The next chapter for the elegant Restaurant Le Royal has started as it unveils a fresh look and menu to suit. Editor Marissa Carruthers and photographer Enric Català sample the stylish surroundings.

It’s only right that the landmark Raffles Hotel Le Royal’s fine dining restaurant reflects the sophistication emanating from the stunning historic hotel within which it sits – in terms of both the menu and surroundings.

Offering a subtle yet suave blend of French colonial, art deco and Khmer styles, the stylish restaurant has had its furnishings, including upholstery and the grand chandeliers that finish off the room refurbished, new soft, light carpet laid, and mirror walls installed in the main dining room, further opening up the lofty, light space.

Rotating local art – in keeping with the famous Royal Apsara painting, Grand Piano and intricately hand-painted ceilings – is also a new addition, and part of the hotel’s commitment to support Phnom Penh’s thriving local arts scene.

With culinary roots steeped in French delicacies, the menu has been given a shake-up to present a new take on Mediterranean, Liguria and Niçoise cuisine. Think Mediterranean seafood parasoupa ($34) – baby octopus, scallops, prawns and seared cod in a Riviera sun-blushed tomato broth, and Fines de Claire poached oysters with beetroot purée and fresh horseradish foam ($23).Despite expanding its European reaches, Le Royal retains its legacy of serving Royal Khmer Cuisine, created using recipes handed to Raffles by the late King Norodom Sihanouk. These include favourites, such as Kampong Speu baked kong keb ($26) – frog legs, prawn, minced pork and lemongrass skewers with fried lotus root and steamed brown rice, and chaen trey domrey teuk m’pel tom ($24), seared elephant fish in tamarind sauce.

Opting for the three-course signature gourmet menu ($46/ $18 with wine pairing or five courses for $72/ $126). To start was the green pea and edamame bean soup. The green broth was flavoursome and had the perfect consistency – not too thick, not too watery, and certainly no lumps. The addition of the large, steamed lieh samoth clams, gives added texture to the dish, with the spices adding a subtle after bite.

The fresh ocean cod was up next. Impeccably presented, the fleshy fillets came topped with herbs, with cauliflower ‘clouds’ artistically decorating the plate and hapuka tapenade adding a splash of colour to the plate. The fish was soft yet firm and the cauliflower puree smooth, while the gentle notes of the garlic and olives in the tapenade elevated the taste.

For dessert, the Baileys soufflé was served with rum and raisin ice cream. Cooked to absolute perfection, the soufflé had a slightly crisp top layer, with a dreamy, cloud-like inside. The warm pudding almost melted in the mouth with each bite, cooled by the contrasting ice cream – a divine way to polish off a meal, and service, that without a doubt equals its exquisite surroundings.

Business lunches are also available at Restaurant Le Royal, with two courses costing $22 and three courses, $27.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal, 92 Rukhak Vithei, Phnom Penh.
Tel: 023 981 888.
Open daily from Monday to Friday, from noon to 2.30pm for lunch, daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner, and from noon to 3pm for weekend brunch.