The meandering walkway into Street 29’s newest restaurant, Botanico, is lush, fresh and scented with nature, much like the restaurant and bar that sits quietly at the end of the path.
Gastrobar Botanico, which officially opened at the end of January, is the baby of Venezuelan restaurateur Antonio Lopez de Haro and Chinese House’s Tepui, which Lopez de Haro manages.
The dining oasis is bordered and decorated with more than 2,000 plants of 40 different types, providing a cocooned escape from the sounds and smells of the city.
“We wanted to provide an outdoor setting where the sun is not hitting down on you. Where people can retreat to the cool of the shade,” Lopez de Haro says.
Guests can either take shelter under the shade of the plants, or they can enjoy the sunshine and sit near an elongated natural fish pond.
Away from the bar, each dining area includes a table enclosed by a U-shaped cushioned couch and is partitioned off from the next by a thin spread of plants.
The natural ambience is amplified by the sounds of birds tweeting in the trees above.
“The idea was to have no background music during the day so that guests could enjoy all the natural sounds.”
But, he admits, they are lenient with this rule and often allow unobtrusive music to play alongside the singing of the birds.
As for the menu, it is short, sweet and quite unique. It is Latin American-inspired and includes a small variety of breakfasts, lunch, dinner and appetizers.
Finding a decent sandwich in Phnom Penh is a rare feat and can generally take the better part of a day. That might have been why I was pleasantly surprised with Botanico’s gourmet chicken and ham burger. The chicken breast, juicy and seared to perfection, soaked up the flavour of the lightly grilled ham, both of which were held together by fresh, warm, slightly toasted bread. The tapas that accompanied it was melted cheese and mushroom spring rolls – made from start to finish at the restaurant by a Botanico chef.
“We had to have originals on our menu,” he says referring to their cocktail menu. Each cocktail has a homebrewed twist from its original. For example Botanico has spiced up the traditional Bloody Mary cocktail with a hit of red chilies and a twist of lemon grass and called it, the Lemon Grass and Chili Mary cocktail.
“We experiment with all our cocktails to make them interesting and unique. We’ve got cocktails suitable for breakfast, daytime drinking, and for hangovers, like the Chili Mary.”
As yet, the restaurant and bar has no happy hour deal, but Lopez de Haro says that will change very soon.
“We have been so busy and we have only been open for a few weeks, but we will definitely bring in a happy hour.”
The tranquil yet very much alive environment is welcoming to families, groups and even loners looking for some peace and quiet.
Gastrobar Botanico is open from 8am to 9.30pm everyday, offering Latin American-inspired breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners and tapes.
Address: Street 29, No. 9b