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You don't have to be a certain age to enjoy 18, but it helps to bring a certain-sized wallet

The number 18 has a whole new meaning. It’s still a number to most, but mention it to hip youth in Phnom Penh and they’ll know you’re talking about one of the most fashionable spots in the capital city.

The new multi-faceted social hot spot named 18, located next to Pencil market across from the Cambodiana Hotel, has a restaurant, clothing shop and karaoke bar, brought together with creative, cutting-edge interior design and top-notch service from the staff.

Although it has been open for three months, a bit too old for standard What’s New fare, I finally got some free time with my friends to properly check it out.

The sense of style at the trendy locale was evident as soon as two waitresses welcomed us wearing matching short black dresses adorned with tasteful, light-pink scarves. It was clear this isn’t your typical eatery.

“Wow! A laser show and hip-hop mix featuring Lil’Wayne songs”, came the pleased words of one of my friends.

“It sounds like the sound effects from the video game ‘Romeo eats mushrooms’,” exclaimed another companion. Either way, the flashy lights and unique music were two more features setting 18 apart from its competitors in Phnom Penh.

We realised early on in our visit that our early afternoon arrival wasn’t ideal for the venue. Apparently, the place comes alive after 9pm, when a Thai DJ starts to drop the beats for the teenagers and young adults getting down on the dance floor. As it was hours until evening settled in, our visit promised to be more subdued than the posh party that the staff described to us, but as dutiful Lift reviewers, we made the most of our stay nonetheless.

Without a DJ to keep us on our feet, we had to decide where to sit, which was more difficult than you might expect. The place is filled with chairs and sofas of varying sizes, comfort levels and colour. We decided to take scenery over seat-style and sat near the massive plasma TV to give us a steady stream of talking points for the afternoon’s conversations.

We were feeling good about 18, smitten with their free Wi-Fi and no smoking policy, until my friend spotted a heinous, dark-red furnishing near the turntables depicting an ominous Chinese god. He complained that the “annoying” creation “ruined the feel of the place” and, now unable to ignore to its gaze, we all agreed.

When a waitress came by we refocused ourselves and perused the menu, which was fairly typical for popular Phnom Penh hangouts. I ordered an iced coffee and my friend went for some chocolate ice cream. We were befuddled when the waitress came back with two glasses in hand, but soon learned that customers get two servings of whatever they order. It sounds like a great deal, but there is no room for variation; take two of the same item or settle for the seemingly-stingy single serving that you originally ordered.

I couldn’t resist the offer, but after drinking two glasses of sweet and creamy iced coffee I began to pity myself, with visions of a sleepless night running through my head.

I tried to forget about my future pains and scanned the restaurant’s edible offerings, which we all agreed were prohibitively expensive, especially given the extraordinarily large volume of liquids we just consumed, but I guess that’s what you get for going to such a classy establishment.

I tried to be discreet about peeking at 18’s clothing and accessories shop while we were sipping our drinks, not wanting to appear disinterested in our witty banter, but I could no longer contain my curiosity once the last drops of liquid had been sucked through our straws. As soon as we walked through the door I was asking questions about the clothing lines they carried (turns out they have stuff from just about everywhere) and my friends were marveling at Sony’s latest phone, the Xperia. It seems the store has something for everyone, as long as you have a fat wallet. Needless to say, we walked out empty-handed.

We had been entranced by 18’s many attractions, and failed to notice that it was getting dark outside. If it were up to us, we might have stayed through to the dance party, now only a few hours away. But while we’re no longer 18, we’re not adults either, so we headed out into the darkening streets, where stars replaced laser beams, and made our way home.

Some people may find the new spot a bit snobbish for their liking, but I would confidently advise youngsters looking for a romantic rendezvous to give 18 a spin. Just don’t look at the looming red furniture lord; he might curse you into drinking twice as much caffeine as you can handle.



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