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Bar & Restaurant of the Year Awards 2006

By: Expat Advisory Posted: January-01-2006 in
Expat Advisory

Congratulations to Pop Cafe, Green Vespa, Angkor Palm and Funky Munky, the four main winners of our 2006 Bar & Restaurant of the Year competition.

From a field of 60 contestants, and with over 5000 ballots cast, these four businesses were voted the winners by their customers. Congratulations also to the category winners: Pacharan, The shop, Freebird, Equinox, Talkin To A Stranger, Salt Lounge, Viroth's, La Residence d'Angkor, Curry Walla, Linga, Banana Leaf and The Warehouse.

Thank you to everyone who participated, to all the entrants or their customers, without whom the event wouldn't have happened. Thanks also to our sponsors: ANZ Royal Bank, Yellow Pages, Open Wine, Cambrew, American Academic Associates and Cosmos, and to John and Narisa for allowing us the use of the McDermott Gallery Annexe for our Siem Reap awards party.

Here you will find a brief review of each of the winning entrants:

Two things really stand out for me when one mentions the Pop Café. First is its owner, Giorgio, imported directly from Italy, who brings first hand knowledge of the special touches it takes to make Italian food: one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Second, it's the cleanliness not only of his restaurant, but more importantly the kitchen itself. In a town where toxic black smoke streaming from cars is more common than land line phone calls, you had better be concerned with the preparation of the food you intend to internalise!

His kitchen is impeccable, and so is the wonderful food that comes out of it. Handmade gnocchis and pizzas, traditional homemade marinaras and cream sauces are all in a days work for Giorgio. I think he may even bleed the sauce he makes as the quality of his work seems to come from within. Whatever the case may be, he certainly carries on with the traditions of his ancestors.

And along with the aforementioned aspects, Pop Café gives a wonderful service. The friendly and charming staff will provide you with the welcome feeling a quaint café should give you. So if you want to find Pop Café, and you really should, just travel down to the riverside. Its location, on the ground floor just a few doors down from the FCC, is easily accessible. Once you've arrived you can choose to sit in the comfortable white café or enjoy the meanderings of the riverside crowds from one of his outdoor tables. Congratulations, Giorgio - all of your hard work has served you and the rest of us well.

When it comes to the myriad bars around town, some might say it's hard to identify any clear cut favourite to take the Bar of the Year award. We all have our "Cheers", after all, where (as the saying goes) everybody knows your name. Well this year's overall winner, Green Vespa, absolutely fits into that kind of category. Located across from the Phnom Penh ferry port on Sisowath Quay, the Vespa accommodates a wide variety of travellers, as well as their local regulars.

So why the Vespa, and not some of the longer running bars, with bigger names, you might ask? Well, there are plenty of reasons. Let's start with the service. The Vespa won last year's Bar of the Year service award, beating a plethora of great contenders. Sold? Next there is the bar's Irish owner, Alan, who just plain knows how to take care of his customers: he's friendly, outgoing and very generous too. Also, well there's the old adage: location, location, location... the Vespa is on the popular riverfront, just around the corner from Street 104 which has turned into the face plate of the fastest growing bar area in town.

Lastly, the food is great, the portions are more than one could usually eat, and the prices are reasonable. And the Vespa doesn't cater to just one certain crowd. On the contrary, you can drop in for a lunchtime drink, start your evening there or grab a nightcap, hit happy hour, grab a meal, enjoy the music, or just drown your sorrows. All in all the Green Vespa is a well rounded bar that gives you the welcome feeling that many bars in town lack. And they're always glad you came.

After chef training at the famous Lausanne in Switzerland, 31 years of staff management in Parisian restaurants, work as an official photographer for politicians and royalty including the Sultan of Brunei and the Khmer Royal family, and a spell producing African music in West Africa, Bun Try returned to Cambodia with big plans. With his education and experience he hoped to help his country and his people.

Today Bun is engaging that plan through the Angkor Palm restaurant, predominantly by promoting Khmer cooking and the use of local Khmer organic products rather than imported goods. Each morning at 10am you can learn these skills for yourself by attending a cooking lesson, in which you first take a trip to the market to buy the ingredients and then come back to prepare it with the chef. If you can't make it for the lesson, you can still learn some cooking skills as the chef allows patrons to come and help him prepare their meal. The most popular dishes include spare ribs, roasted duck and of course the famous Angkor Palm fish amok which is apparently so good that it has featured on all the major Khmer TV stations. You can also enjoy some Khmer dancing here, as on busy nights the staff create a dance floor and are eager to teach their moves to adventurous tourists.

Bun has also worked hard to arrange a garbage collection service in the town centre by forming a group of bar owners to hire locals for the daily clean up. A new campaign that is underway is a "meals on wheels" type of service where Bun gathers funding and donations and provides meals for those living in the streets. His efforts within the community, widely renowned food quality and great staff have resulted in Angkor Palm being awarded the accolade Restaurant of the Year 2006.

Bars don't get much funkier than the 2006 Bar of the Year award winner. Unique statues of characters from alien movies made from old motor parts overlook the comfortable booth seating from underlit benches that complement the electric blue colour scheme. An eclectic collection of posters, stickers, banknotes and newspaper clippings decorate the walls. A funky music mix often leads to customers dancing in the aisles.

But the real draw card are the owners Mac and Trixie, with a fantastic group of staff that keep customers laughing, entertained and happily inebriated. There's always something happening in this lively bar. Thursday is charity quiz night, where donated prizes range from golf course passes to artwork and T-shirts, and each week all proceeds go to a children's charity. Currently these quiz nights regularly support six different charities, but the list is ever expanding. On Friday afternoons you'll find the darts league being played on the new world-class dart board.

Sunday is roast dinner night with pork and crackling and/or chicken served with mixed veggies, potatoes and a very special homemade gravy that takes no less than six hours to perfect. Or if you're more into burgers there are 23 to choose from including the infamous Cardiac Arrest, which comes with a disclaimer. There's also a mix of Khmer, Mexican, Italian and English dishes so certainly no lack of variety here. Happy hour is from 4-7pm with 75c beer and specials from the range of seventeen cocktails.

The effort Mac and Trixie put in to keeping their customers happy, providing social events and supporting the local community is truly inspiring. One happy patron summed it up with these words: "The only thing I hate about this place is that it is damn hard to leave".

Source: Cambodia Pocket Guide


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