A Designer’s Guide to Phnom Penh
Streamlined and elegant, the recently opened Rosewood Phnom Penh has raised the bar for hotel design in the Cambodian capital. Nodding to its surroundings and heritage, the hotel’s sleek, no-fuss interiors feature modern reworkings of Cambodian art and crafts, with rust-red highlights echoing the city’s red rooftops and the vibrant blooms of the Poinciana trees.
Aiming "to connect Cambodia’s past and present, drawing together the threads of history, nature and culture" into the hotel’s aesthetic, Rosewood’s designer, Melburnian Stewart Robertson explored the city, delving into its museums, artisan studios and streetscapes for inspo. For LUXE, Stewart who's the co-founder of BAR Studio shares tips on where to eat, drink, shop and visit in Phnom Penh.
EAT & DRINK
There are lots of great restaurants in Phnom Penh, but you can’t beat Central Market for lunch. With a number of noodle stall to choose from, kuy teav (flat rice noodle soups) is a must-try.
For something special, try Romdeng. Not only do they serve excellent Cambodian dishes, the restaurant is also managed by the NGO Mith Samlanh (meaning Friends) who train street kids as restaurant staff to help them acquire new skills.
Another restaurant worth visiting is Malis. Located on one of the city’s grand boulevards, the food here is spectacular. Traditional Cambodian dishes such as fish amok (fish curry) and Bang Kang Malis (Bang Kang river lobster marinated in a prahok and chilli paste) have been revived with a modern take.
A great spot for pre-dinner drinks and live music is the FCC Mansion’s Heritage Bar, located in a beautiful French-colonial building across from the National Museum along the riverside.
Whisky bar Long After Dark, founded by two fellow Melbournians, is reminiscent of my home city and a great spot to end your night in Phnom Penh. This speakeasy, located in the Russian Market neighbourhood, is set in a classic wooden Khmer building, and features reclaimed wood and furniture throughout.
SHOP & SEE
The local markets in Phnom Penh are absolute treasures. I love the local rice-paper prints from Central Market – they can be framed as modern art to add a sense of culture to a contemporary room.
I spent a lot of time at the National Museum. Home to the most comprehensive collection of Khmer art in the world, the collection includes artefacts spanning prehistoric times to the well-known Khmer Empire that stretched across present-day Thailand, Cambodia and southern Vietnam. The building itself is a beautiful architectural element in its own right, with its large airy hallways looking into a courtyard of fountains. It is here where I formed the design concept for Rosewood Phnom Penh.
From the National Museum, wander along to Art Street (Street 178) for local art and galleries.
For an extra-level of luxe after a day exploring, check out the Rosewood’s Sense Spa – their Khmer healing herb therapies are sublime.
Hotel images courtesy of Rosewood Phnom Penh.
For more insider tips and insights on Phnom Penh and sibling Siem Reap, nab a copy of the LUXE Cambodia guide...
A spur-of-the-moment decision to move to Bangkok brought Liz to Asia in 2003, where 15 years and three countries later, she's in Hong Kong heading up LUXE editorial.
- Liz LOVES... Chilli (on everything), getting lost in cities, hiking, people-watching at airports
- Liz LOATHES... Suburbia, MSG
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