Part of what makes Phnom Penh such a cool, cosmopolitan city is its drinking scene – the place is brimming with buzzy cafés and bars. By day, there’s a lively coffee house culture, and come sunset, everyone’s sipping cocktails at the city’s many rooftop bars.
Here are our favourites of the cafés and bars we tried during our stay in Phnom Penh:
Phnom Penh’s café scene seems to have been kick-started a decade ago when American expat Dana Langlois opened Java, a characterful café with loads of contemporary cool-ness downstairs and colonial charm upstairs – think: cane chairs, ceiling fans, and a wide tiled veranda. There are also a few dynamic art exhibition spaces on site. 56 Sihanouk Boulevard, Phnom Penh.
This funky café cum organic food shop on the ground floor of a boutique hotel on hip 240 Street is a brilliant place to kick start a shopping excursion (see my shopping itinerary here) with a strong coffee or come mid-way to re-fuel. I love the grass growing from inlaid pots on the wooden tables and the white cube-shaped ottomans. There’s also an art gallery next door. 83, 240 Street, Phnom Penh.
With its sleek white minimalist décor and multimedia library, this funky café-bar off the lobby of Lebiz Hotel epitomizes the new breed of modish multi-purpose spaces that are revitalising the city. Their specialty is healthy cuisine. 79F, 128 Street, Phnom Penh.
Brown Coffee & Bakery
Designed by Cambodian architect Hok Kang, which offers Starbucks-inspired green tea lattes and the like, in a stark interior with slate floors, is the current café of choice, popular with the city’s 20-something hipsters. 17, 214 Street, Phnom Penh.
Chow & The Roof
The Quay, a modern minimalist hotel on Sisowath Quay has a cool lobby café-restaurant called Chow at street level, serving up Asian fusion food, which is also a fab spot for a coffee or drink, while upstairs there’s a breezy rooftop bar called The Roof. This is the place to be for sunset for river views and inventive cocktails, such as the Cardamom, with cranberry vodka, cardamom syrup, lemon, and pomegranate juice. 277 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.
Foreign Correspondents’ Club
The big airy colonial-style bar in this grand old building is ideal for downing an icy Angkor beer while you watch the lights go on down on Sisowath Quay. The bars (there’s another upstairs where they have live music) get busy, so get here early for a table with views. Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.
A few blocks away on the corner of Street 148, this stylish spot is where Phnom Penh’s fashionable young middle class likes to sip potent martinis. The food is quite good for soaking up the alcohol too and there’s alfresco seating if it’s not too hot out, but we liked the buzz of the dimly lit bar. Corner Sisowath Quay & 148 Street, Phnom Penh.
While the food upstairs at Tepui disappointed, the cocktails, mixed at the chic bar downstairs certainly didn’t. Which is why we had some more before we left. With its dim lighting, comfy sofas and striking paintings on the walls, this is a pleasant place to spend some time sipping cocktails. The heady Hokkaido martini, made with gin, sake and Cointreau, is superb. 45 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.
Sink back in the cane chairs at this colonial era bar in the splendid old Raffles Hotel as you listen to the tinkle of piano keys and sip the signature drink, a champagne-cocktail called the Femme Fatale created for the hotel’s most famous guest, Jackie Kennedy. Raffles Hotel Le Royal, 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Phnom Penh.