The Mount Everest restaurant in Phnom Penh will go more than the extra mile to get takeaway orders to customers – they’ll even deliver if you live a 300-kilometre drive away.
The long-established restaurant on Sihanouk Boulevard has been making weekly deliveries to Battambang, a town which has no Indian restaurants according to residents, for about seven months.
Owner Jehan Zeb said he didn’t think there was anything unusual about delivering to customers who lived more than four hours away.
“I say, why not?”
But regular customer Brett Matthews, who runs the Bus Stop guest house in Battambang, conceded it was an odd arrangement.
“I can’t think of anything else like it,” he said.
Matthews used to dine regularly at Mount Everest until he moved from the capital to Battambang three and a half years ago.
He continued to get takeaways from the restaurant whenever he was on business trips to Phnom Penh, and discovered the food stayed hot enough to eat even after the long drive to Battambang.
Earlier this year, he asked the restaurant whether they would deliver to him.
“Since then it’s become almost a weekly thing,” he said.
Matthews takes orders from a few expats in Battambang and calls the restaurant at about lunchtime.
The restaurant then carefully packs the orders into a box to keep the food warm. A motodop takes the food to a taxi driver, who makes the four- to six-hour run to Battambang – taking the dishes with him for a small fee.
Matthews said the curries arrived in the evening hot enough to eat – but not everything fared well.
“Obviously the onion bhajis won’t survive the trip, and it’s debatable whether the naans do,” he said.
Customers settle bills when they are in Phnom Penh.
Pakistan-born Jehan Zeb bought the 15-year-old restaurant from its Nepalese owners in 2000. Back then it was making US$70 a day, but now it brings in an average of $400 to $500 a day.
Zeb puts the restaurant’s popularity down to using freshly-ground spices and halal meats, which appeals to Phnom Penh’s Muslim community.
He has recently been busy expanding the business, having launched a buffet restaurant on nearby Street 288 just over a month ago.
The new restaurant, Qammar, offers the same Indian cuisine as Mount Everest, but charges slightly less to appeal to office workers at lunchtime. Qammar is already bringing in about $100 a day, and business has steadily increased as word of mouth spreads.
Zeb is also planning to find bigger premises for Mount Everest, which currently seats about 40 people and is often quite busy.
He has been asked to set up a restaurant in Battambang, but has dismissed the idea.
There was no access to halal meat in Battambang and he would have to rely on someone else to manage it. “It is very difficult to run an Indian restaurant there.”
Zeb previously opened a second branch of Mount Everest in Siem Reap, but had to close it after the restaurant lost $6,000 in three months due to management problems.