Sundays are brilliant, aren’t they? Whether you are nursing a hangover from Saturday night’s excess, or praising the Lord for the seventh day, that God-given day of rest applies to everyone (except Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists supermarket workers and the Khmer construction workers opposite your apartment). Even so, for those who get a weekend, apart from Puritans, Sunday offers a buffer zone between those crazy Saturdays and the impending doom of Monday, hanging over every working man like the sword of Damocles.
Back in quaint merry old England there are many traditions; morris dancing, talking about the weather, badger baiting and 2am brawls outside nightclubs. Sunday’s have their own special place in the hearts of a true Brit, and I don’t mean church; nobody does that anymore, but for the average Brit, Sundays have three core components: the pub, football and a proper roast.
Whether it’s a visit home to mum, home cooked after a night’s clubbing without sleep, or a trip to the boozer, no Sunday is complete without a pile of tender meat, roast spuds, gravy and all the trimmings. Damn, it’s making me feel hungry typing this, and the next meal of rice seem even more unappealing than usual.
As my mother lives 6,291 miles away, according to Google maps, and having no oven, the only other option is to find a decent lunch on my bi-monthly sojourns to Phnom Penh. Having been suckered in to a few places before, by mouth watering offers chalked up outside, I’ve left feeling disappointed, realizing that these are tourist places, often run or staffed by Khmers who lack that certain finesse when it comes to the art of non-chewy meat, warm gravy and crunchy spuds.
Now I don’t usually write restaurant reviews- I’m not AA Gill or, thankfully Michael Winner (apologies to colonial readers, but this is a British thing, with references only poms/limeys will understand). Through a bit of persuasion, a deadline and some genuine good feelings about the nosh, I’ve been convinced to type up a few lines in praise to a regular Sunday haunt- The Cavern on 104, just off Sisowath Quay.
Why bother? Well #1 is the breakfast, by far the best I’ve tried in PP, real sausages and thick bacon, – worthy of an up market greasy spoon anywhere in Blighty. Nothing gets rid of the Saturday shakes than a plate of meat, a bit of grease and a pint/bloody Mary in the morning.
Then there’s the roast, a popular attraction every week, with well cooked beef or pork, done pretty much to perfection. After being in the Kingdom so long it’s good to be reminded that beef doesn’t have to be masticated like a stick of Wrigley’s, but can actually be chewed a little and then swallowed. The pork is also well prepared, without any sugar or MSG, and, to coin a cliché, melts in your mouth.
The usual trimmings are there- stuffing, carrots, peas – but also a few extras like a roasted onion, cauliflower cheese and real crunky crackling which could chip a tooth/lead to a coronary. Another bonus is the Yorkshire pudding, which is a rare treat in Cambodia – especially when it’s done as well as this . A jug of meaty gravy comes alongside, with horseradish or apple sauce, depending on the flavor. The Daddy of the Sunday carvery – lamb with mint sauce appears as an option on the menu occasionally too, so it’s worth asking ahead of time. With the lunch comes a free drink, a draught beer, a soft drink or my personal tipple – a Bloody Mary. A glass of wine is $1 extra.
All in all the quality of the roast is excellent and it’s popular; almost every plate goes back to the kitchen empty. The portions are reasonable, and reflect the price, $6.95 for regular and $8.95 for the large, including a drink, so it’s actually cheaper than the pub back home in Blighty.
To round off the Sunday ambiance for the homesick Brits, Match of the Day, recorded from Saturday is shown at 1pm, giving footy fans a chance to listen to punditry from Alan Hansen, Gary Lineker etc. and to laugh heartily at Manchester United’s feeble season performance as well as whatever grotty British weather is on display.
Other nationalities need not worry, football (sorry, soccer) is only on for an hour, and the kitchen remains open for orders for all other food on the menu – mostly authentic pub grub. The pizza and ribs come with my personal seal of approval and the rest looks good.
So whether it’s for a morning fry up or early afternoon proper job luncheon, a hungry expat can do a lot worse than try out The Cavern.
So think of Sundays as a homely invitation to Brits abroad, an opportunity to the Americans, Australians and other colonial cousins, as well as a challenge to the French (with their poncey cuisine) to tuck in to an honest, decent and traditional British meal, postponing the dread of Monday until later in the afternoon. Remember, it’s not easy to get such a home cooked treat when mum is 6000 miles away.
The Cavern can be found on Street 104, Phnom Penh