Siem Reap Insider
- Last Updated on 23 October 2012
- By Miranda Glasser
Promising flavours of the Med with a little bit of the Middle East thrown in, the eaterie and juice bar is the latest brainchild of Alex Sutherland, the man who has brought you a host of local nosheries including Café Central.
It comes hot on the heels of new Asian restaurant Noodles, which Sutherland opened in July across the road from The Sun.
“Noodles café is noodles, soups, stir-fries,” Sutherland tells me. “We have tempura and these deep-fried meatballs which are really popular and we have some mains, grilled meats. It’s a very small menu – there are only a handful of things – you just choose how you want it served and what you want in it. I think that’s part of its appeal really.”
Over the road from Noodles, in the airy colonial ex Funky Munky building that houses The Sun, chef Prunella Hanbury, who trained at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, is at the helm.
She met Sutherland fortuitously, as is so often the way in this small town of ours. Hanbury went to a yoga class taught by his wife Jen and the pair got chatting.
She was then introduced to Alex, and developed the menu based on his concept, which he describes as, “A café-style, informal place to hang out the same way you do at Café Central but the food side of it is going to be fresh, small plates with a vaguely Mediterranean feel.”
“Middle Eastern,” Hanbury chimes in, adding with a smile, “It’s the dreaded fusion word.”
Hanbury explains that Ballmaloe really shaped her style of cooking.
“That’s where I got my love of food from – really caring about what I’m eating – and why I like using lots of fresh ingredients, lots of herbs.”
She cites as one her inspirations iconic London restaurant Ottolenghi, where Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi specialises in simple yet zesty dishes.
“I took a lot of my influence from growing up in London. Some of the recipes are recipes of Ottolenghi’s, they’ve just been simplified.”
When devising the menu Hanbury considered food that she liked, and that she felt was missing from Temple Town’s restaurant scene.
“It’s food that you want to eat in the heat, it’s quite light, it’s fresh. Although we do have some pizzas on the menu that have cheese, they’re quite small so they can be moderately priced and we use a lot of yoghurt, ut apart from that, everything is found here and it’s just tweaked with spices and things like that.
“The structure of the menu is light bites which people can share. The idea is that you have your main dishes which are divided into beef, duck, chicken, pork, fish. And everything comes as it is, with a puree or a salsa or a chutney and then you order your sides. There’s a lot of stuff for vegetarians as well.”
The breakfast menu is equally enticing, boasting dishes such as mushrooms with chilli and thyme on toast with sour cream, and pancakes with bacon served with rosemary/thyme-infused honey.
Sutherland expects to draw a similar crowd to the Café Central regulars, with the small plate concept hopefully also attracting more Asian customers. He says, “We do expect to do quite a lot of breakfast and lunch as we do in Café Central. I want to have that same crowd here, but in addition we’ll get the night time business because it’s next to Pub St and we have a big upstairs area.
“The other thing that’s quite useful about this type of menu, is that I think it would also appeal to Asian people who tend to eat smaller amounts at regular intervals throughout the day. A lot of our customers now are from the region, there’s a huge number of Asians traveling here and they like to be able to just pick.”
“It does work,” adds Hanbury, “I think it’s how people want to really eat now.”