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French home-cooking in the ‘street art village’

The breezy balcony at the front of Simone Bistrot and Art.
The breezy balcony at the front of Simone Bistrot and Art. Eli Meixler

French home-cooking in the ‘street art village’

As part of a drive to rejuvenate what was once a popular backpacker destination, Simone Bistrot and Art opened a few weeks ago in the area that some still call Lakeside. The tourists stopped coming after Boeung Kak Lake was drained and turned into a hopeless desert in 2010, but the bistro’s French owners, Marj Arnaud and Ludi Labile, both newcomers, believe they can bring the backpackers back by turning Street 93 into a “street art village”.

As well as serving up French home cooking and cocktails, they run semiregular “art days” – inviting local and international graffiti artists to “decorate” the area – and weekly street-cleaning sessions. Visitors can be seen most days wandering the streets, taking photos of graffiti, including soulful black and white portraits, abstract alien designs, cartoon characters, tags, intricate murals and more.

Back to Boeung Kak

Once they are done, the bistro’s breezy balcony awaits – a leisurely spot to observe all the comings and goings along the street while having a bite to eat. The outdoor tables surrounded by potted plants make a nice shady spot to spend an afternoon.

The croque monsieur at Simone Bistrot and Art
The croque monsieur at Simone Bistrot and Art Eli Meixler

On a lunch break earlier this week, a friend and I visited to discover a short menu of home-style French dishes divided into starters, tartines, crepes and desserts.  

We started out with the Salmorejo ($3) – a cold tomato soup served with toasted olive bread – but it wasn’t really to my taste. I like garlic, but do the French enjoy having so much in their soup it fizzes on the tongue? 

Another starter, the croque monsieur ($3.50), went down better. Essentially a ham sandwich smothered in creamy béchamel sauce, Arnaud said it was her grandmother’s recipe. It was creamy, stodgy deliciousness.   

My friend’s salmon tartine ($3.75) arrived not long after with generous slices of fish layered over a mash of boiled egg, potato and a herb sauce served on crunchy, toasted brown bread.

Salmon tartine.
Salmon tartine. Eli Meixler

My bolo crepe ($4.25) arrived on a scorchingly hot plate pinched into a boat shape containing what looked like bolognese. Tasted like bolognese, too. It was quite a novel combination with the doughy crepe, but not a bad one. 

After that, we were stuffed, and there was a real temptation to try the beers ($1 each) or a mojito ($2.50), though that would have meant losing the afternoon to the balcony.

Simone Bistrot and Art’s food might not be worth travelling a long way for – unless perhaps you’re French – but if you are already in the area because of the graffiti, it is definitely worth dropping in for a bite to eat and drink. Just be careful you don’t end up there for the rest of the day.

Simone Bistrot and Art is located on Street 93.

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