They say it is a small world and in South East Asia that rings even more true. Back when I was propping up the bar in Anti:Dote in Singapore last November, their head honcho Tom Hogan introduced me to Anne Marie Sagoi, who he explained was in the process of opening a bar with her friend in Phnom Penh.
As we chatted more, and she told me about the inspiration behind the bar Le Boutier I realised that she was working on something very exciting indeed and have been itching to visit ever since.
Le Boutier is named after the family of her business partner, who lived just around the corner from the bar before the fall of the City to the Khmer Rouge. Prior to this, Cambodia had been famous across South East Asia for its rich music culture and Le Boutier is peppered with references to this, from the old posters on the second floor décor to the 1960’s Khmer pop background music and of course, the cocktails.
I visited during their “golden hour” held nightly between 5 & 6pm where all house cocktails have $1 off and beer and wines are 2-4-1 giving me a good opportunity to sample a very through selection of their menu (all in the name of research 😉 )
I started with “La Vie en Ros Sereysothea” named after one of the most famous female Khmer pop stars of the 1960’s, which was made from Pineapple Infused Vodka, Campari, Grapefruit, Jasmine Tea Tincture and “Bubbles”. I love the bitterness of Campari; it worked beautifully with the grapefruit and the sweet/ floral/nuttiness from the pineapple and jasmine. If I had to choose I think this may have been my favourite cocktail of the night.
“Once Bitten Twice Chhay” named after the owners mother, was a refreshing blend of Gin, Pimms, Suze, Fresh Strawberries, Lemon, Ginger and Soda. It was interesting to see how the Suze cut through the sweetness of the Pimms and strawberries, blending nicely with the ginger and citrus.
Next I tried the “Monkey Dance” named after the signature dance move of the 1960’s pop star Pen Ran and made with Pisco, Rhum Agricole, Sherry, Lime and Egg White. I am a big fan of Pisco Sours and this glammed up version was only enhanced by the addition of the Rhum and Sherry – look at the lovely froth from the egg white!
When I saw “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula“, named after a song by Dengue Fever an LA based Khmer/American band who recently played to rave reviews here in Siem Reap, I knew I was going to have to try it as it was made with some pretty wacky ingredients and I was interested to see how it would work. The base spirit is the locally produced Samai Dark Rum with Kaffir Lime, Coconut, Pineapple, Benedictine and Fish Sauce. Yes. You read that right…. Fish Sauce! It had a really interesting savoury note to it which I had not been expecting as I associate coconut cream and rum with sweet drinks like a pina colada, but One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula was far more interesting and I would definitely order it again.
Purely to ensure a good sleep on the night bus back home (cough cough) I decided to try one more cocktail “Bura The Explorer” a sort of spin on the sidecar which pays homage to their friend, guide and tuk tuk driver Bura, with its blend of Cognac, Luxardo Apricot, Mancino Dry Vermouth and Angostura. I was surprised at how dominant the Angostura was but the bitters really helped provide contrast to the honeyed, fruity notes from cognac and Luxardo apricot and it was the perfect night cap.
We sat at the bar downstairs but there are 2 more floors, a second floor lounge and then a small but surprisingly spacious roof top bar where you can sit and observe the comings and goings of Bassac Lane and would be perfect with a group of friends or a date.
I absolutely loved Le Boutier, the space is really simple and contemporary and I half expected to step outside into London or another major cosmopolitan capital city as opposed to Phnom Penh and needless to say, I thought the cocktails were excellent. Definitely one to visit if you happen to be in Phnom Penh, I for one cant wait to go back!