What used to be Le Liban has been transformed into an unusual new place to relax.
What used to be Le Liban Lebanese restaurant has been transformed into an “urban wine spot” called Elyxir at #3 on Street 466, with high quality food, a swimming pool, a special wine-tasting room and various upstairs private rooms.
Relaxed, friendly Director General and CEO Nathalie Ferrero, a Sicilian who spent her childhood in Africa, says Elyxir welcomes people to come and spend the day, enjoying good food, relaxing by the pool and entertaining guests.
Both Ferrero and her husband, high-level wine expert Annunziato Tripodi-Ferrero were both born and raised in Kinshasa in the Congo. She says her husband is able to recognize and identify a wine vintage blindfolded.
The couple has three children, two of whom are studying in France. Their son Antonio, 19, stays with them in Phnom Penh.
“I always work in high-quality places,” Ferrero said.
“When we decided to come to Cambodia, it was not to open a small thing; it was to open something big and unusual.”
In previous occupations Ferrero was an expert in African art, working with fine auction houses including Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
The Ferreros did a thorough six-month reconnaissance on Cambodia before finally settling on the property on Street 366.
The wine is the primary attraction and the lady of the house is proud to identify Elyxir as the only place in town where you can taste the wine.
“Our job is to find the most spectacular wine in a range of prices that is affordable, and find something special and really specific. Here we are trying to find what your taste is, and what your palate is.”
The Ferreros for many years made their home in Bordeaux, France and are thus experts on wines of that region.
“I speak about Bordeaux because that’s something I really know,” she said.
“A wine that suits you is a question of taste; a question of palate. Here we are trying to introduce that notion of palate, and Khmer people really love that.”
Open from 10 am until 11 pm, or later if the guests desire to stay longer, Elyxir has a downstairs business lounge, garden, wine gallery, kitchen, swimming pool, champagne bar and spa.
“We have a massage place with facials and we sell products from Bordeaux. We are the only unique seller of products from this region, using grapes for the skin and the massage,” Ferrero said.
The upstairs at Elyxir has three private rooms, one with a pool table, a cognac, whiskey and cigar bar, with Cuban cigars for sale, as well as an upstairs outside terrace.
Some of the food available, a fusion of Khmer, Western and Italian, includes artichoke with crushed parmesan, ravioli with foie gras, truffles and ricotta, eggplant mozzarella and many more items.
“Our guests will open the menu and find all the plates that match with the wine.
“The food is excellent and has to be excellent because the wine is excellent,” she said.
“When you make it your business to attain excellence, all the rest will follow, and I really feel that for my staff for example it is sometimes hard,” Ferrero said, “It is a good life experience for me.”
Elyxir employs 35 people and welcomes guests for lunch.
“And then if you finish your food and go through the wine gallery, we are the only place in Phnom Penh where you can taste the wine before buying it and you can be sure that you choose and match with what you want. I don’t like buying a bottle of wine and arrive at home, open it and not like it.”
Ferrero seems to enjoy her role, having chosen the decorations for the place.
“Here it is possible to eat and drink everywhere, with five bars. The swimming pool is really private and discreet. People come here just to relax and be alone. There is a champagne bar next to the pool and people can come before clubbing,” she said.
“You have the time to finish your dinner. If you want to drink something and listen to high level music, and enjoy champagne or cocktails. We have one of the best bartenders in Phnom Penh.
She’s proud to have attracted very talented local Cambodian staff.
“We pay them well, and keep them. They spend a lot of time learning about wine tasting, wine pairing, Cambodian people really want to learn,” she said.
“We don’t want to open just a small restaurant. We want a big concept so people can come here 10 in the morning and leave at 2 am, can have breakfast, swim, spa, champagne, smoke a cigar, listen to classical music. Everywhere we have different ambiances,” she said.
Ferrero invites guests to spend the day and have a massage and spa.
“This is an entertainment place with a really high standard of quality and service and offerings. I think that luxury is a right. You can only spend $25 here and you can eat and drink really beautiful stuff. We are not expensive, but we just need high standards of service”.
She’s proud of Khmer chef Sopheap Touch and his ability to communicate with the customers,and the sommelier.
“It is really important to us to have a transparent relationship between the customer and the kitchen. We are hard workers and we live on the second floor, close to customers; close to their needs, we change if we have to change. It is not a problem for listening to customers’ criticisms.”
Until Sunday, Elyxir is hosting wine expert Remie Fujiwara as the last part of an “Italian Week” who will be there from 5 pm to 10 pm presenting Italian wines.
“We select the kind of food the goes well with the Italian wine she selects the Italian wine for the food,” Ferrero said.