Once dubbed the Pearl of Asia, Phnom Penh has been reborn as a thriving commercial and cultural hub at the meeting of four rivers in the heart of Cambodia.
WRITTEN BY CRISTYN LLOYD
Luxury restaurants and bars line streets resplendent with colonial and Buddhist architecture, from the golden spires of the Royal Palace to the modern majesty of Vattanac Tower. Here, we break down the best of the best of what this flourishing capital has to offer.
Sundown Social Club
The only thing cooler than the beer at this perch above the Russian Market is its view of the market itself. If you’re not looking for it, you could easily miss the rooftop bar’s front entrance tucked away between small Cambodian businesses and streetside vendors of fresh produce, meats and fish. But for the sharp-eyed imbiber, this bar offers retro-cool decor reminiscent of a 1950s American diner dropped on Toul Tum Poung, one of the city’s most up-and- coming neighbourhoods. While you munch from Sundown’s food menu – which features a strong set of vegan options – you can take in a birds-eye view of market life before watching the sunset. Even as the street below keeps on bustling, you’ll feel right at ease among friendly staff and clientele.
The spacious Oskar Bistro is a social hub of Phnom Penh’s bustling riverside, deftly striking the balance between bar and restaurant. Alongside exquisite French cuisine, here you’ll find both locals and expats sipping on expertly-crafted signature cocktails or one of the hand-picked fine wines imported from around the globe. A true all-rounder, Oskar also hosts some of the city’s finest DJs, who in the later hours grace the decks to transform the tavern into a meeting point for the city’s party-goers in search of the capitals’ best soul, funk, hip-hop and house.
Street 308 area
For such a small area, Street 308 creates a buzzing micro-neighbourhood of small bars and restaurants that packs a mighty flow of activity. South of Independence Monument, the trendy, ever-updating scene hosts a younger and slightly more up-scale demographic than the city’s other nightlife areas. Here, you can rub shoulders with the expat crowd and take an espresso martini at Red Bar to watch the world go by. As the night goes on, sample the mixology of Hub Street Cocktails, a brand first honed in a mobile tuk tuk bar. Getting hungry? Dive into a bowl of Mama Wong’s noodles.
The jewel of the capital’s skybar scene towers 37 stories above the city, attracting a fashionable and well-to-do crowd looking to unwind with some of the most spectacular nighttime views of Phnom Penh. The ter- race juts out of Vattanac Capital Tower, home of the Rosewood Hotel, and is laid-back yet elegant. If it’s not enough to drink in the views, the skilled mixologists behind the bar can whip up custom cocktails and recom- mend the finest beers or wine to suit any palate. Japanese tapas from the equally sophisticated Iza can also be found up in these heights, as can the ultra-stylish, Hemingway-inspired Whiskey Library.
This popular French bistro near Central Market is home to some of the best wines and live jazz in the capital. Set in a renovated colonial-era residence, Bouchon is characterised by its elegant dining room and terrace, sumptuous menu and bustling outdoor wine and cocktail bar. This is the spot for a classic French aperitif, and though its kitchen staff may be far from home, the chefs here serve up perfect pairings of small plates and drinks to cap off a busy day on the town. Try something from the grill, or take a main such as the duck leg confit or beef rossini to set your evening right.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020-2021 Discover Magazine. It has been updated to reflect current listing.
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