Imagine Willy Wonka went through a K-Pop phase and you’ll get a sense of what Conekla is about. A giant lollipop made of iron and melted glass stands in the corner, while pop music blares from the speakers. The centrepiece of the cafe is a candy bar made from Haribo gummy bears, M&Ms, Skittles and just about anything else you can find in the sweets section of a grocery store.
The self-styled entertainment bistro, which opened officially on Monday in Boeung Keng Kang One, is a little odd. But it could work. The premise is simple enough: candy, coffee and gaming sessions for a target audience of Cambodian teens.
Downstairs is an atrium-style room flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows and kitted out with highly-glossed wooden furniture covered with candy-coloured cushions. There, you can buy drinks, snacks and even full meals.
But the real fun goes on upstairs. Three rooms feature large flat-screen HD TVs, wrap-around couches and sound systems. The idea is that they are rented: $10 per hour for a small room that can seat four people, and $15 for a bigger one to fit six.
Whether you want a private film screening or a games session is up to you. Each games room is equipped with an Xbox 360 and PS3. The owner says PS4 and Xbox One are on the way.
The place is the creation of the 27 year-old entrepreneur Klanetra Ching. He developed the cafe concept three years ago when he returned to Cambodia after studying in France. He realised there weren’t many spaces for young people to hang out together in a safe and comfortable environment.
He even gave it his own nickname – as a child, his mother dubbed him “Little Tiger’” or “Conekla” in Khmer.
Five months in development, the cafe is equipped with a full kitchen and caters to two groups: those who want movie snacks and regular diners. The menu is expansive, encompassing the usual coffees, smoothies and frappes available in the cafe-rich neighbourhood, as well as plates of spaghetti, sandwiches, waffles and elegantly presented pastries.
The food isn’t the selling point, though. A roast chicken sandwich ($3.75) was presented beautifully on a black stone tablet, but the bread was hard and chicken sadly tasteless. The salmon was worse: a sopping mess of wet lettuce and not-quite-defrosted raw salmon. Sprinkled nuts on the top added nothing but confusion.
Not that it matters – Ching’s clientele will probably be too busy noshing on milkshakes and candy to care about the quality of the roast chicken.
Conekla is located at #168 Street 51.