Elegance and simplicity unite at the newest Armand’s bistro, serving up wine, steak and romance in Siem Reap. Writer Joanna Mayhew digs into the luxurious fare. Photography by Anna Clare Spelman.
At Armand’s, top-notch cuisine is served up alongside an immersive experience, with patrons transported to an era of opulence and sophistication. Boasting French bistro fare, the Siem Reap eatery is the first expansion of Armand Gerbie’s iconic Phnom Penh-based restaurant.
Upon entry, guests are enveloped in what could be described as 1930s Paris, replete with hints of cinnamon, old jazz standards and a warm glow from perfectly placed lighting. Cohesiveness reigns in the space, down to the minute details – from bottles of Pastis lining the prominent dark wooden bar and a Renoir print, to antique lamps auctioned from Christie’s, smart server uniforms and intentionally aged-looking toilets. “We’re bringing a bit of theatre and flair,” says partner Stewart Kidd.
The bistro offers the same food that has made Armand’s stand out in the country’s capital – chief of which is Armand’s tenderloin Rossini ($19). Using grass-fed Australian top-range beef, steak is topped with foie gras and Cognac, pan flambéed and served alongside neat rows of green beans and expertly crisped frites.
Another popular item is the duck leg confit ($15), quickly deep-fried before being pan fried, and offset by a sharp mustard sauce. Signature starters include the French onion soup ($6), browned on top with thick cheese and crunchy croutons, or the light Tasmanian smoked salmon ($17), garnished with chopped onions, capers and a squeeze of lime.
For the indulgent, dinner can be rounded off with the structured meringue-and-ice-cream baked Alaska ($6). “We do things we know well and deliver the same everyday,” says Kidd. “Today has got to be like tomorrow.”
But Armand’s is also open to some adaptations based on the context, with the newest outlet offering tourists lower-cost options, such as mini burgers ($8) and $4 glasses of wine. “We’re not fine dining, but I don’t see why we can’t have white tablecloths and cheap steaks,” adds Kidd, who partnered up with Gerbie after a career dotted with fashion, music and cabin crew service at British Airlines.
Kidd is chiefly responsible for the décor, encompassing low-hanging rounded lights, intricate tiled floors, glass entryways and wooden accents. With numerous mirrors, the open design is at once communal and intimate, and cosy tables are topped with small lamps imported from Paris.
“You’re going to be greeted with a great smile and a great cocktail,” Kidd says of the dining experience. “If you don’t like us, you don’t like us, but at least we’re doing service at 150 percent.”
With organic wine now supplied from third partner Bauduin Parmentier’s southern France vineyard and the building’s first level set for conversion to a cigar or wine bar, it doesn’t appear there is much to dislike. The noted exception being that experiencing the glamour of Armand’s may make the outside world that much harder to return to.