Phnom Penh Pub Page – November 2014

It seems that every time I try to head out to do some hard work and research, it has rained this month – ok that is not quite fair – I have taken my usual attitude of doing solely amateur bar hopping for the first few weeks and try to fit in my professional drinking right before publication date.

Yes I admit it, I am the pub page procrastinator. This month, the weather kept me from enjoying my rounds but after some encouragement from the Publisher and threats to have the Hunchback follow behind me with a cricket bat, I managed to make my way to a few establishments.

Still no Templar bar – I hope this is not another Waiting for Gadot-esque satire like we had waiting for Larry’s to open. I was assured that things are moving forward and Templar will be opening one of these days and I keep walking by its location a few doors down from the FCC to see how things are going. Robbie has said he wants to make sure things are done right before opening. In Cambodia, I am not sure that means the bar will be arriving on a timely basis.

Speaking of opening, just in time for publication Hedonism Bar has opened on 104 St. in the old Vixen space beside Cavern. It was fairly quiet when I dropped by and I was told that the bar would be fully staffed up in a couple of weeks.

The place had a 70’s disco vibe when I was there between the music choices and the décor (the wall paper would a quite the trip with the right blood chemistry). It is a fairly small space but they have made the best of it and it seemed quite comfortable- although as it was not too busy when I showed up, I may have another perspective on a crowded night.

Actually given the size of the place, I questioned the choice of having a dart board (I suspect there will be some drunken adventures with flying metal objects in the near future) but I guess they were trying to decide what to let drunken customers play with in a bar with no room for a pool table.

A lovely segue as we move next door to Cavern – much to my shock my favourite kitchen on 104 St. has closed. It is a tragic story of the care and respect that one tavern owner can have for his staff.

As the story was told to me by a kindly passing troubadour, as pchum benh was approaching, three of the kitchen staff faced an Odyssian choice – how to move forward between the Scylla of abandoning their familial responsibilities and the Charybdis of leaving me without a place to get a good burger and amazing fries on 104 St. over the holidays. Fortunately this Gordian knot was dealt with masterfully by our humble publican who closed his kitchen forever rather than force his staff to make this difficult choice (there is another version being whispered among those who should know better that it was closed to prevent an ebola epidemic from spreading through the hostess bars but I don’t put any faith in such tales).

Of course this has left our noble hero sitting in front of his establishment drinking himself silly and moaning about the lack of any other place in Phnom Penh to grab a meal worthy of his deeds. I was told that the Pub attempted to step up and provide an alternative Sunday roast suitable for this champion of worker’s rights, but forgot to let our hero know about it.

I found Chez Rina on another rainy night when I was out for a stroll. It is on 98 St. – a quiet street near the post office and just north of the KFC. You will probably never find yourself there unless you are looking for it; however despite having only a quick stop over there, I would recommend you go looking as it is worth a visit or three. It an elegant and intimate bar in a colonial building that opens at 5 and closes around 12:30 (or later if people are hanging out).

It is a cocktail bar with some interesting selections and a few assorted choices to fill out the menu – I was a bit disappointed to find only three beers but happy to see that Leffe was only of the limited options. Wednesday is ladies night – 1st drink for the fairer gender is free – an important starter given that it does not appear to have a happy hour and cocktails were USD5.

Finally, I dropped by a few places that I have not circulated through in quite a while.

First up was Barbados on 130 St. I still can never remember what nights they have live music – I wish I could because I really enjoy the other nights. For those who enjoy a fun night out with a staff that seems intent on making the customers enjoy their time and leave far more inebriated than they had planned – this is a good place to include on your itinerary.

For a later night haunt, I found myself at White Cobra on 51st for the first time in ages. It is great to see that some things never change. This is still a great spot to see the world go by without being mired in the middle of the GSM late night festival of the heteromorphic and eccentric. Inexpensive drinks in a place where long time locals still dwell.