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Style and some substance: Luna after the revamp

The new garden at Luna Restaurant and Bar features art by Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam.
The new garden at Luna Restaurant and Bar features art by Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam. MATTHEW BOWEN

Style and some substance: Luna after the revamp

I really wanted to like the revamped Luna. As I walked down a winding path and into a leafy garden surrounded by fairy lights, I was convinced I was onto a good thing. There were comfy couches and cabanas where, until three weeks ago when the refurbishment was finished, there had been hard metal chairs. New artwork by Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam decorated the walls. And there were more fairy lights than before.

But first impressions lie, and it took three trips before my mind was made up about the place once known as Luna d’Autunno, or Autumn moon in Italian, and now called Luna Restaurant and Bar. The name change reflects the emphasis on broader Mediterranean food by the new Australian owner and management.

While offering the same pizza menu that Luna d’Autunno was best known for, Luna Restaurant and Bar has altered its pasta dishes, and added Spanish food such as paella, seafood and salads. By Phnom Penh’s standards, it’s not cheap. Salmon and tuna steak are the more expensive dishes at around the $15 mark, and the pizzas are anything $8 and above, though they can easily feed two people. The cheapest pasta dish on the menu is spaghetti bolognaise, at $7.

One of Luna’s pizzas. The restaurant also delivers.
One of Luna’s pizzas. The restaurant also delivers. MATTHEW BOWEN

I was excited to see gnocchi on the menu. When they’re good, gnocchi are fluffy and flavoursome. When they’re bad, they’re vile. I ordered “gnocchi with salami milano”. I expected the salami to be in the sauce; however, what arrived was three thinly-cut slices of salami on top of starkly white gnocchi, which were soft and floury in texture, not unlike mashed potato. I wasn’t impressed. A friend found the penne in a chicken and mushroom bake too chewy. Another reported the spaghetti bolognaise tasted like it had been burnt. For a restaurant that once prided itself in Italian food, this wasn’t good going.

The new fish dishes were fresh and pleasant but didn’t overwhelm. The crispy-skinned salmon was delicately cooked but under-seasoned. Roasted vegetables, including buttery asparagus, were a more flavoursome accompaniment. A friend who tried the tuna steak complained it was too pink though she cleaned her plate contentedly.

Prior to its revamp, Luna was best known for its pizza, so I decided to give it another try and returned to see if the management had maintained the standard. Happily, the four cheese pizza I shared was everything a pizza should be: large, with a thin crusty base and very, very cheesy. On my third attempt, I ordered a pizza calzone, about which my only complaint would be that it was so big I couldn’t finish it. It fitted in a doggie-bag nicely, however.

Service was hit-and-miss. On my first and second visits we had to ask for water several times before it arrived, though glasses came right away on my third visit. We were given complimentary bread, oils and grated eggplant to start with, too, which was much appreciated.

Luna makes a lovely drinking spot and is perfect for an aperitif. Of the wines, I tasted red and white, both of which were up to standard, and the prosecco was a joy at $4 per glass. For an evening of wine and pizza in a delightful setting, Luna fits the bill.

Luna Restaurant and Bar can be found at #6 Street 29. Open from 11am to 11pm. ​​​

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