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Review: The Lunch Box

By: Charley Bolding-Smith Posted: April-04-2011 in
Charley Bolding-Smith

The sandwich has conquered the world. Nations seem powerless to resist the gastronomic hegemony of a bit of protein and vegetable, stuck between two slices of carbohydrate. Fortunately for us, Cambodia has proven no exception, offering a variety of bready goodies from the humble Khmer street sandwich to the upmarket gourmet offering. That’s where Lunch Box, the café and sandwich bar on Street 282 come into the picture.

They’re relocating to the soon-to-open The Willow Boutique Hotel nearby, but I’d heard good things about the place, and wanted to check the original venue.

It’s one of those joints you can walk straight into, rather than having to pause and check out the direction you’re supposed to be heading in. There’s a funky mismatch of comfortable rattan chairs, backed by plentiful foliage. Combine with mellow sounds, and colourful down lighting, to create a very pleasant ambience. Service was swift and efficient; it was easy to relax.

To be honest, I’d have probably enjoyed any of the sandwich selections on offer. There’s the usual suspects – well-loved favourites like the BLT, Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese, and Hero (priced at $4.50 to $5.50), as well as Chicken Schnitzel and Vego Delight, which both speak for themselves (I think). Or build your own from a base price of $2.50. In the end, I went for the ‘Hero’ ($5). I cannot fault it – good quality rye bread combined with a serious wedge of ham, Swiss cheese, gherkin, tomato, salad leaves, and Dijon mustard. It was properly constructed and served with a knife and fork for the genteel, because each triangle was a proper two-hander. There was a nicely dressed baby tomato garnish in accompaniment. Did I forget something? Or did the operators? A few potato crisps on the side would have completed the meal nicely. Nonetheless, speaking as one of the world’s leading authorities on the sandwich, I was very satisfied.

Needless to say, they don’t just do sandwiches. There’s pasta and Khmer faves, such as beef Loc Lac. Pork Chop, with Mash, Vegetables and Mushroom Sauce ($6) caught my eye in particular. All-day breakfast ($5.50) comprising bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, toast, and tea or coffee sounds pretty good to. The Lunch Box caters for the full range of events and functions, and offers takeout and delivery options. It certainly beats a Marks and Sparks party selection.

It’s so annoying, isn’t it, when you discover somewhere that you really like, only to learn it’s going to close imminently (as a relative newcomer to Phnom Penh, I’ve only just visited the Lakeside). I expect ‘The W’, where the Lunch Box is being, er, delivered to, will be a bit fancier. That’s progress, damn it. As long as they keep the mellow ambience, and the protein stuck between two pieces of carbohydrate, I’ll check it out. The long-hoped for bite has entered my mouth - I love the Lunch Box.

Lunch Box: The Gourmet Sandwich Bar, 14 Street 282, Penh Phnom
‘The W’ at the The Willow, Boutique Hotel, Bar and Restaurant, House 1, Street 21, Phnom Penh

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