Best hotels and restaurants in Phnom Penh
Best hotels in Phnom Penh
Corner of Street 278 and Street 57, Phnom Penh - Tel: (023) 222 522
US $40 to US $60
Crowd: Tourists, frugal consultants who want to save their daily allowances
Go for: Great central location for explorers
Anise is a reasonable hotel located in Phnom Penh's affluent residential district of Boeung Keng Kang, a stone's throw away from the Monument of Independence. Anise stands a the corner of an area popular with tourists, but this does not get overwhelming. Good restaurants and second rate bars abound on Street 258. There are several mini-marts and a supermarket within walking distance. The general decoration is without pretension and avoids the garrulous kitch of nearby competitors. The shower over the water closet of the cheaper rooms is not the greatest but that'll do as you won't need to break the bank for some comfortable nights. Overall Anise makes the cut to our list of hotel picks in Phnom Penh with a comfortable margin. No frills but no headaches either.
#92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Phnom Penh - Tel (023) 981 888
US $150 to US $2000 (two thousand US dollars for Le Royal Suite)
Crowd: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Kennedy, Colin Powell, Barack Obama, corporate tycoons, very rich people, but also people with discount coupons and on package tours
Go for: Luxury and history in style
Le Royal is beyond doubt the grande Dame or grand Monsieur of Phnom Penh. Like any ancient, it has witnessed its share of trends and fads, historical figures, power hungry captains of industries, anxious French writers, and glamorous stars, as well as the more casual modern tourists. “Step into Hotel Le Royal and relive the romance of the Golden Age of Travel”. Inaugurated in 1929 and “sensitively restored” in 1997, the Royal has withstood the test of Phnom Penh’s turbulent history. The service is seriously professional and definitely not relaxed. Staff are polite but will usually not exchange pleasantries with guests. If you are on the pay roll of a big multilateral lending agency and want to splash into luxury while fighting poverty, this is definitely the place in Cambodia. The pool is currently one of the nicest in Phnom Penh, with the exception of the Olympic pool at the National Stadium (that is bigger but does not get cleaned as often). We can only afford the famous Elephant Bar, tucked in the right corner of the hotel as you walk in. From 5 pm to around 8 pm, all cocktails are at reasonable prices given the level of service and the lavish setting. Don’t miss their Singapore Sling which, according to our Gnarfgnarf colleagues from Singapore, tastes just like the cocktail served at the original Raffles Hotel of their home city. Jackie’s favourite was the Femme Fatale which the First Lady sipped in 1967 listening to King Sihanouk’s (then a young prince) latest jazz composition... True to legend, the cocktail glass bearing her lipstick is still there.
Best restaurants in Phnom Penh
Route Nationale 6, about 4km from Chroy Changwa Bridge , Mekong side
Price: Average to expensive
Crowd: Families and friends
Go for: Khmer traditional cuisine with an untamed Mekong vista
Rumchang offers a splendid view of the Mekong under the shade of the albizia. Fresh khdam thmor or mud crabs (unfortunate translation, since we actually call them stone crabs) may be stir fried with a sweet sauce, beer and Kampot pepper. You are better off picking your own crab (do ask the waiter for the bigger specimens!). Crab is not a pauper's meal. It takes fishermen hours to hunt down the critters in the mud and sand. Depending on availability, expect to pay at least US $15.00 per kilogram. For US $20.00 per person you can order the following delicious selection: chay yor (fried rolls), sach koh chakak (beef skewers), ban chay (pancakes) and crabs. A big bottle of fresh Angkor beer may help your body adapt to the tropical heat and humidity. Rumchang is famous for its pancakes filled with chicken, pork or shrimp or a combination of any. The cuisine is good, straightforward, and fairly priced for a family Sunday lunch. The restaurant is a pleasant outing a few minutes outside of Phnom Penh beyond the Japanese Friendship Bridge and Cape Changwa. You could combine the restaurant with a morning excursion to the countryside in Kandal Province... or simply go there for a good meal with a nice vista of the Mekong.
#74 Street 174, Phnom Penh - Tel (092) 219 565
Price: Average to expensive
Crowd: Families, tourists, Khmer food lovers
Go for: Authentic traditional Khmer cuisine served by former street kids
Romdeng is part of the NGO Mith Samlanh which runs programs to take children off the streets of Phnom Penh, so pigging out on good food at this restaurant is for a good cause. Romdeng teaches kids the basics of cooking and waiting tables for a crowd of cart driving patrons. The service is genuinely friendly and tries hard to please. Talk to the kids as they are eager to practise their English. To our knowledge, the food served here has no equal in any other restaurant in Cambodia. It is exquisite traditional Khmer food without artificial ingredients such as the infamous MSG flavour enhancer. Our parents and grandparents never used any shortcut to good old soup stock. You would have to eat at Cambodian homes for this level of refinement and deliciousness. If you want to go to a Khmer restaurant in Phnom Penh, this should be the one. The beef curry Saraman (mistakenly translated on their menu as Khmer Muslim curry), is on a par with our grandmothers' cooking. Also try the pomelo and mango salads. Forget the fried spiders, it's all for show and nobody really likes them. Sit outside in the garden of this neatly decorated and rehabilitated villa. There is a mini pool where children can play around.
#43 Street 95, corner of Street 348,Tel (0)93 665 225
Price: Cheap to Average
Crowd: People who know
Go for: Calm and quiet vegan, vegetarian and meaty foods
Keh nyai can be translated as "people are talking". Like few other places Gnarfgnarf has seen in his travels around the globe. Refined, elegant, yet simply down to earth and unpretentious. You sit, sipping your fruit smoothie and wait for the food. It may take a while... But the pumpkin and pear salad is a delicious oddity, the soups are nutritious and the desserts classic Khmer. The portions may be vegan bites, but they are filling. Fish amok served in traditional banana leaf cups is also on the menu. It is quiet in this villa that nobody knows about. Ah, we wish word doesn't get out about this hide out, but the travel guidebooks will come soon enough, inevitably. But for now... And soon, as we have done before, you fall asleep on the sofa in the soothing atmosphere of the restaurant at the end of a sunny alley in the heart of Phnom Penh. While the congenial staff discreetly watch over you...