. That’s why many of our clients like to give expensive upscale restaurants a miss every now & then, and enjoy Asian food the way the locals do – on the street.
British cuisine may have a reputation (undeserved) for blandness, but we Brits are addicted to spicy food. Indian restaurants now outnumber fish & chip shops, and whilst they may owe their original popularity to being the only places you could get a drink back in the dark days when the pubs closed at 10.30pm, they are now loved for their spicy cuisine as much as for their exploitation of loopholes in the licensing laws.
When I think of Cambodian dessert, I don’t think of cake.
I think of mango. Or sticky rice. Or fried banana nuggets.
But I’ve recently discovered there’s a huge market in this part of the world for cake.
Here are a couple of stats that may surprise you. One of the larger hotels in Phnom Penh sells about $1,500 worth of cake daily. And Bloom, the wonderful cake store and café, which opened its doors this February on Street 222, sells between 120 and 500 cupcakes every day!
Do you like eating hot pots? Do you like local barbecue? Well if yes, then obviously this Cambodian tradition was invented with you in mind.
Now I suppose I'm a newcomer here, so these novelty dining experiences continue to excite me. Then again I've had other friends of mine who have admitted that they somehow feel "cheated" by having to cook their own food at a restaurant. That to me seems odd: sometimes I'm so furious at the way a restaurant messes up a dish I would be delighted at the opportunity to step into the kitchen and show them how to do it properly.
Part diner, part dive bar, joints like Alley Cat simply don’t exist elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The fact that they celebrated their sixth anniversary last year is significant in a town where bars close quicker than a speeding motodop. It’s a cafe with character – and characters. Step forward owner Mark Eastty and lugubrious front man Dallas, responsible for the trademark Top Cat mural and Tex-Mex desert landscape. They give the venue a sense of drama and permanence. The diner booths are wonderfully flexible – the largest can accommodate 10, or two sprawled flat-out at quiet times.
Many of the Phnom Penh venues frequented by a large number of expats have a tendency to multitask. Cafes come complete with a small craft boutique, restaurants have their own art gallery. The exemplar par excellence of this trend is The 240. Upstairs, it is a boutique hotel, downstairs there is a shop specialising in organic and ecologically friendly food and cleaning products, this blends seamlessly into a café area, ambling gently out into the bijoux, leafy, courtyard.
It is a striking sign of globalisation that an Englishman can eat South American cuisine in the heart of South East Asia. Yet here in Phnom Penh, you can dine out at The Latin Quarter on a mixture of dishes from all corners of Latin America, prepared by Khmer chefs (albeit under the watchful eye of the restaurant’s Uruguayan manager Diego). The colonial setting, and a heady pick’n’mix of Latin music styles streaming out of the PA system, transport you thousands of miles away, to the far barrios of Buenos Aires, Bogota, Montevideo and Havana.
Brasserie du Port – A rich, buttery taste of the South of France
For a long time, the area around the Night Market was like a frontier country for the average ex-pat, A border land beyond which lay uncharted territory and signs which read ‘Here Be Monsters…And No Nice Restaurants!’.
Xayoh Grillhouse started as the first grillhouse in town. Copying the concepts of american steakhouses, it offers steaks and burgers. Recently added was a superburger. But to be honest: there are better places for steaks. Althought they may try heir best, staff has not much clue about what they serve, the baked tomatoes look disgusting, and the overall presentation is poor.