In just a few years, Street 308 has transformed from a mundane back alley to a bustling street of bars and restaurants, taking in vibrant Bassac Lane. Editor Marissa Carruthers and Kimchhay Chanry take a stroll down the short but busy stretch. Photography by Lim Sokchanlina.
The expansion of their menu last year to take in fusion tapas, mini burgers and other bites, has further fuelled the eatery’s popularity on the street. While the signature dumplings and noodles remain on the menu, new flavours have been added, such as duck and sweet potato and spiced lamb with coriander and cumin sauce. And other tantalising treats, such as pork belly doughnuts with maple syrup, have been added, making it the perfect place to enjoy a few drinks and share a few plates between friends.
An inconspicuous alley turned popular expat drinking spot, Bassac Lane is today a hive of activity, with the brains behind Bar Sito on Street 240 ½ breathing a new lively lease of life into the intimate cul-de-sac. Home to a bundle of businesses and bars, such as Harry’s, The Library and Cicada, a central courtyard space acts as the perfect hangout to congregate and sip on several of the signature cocktails – the Espresso Martini comes highly recommended. With each of the bars boasting its own unique identity, Hangar 44 combines booze with bikes and couples up as Moto Cambodge’s showroom, with a spectacular custom-built motorbike sitting with pride in the front window.
As one of the first venues to open its doors on Street 308, Red Bar is a no frills watering hole, and has become a popular haunt for the capital’s journalists and creatives. Serving up cheap drinks – with the owners resisting the temptation to hike up prices in parallel with the street’s rising popularity – Red Bar’s ground floor, and the later addition of an upstairs level, are often heaving at weekends, with drinkers spilling out onto the street. While the basic wooden floors and furniture give a simple feel, Red Bar is packed with heaps of unpretentious personality.
As a Street 308 staple, Piccolo Italia da Luigi, or Luigi’s as it is affectionately known, helped spark the lane’s trend. Since opening in 2013, people from far and wide have flocked to the restaurant to sample what can undoubtedly take the crown as Phnom Penh’s best pizzas. Again a staunch favourite on the street, the restaurant is often full to the brim with diners packed round tables and chairs to feast on the mouth-wateringly good pizzas before them.
Securing a spot in a wooden renovated wooden Cambodian house above Meat and Drink on Bassac Lane, D. Wilkins crafts some of the finest leatherwear in the kingdom. With seasoned craftsman Diego Wilkins at the helm, the workshop and showroom offers a selection of quality goods, from soft leather wallets and hip laptop bags to belts and bang-on-trend satchels, all made from quality imported European leather. Every detail, from the cutting to the stitching is done by hand, meaning the result is a treasured lifelong keepsake that is well worth investing in.
Opened in November 2014, the French-run bar, which also serves up tapas-style dishes ($3), comes alive at dusk, with the signature cocktails proving popular with punters. Packed full of charm, the bar also specialises in wines and top shelf spirits – all at affordable prices. And as the lane’s popularity has risen, Chez Flo has become the place to be for after-work drinks.
Paper Dolls & Paperboy
As one of the latest additions to burgeoning Bassac Lane – but certainly not to the capital – Paperdolls and Paperboy relocated to its current home four months ago, adding to the hip and happening lane’s style. Paperdolls stocks one-of-a-kind, affordable fashions that think outside the box, while Paperboys caters to the gents. Both brands support rising local designers as well as established, including Good Krama, 40 Thieves Apparel and Chin F Design. The go-to boutiques for those wanting to stand out among the capital’s cool crowd.
Sitting at the far end of Street 308 is Lemon Tree, a quaint, colourfully converted Khmer-style wooden house that now serves as a casual restaurant, cafe and bar. With shaded tropical gardens sitting at the front, diners can sit outside or on the comfy sofas on the ground floor. The menu covers salads, sandwiches and shared tapas boards. And in keeping with the quirky vibe, most of the furnishings are made from recycled goods. Take the outside tables, which are made from battered telecommunications wire spools that sit on hefty Khmer earthenware jars.