At 22, Oeng Raksmeypich makes for an unexpected owner of Russian Market’s latest swanky café. Despite her age, Oeng has devoted remarkable attention to both the coffee at La Chronique and the design of the building a newly constructed two-story homage to Cambodia’s post-independence, pre-war era. Inside La Chronique, whose name is a nod to the enduring French influences in Khmer culture, Oeng and her designer have created a warm, welcoming space, with black-and-white chequered tile floors and a mix of antique and modern furniture, with steel lighting fixtures hanging throughout. One wall is made up nearly entirely of chequered glass doors that open in the morning onto a quiet alleyway.
“My dream was to open a small coffee shop,” Oeng says. “This is my parent’s land and then I started to think about this concept of the building. I wanted to recreate the feeling of our Khmer culture in the 1960s under the leadership of our [King Norodom] Sihanouk.” Inspired by the Sangkum period when the country had just gained independence, Oeng based the building’s design on French Colonial landmarks like the post office. “The older people, like my parents, love this building a lot because they were here at that time,” she says. “The neighbours say ‘oh, this is like an old building, with the old tiles.’”
Before starting the ambitious project, Oeng did her research. Knowing that she wanted to open a coffee shop, she became a barista at Costa Coffee. Last year, she represented Cambodia in a global competition among the company’s baristas in Singapore. While the focus at La Chronique is clearly on the coffee – which is supplied by Feel Good Café and Roasters – Oeng is currently expanding the food menu, which will soon include dinner. At the moment, it includes breakfast options, like a classic American breakfast ($3.7), continental breakfast ($4), and gourmet sandwiches, like “Le Rusticque Jambon” ($4.5), with ham, Emmental cheese, eggs and salad. She also serves a variety of Asian and Khmer dishes.
Oeng says her target clientele are the foreigners who flock to the neighbourhood but she also hopes that Cambodians will make the same discoveries about coffee that she did. “Cambodian people maybe don’t know how to drink coffee,” she says. “They only drink milk a lot. Ice lattes that are sweet, sweet, sweet. I want them to take a look at espressos and at coffee brewing.”
La Chronique is located on Street 135, between Street 446 and Street 450. It is open every day from 6am-9pm.