Short, dark Street 308, which is really more like an alley, is becoming something of a self-contained dining and drinking strip. After the much-lauded pizza joint Piccola Italia Da Luigi moved into the neighbourhood last year, it was soon followed by the discrete boozery Red Bar and micro-bar Seibur.
Now a fourth establishment, La Creperie, has set up shop in the little community, serving up savoury and sweet crepes, plus a decent selection of wines, in a setting designed to evoke the spiritual home of the dish, the Brittany region of France.
Walking into the white colonial villa’s calm and elegant courtyard – cut off from the slightly intimidating street outside by a high white wall – the decor and setting really do transport you. My dining partner and I felt we could be in another country entirely.
Waiters in blue striped mariners’ T-shirts greeted us next to a tall model lighthouse – not unlike the iconic lighthouses on Brittany’s rocky coastline – built into the building’s exterior. Nearby was a boat-shaped lounge. Inside the airy building, the theme continued with paintings of typical French seaside scenes adorning the walls. It seemed natural that the handful of other diners were speaking French.
We took a table in the dimly lit courtyard and were soon perusing the menu, which offers an array of crepe dishes and a few token mains such as pasta. There was also a decent list of alcoholic drinks including cider, a traditional accompaniment to crepes in Brittany.
Eschewing tradition, we ordered a bottle of Bourgogne Chardonnay ($22), the second cheapest bottle of white*.
As an entree, we shared a spicy minced chicken roll ($4.50), which was like a rolled-up crepe served sliced into eight bite-sized pieces. It was tasty but a little dry and could have done with some sort of sauce. The pieces disappeared quickly enough anyway.
Then for our main we ordered two savoury crepes, or galettes.
Our L’Americaine, ($9.50) came with the edges of the crepe folded into a kind of flattened cone filled with minced Australian beef and Emmental cheese, and topped with fresh sliced tomato, lettuce and a sunny-side up fried egg. I’m not sure if my taste buds have been irrevocably altered by Southeast Asian food, but I found it a little bland. And again, it was a little dry.
More to my liking was the Les Poulains ($12.50), a salty mess of oozy raclette cheese, potato, smoked ham chunks, sliced ham and pickles. It was more substantial and tastier than L’Americaine.
For dessert we split La Krampouz crepe, which hit the right notes with all the elements – the crunch of the crepe, smoosh of the caramelised apple, sweetness of the drizzled caramel and magical dusting of cinnamon.
The service was excellent. The wine, entree, galettes and sweet crepe dessert were all delivered only moments after ordering – although the restaurant was not busy – and the owners approached us several times over the course of the meal to see if there was anything we needed.
My only real complaint is the crepes really aren’t substantial. Anyone with a decent appetite isn’t going to be satisfied with just one, and when you’re paying on average $10 each, that makes it an expensive meal.
The big factor, I guess, is that most of the raw ingredients – the buckwheat flour, cheese, cream, salted butter, mustard and whipped cream – are imported, which is obviously going to have an impact on the price.
If you want to get good, cheap food in Phnom Penh you’re better off finding a restaurant that utilises more locally sourced products.
La Creperie seems to cater those seeking a very specific experience, mainly French expats or tourists after an authentic experience of home. They won’t quibble over a few dollars and for them, that authenticity is probably worth the price.
La Crêperie is located at #12C Street 308. Phone: 0236 407 600.
* Never pick the cheapest bottle of wine. That would make you seem cheap.