Marissa Carruthers heads to Digby’s to find out more about Phnom Penh’s grocery store slash cafe. Photography by Conor Wall.
Rows of Kettle Chips, Betty Crocker pancake mix, Bonne Maman jams, biscuits, wines and cereal fill one half of a spacious room. At the far end, a small butcher’s counter offers an almost endless selection of plump sausages and meats. To the side lies a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables and a bustling café.
Despite its location in BKK1, walking through the door of Digby’s is like being whisked into a trend-setting delicatessen in the Western world. The industrial-style building oozes modern chic, with lots of black and white and a spacious café area tastefully decorated with quirky antique typewriters, clocks, teapots and telephones.
“You find this sort of thing a lot in San Francisco and New York,” says owner David Chiv, who was born in Cambodia but raised in San Francisco. “That’s what we wanted to do, bring a bit of San Francisco to Cambodia.”
David Chiv spent almost two years working on the project together with his wife, Amy. The effort paid off, as within just weeks of opening, Digby’s proved to be a hit. In what is a first for Phnom Penh, the open-plan, high-end deli also serves up a sumptuous selection of home-made breads, pastries, cakes and meals. With the words organic and natural all sitting high on the menu, the couple has also ensured Digby’s is littered with healthy options.
“We wanted to try and promote natural and organic foods,” says David, who also owns sister company Digby’s butchers. “We feel it’s important to raise awareness of healthy eating.”
The café menu features snacks as well as main meals, from chicken noodle soup ($4.50) and German Aglio Olio pasta ($6) to beef pot pie ($5) and an American beef burger ($8.80). The butcher boasts more than 100 types of sausages (from $9 for 1kg) and a selection of meats including English, streaky, French and Chinese bacon (from $10 for a kilo).
There is also a charcuterie with a range of meats cured in store and an area where shoppers can buy vegetables from their organic partner, Discovery Farms. A selection of freshly-baked pastries and breads — including multigrain, muesli and soft white — are also on sale.
“It’s a great awakening for me to come back to see my own country and my own people. I realised that I’m blessed in a way to be able to go to the US to learn and get experience,” says David, who has a wider plan to open two additional restaurants upstairs offering Japanese cuisine and Italian tapas.
“The business was not in my mind when we set up. In my heart I wanted to provide jobs for people here. This is more than just a business for me and my wife.”