Phnom Penh Restaurant Reviews: ARTillery CaféJune 4, 2012
For some restaurant operators, opening a new place is like making spaghetti. Throw it up against a wall and see if it sticks.
For others, it’s more like baking a cake. Measure the ingredients carefully, add one at a time, treat gently and allow time to rise.
ARTillery falls into the latter category. This small art café cum boutique/gallery/event space is tucked away in a most unlikely location, but it’s clear that it’s a labour of love with a well thought-out plan: Start simple, gradually add new things and focus on local residents who are likely to become regulars.
The foundation of the café is food. Healthy food. But it’s also becoming a haunt for artisans and wannabe artists who attend the “Drink and Draw” sessions as well as a gathering spot for people looking for organic meals and a new place to hang out.
The first challenge, though, is finding the place. I live only a few blocks away but still thought I was going the wrong way when I headed down the back alley where the signpost directed me. Keep going past the furniture shop, turn the corner and you’ll find it – a small, crisply decorated café with outdoor seating, powder blue awnings, china-plate mosaic walls and a cool interior.
Everything about the place is light, airy and organic – except the logo which seems totally incongruous. While I’m able to identify the clothes hanger, fork and paintbrush in the design, the overall image looks like a gun and seems an inappropriate symbol for a place focused on art and wellbeing.
Like the menu, the décor is minimalist and the bamboo chairs aren’t made for long lingering meals. The restaurant is painted stark white, accented with soft blue cushions and tables are made from wooden packing crates. There’s a quirky floating staircase leading to an upper level where you can sit on a padded couch to paint, drink coffee or look down on the little boutique below. And there’s a small pantry where you can buy honey from Ratanakiri, Himalayan sea salt, fair trade teas and other organic or natural products produced locally by small independent suppliers.
As for the food, it is tasty, fresh and tenderly prepared and fills any need you may have for healthy cuisine.
For starters, there’s a selection of fresh power juices and smoothies – good for that morning after or for an energy boost for the day.
You can get a Vitamin Vitalizer (carrot, apple, ginger and lime), Stomach Soother (cucumber, honey and lime), Phnom Penher (dragon fruit, lemongrass, ginger, lime and honey) or America (frozen banana and roasted peanuts) all priced at $2. And for tea drinkers, the brew comes in the shape of wild berry, organic green or good old English all the way from Yorkshire.
I’ve had breakfast and lunch here and was impressed by the fresh tasting ingredients and delicious flavours of all their dishes. My breakfast of scrambled egg with shallots and herbs served with chunky toast ($3) and my friend’s toast with homemade peanut butter, pineapple compote and papaya jam ($2.50) both lived up to expectation. There’s even a dish of boiled eggs with soldiers for the transplanted Brit or Angolophile ($3). And the coffee is excellent, served in individual French presses filled with organic fair trade beans ($2).
At lunchtime, I ordered the Anchor Salad (vegetable noodles, avocado, French beans, toasted black sesame seeds and crispy ginger served with walnut bread – $4) but made the mistake of ordering the dressing “on the side” which seemed to throw the waitress into a tizzy. I’m not quite sure what I got, but later realized my salad didn’t have any noodles and, instead, had heaps of carrot slivers and apple. Lots of fresh stuff but not quite what I had in mind. My companion had the Yorkshire sandwich (Gouda cheese and homemade onion chutney, tomatoes and rocket served on olive baguette – $3.50), which was delicious.
Since their opening in March, ARTillery started off gently, offering breakfast and lunch, and has just started serving tapas and wine on certain evenings (call for information). As part of their neighbourhood penetration, they’ve also hosted a pop-up market, a lively Queen’s Jubilee street party, afternoon tea and cake, clothing swap and the regular art evenings (as well as exhibits of local artists on their walls).
And I have the feeling they have quite a bit more up their sleeve.
Street 240 1/2 (an alleyway off 240 near Wat Botum)
Phone: (0)78-985 530