While the cocktail-bar scene in Phnom Penh continues to explode, the guys who had a big part in kicking it all off aren’t resting on their laurels.
In recent months, Kiwi brothers William and George Norbert-Munns and their associate Antonio Lopez de Haro have been tweaking and renovating their small empire of watering holes in order to keep up with the rapidly expanding competition.
The biggest changes have come at dimly lit Bar.Sito in the Street 240 ½ alleyway, which opened four years ago.
Reopened after a months-long renovation, there are now new aircon units, speakers, sofas, fresh paint, new staff uniforms and two small new bars with separate cocktail menus, smoking and non-smoking areas and more toilets, said Lopez de Haro.
On the human-resources side, a new head bartender and mixologist from the UK, James Garry, has arrived to deliver the new cocktail menu that includes some Sito mainstays, plus 18 new recipes. “He’s bringing hospitality and management professionalism to the equation,” Lopez de Haro said.
Over at Bassac Lane, micro-bar Seibur on the corner of Street 308 has been opened up into a more al fresco drinking spot and been re-painted. The drinks are the same but there’s now ice-cold Heineken on tap.
Next door, Cicada – formerly mainly a gin bar – has been given a new look too. Gone is the stark white paintjob, replaced by dark rum brown, and the cocktail menu has been greatly expanded.
“Cicada has always been a quieter space than others on Bassac Lane, so by making the changes, we’re hoping to give the venue a little bit of a kick in the right direction,” said George.
However, with the arrival of hot season, regular patrons will be glad to hear the ice-cold air-conditioning has been retained.
Further into the lane, a conservatory is being added out the back of Meat and Drink, which will open in a couple of weeks.
“It’s ideal for large groups, as we have one big long table for up to 20 people,” said George.
And what about the bar on the corner opposite Seibur, which has been a construction site for months now? “The corner will be completed after KNY, but you’ll have to wait and see what it will be, sorry,” said George.
And after that?
“Phnom Penh changes all the time, so I think some good consolidation is the right direction for six to 12 months, and in the meantime, we’ll look at where the city is, where it’s going and if there are any evident holes in the market,” said George.