The longevity of some of the businesses on Street 57 is testament to the ongoing appeal of this popular neighbourhood. Barb Eason visits some Phnom Penh stalwarts whose success has paved the way for some of their newer neighbours. Photography Charles Fox.
Cnr Street 57 & Street 380
From fresh produce and the latest super-fresh fashion, to a freshy-girl hairstyle or a pair of not-so-fresh vintage jeans, Boeung Keng Kang market has it all, and is well worth exploring. Hours spent elbow deep in bales of second hand clothes can reap rewards for as little as a few thousand riel per item. Alterations to clothes can often be made on the spot at one of the many tailors based there.
Cnr Street 57 & Street 352
Cocktails from the 1920s and 1930s, such as the Corpse Reviver and Smoked Old Fashioned, are fitting features of the menu offered at Deco. Decorated in the style of the Art Deco era, the sophisticated surrounds of this popular venue can also be enjoyed by imbibing in a fresh serving of craft beer. A short menu focused on quality ingredients and impeccable presentation features some of Phnom Penh’s favourite dishes. Don’t miss the delectable pork chops nestled atop a bed of creamed leeks with tangy mustard sauce ($11). Or skip the mains altogether and order everything on the dessert menu instead – yes, they are all that good. Cheesecake, banoffee pie, sticky toffee pudding and chocolate pudding are $5 each, and worth every single cent and calorie.
Srornos Music School
53 Street 57
Classical music lessons have been available for more than five years at Phnom Penh’s very own music school in downtown BKK1. Srornos Music School offers piano, cello, guitar, violin, clarinet, flute and vocal lessons in either group or private classes. Four terms per year consist of one-hour lessons spread across 12 weeks, and the school accepts students of all ages and skill sets. Pianos set in private rooms can also be hired by the hour for non-students to hone their craft on, subject to availability.
Comme à la Maison
13 Street 57
Just a year shy of a major milestone, Comme à la Maison has come a long way in 19 years. The original garden restaurant still holds the same appeal – a peaceful oasis serving up quality French fare at reasonable prices replete with friendly, attentive service – but it is not the same small business it used to be. These days Comme à la Maison has expanded side-ways and up-ways, employing more than 50 staff to operate the onsite bakery and deli, a large air-conditioned restaurant and two additional floors of meeting rooms available for hire. Three other outlets dotted around the city round out the empire, and its baked goods are used by numerous Phnom Penh hotels and restaurants, making up the wholesale division.
New Jack Holt
38 Street 57
Nestled inside Champei Spa is a bustling French beauty salon. Offering ladies’ cuts from $9 and men’s from $6, it is advisable to book in advance because the place is generally buzzing. Quality work at affordable prices has kept this salon busy for years. Half-head colours and highlights start at $30 and permanent straightening from $50, depending on the length of your hair. Other services include styling for that big night out ($15), manicures ($5) and pedicures ($6).
9 Street 57
A sprawling shady haven set in a rambling Khmer style villa on the corner of Street 278, Khmer Surin has been serving up Khmer and Thai dishes since 1996. Named after the province of Thailand that shares a border with Cambodia to the north, Surin is home to a large population of ethnic Khmer. Pull up a chair in the lush garden or head indoors among the impressive collection of oriental antique furnishings. Enjoy their best selling dish, a steamed curry fish amok ($5) and follow it up with a decadent serving of deep fried coconut ice cream, coated in honey crunch ($3).
Another of Street 57’s long term residents, Smateria has taken the old adage, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” and turned it into commercial success, creating jobs with fair working conditions for more than 120 staff along the way. Using materials as diverse as fishing nets, crocheted garbage bags and leather off-cuts, they create a range of colourful bags that are funky, stylish and functional. Their hand-bags, wallets, clutches, laptop and tablet bags, backpacks, phone covers and toiletry bags are now sold in five outlets around Cambodia and exported to countries across the world.