Tim Bruyns: Restaurateur South African chef Tim Bruyns first made waves in Phnom Penh’s culinary scene with his fine-dining establishment The Common Tiger. Two months ago he closed that restaurant and opened up a new one, The Tiger’s Eye. Over cappuccinos in the new spot, Bruyns talked about his most cherished food spots around town
At the markets you get fresh vegetables, but you get a lot of imported vegetables from Vietnam. At Natural Garden there’s a lot of vegetables from organic farming initiatives here, which there are a lot of being established in Phnom Penh. Though the price is a bit more, you’re supporting a good idea and a good initiative. When I got here four years ago organic food was in its infancy, but now it’s actually becoming a part of Cambodian agriculture – the idea of producing a good quality product in your own country to service your own citizens’ needs.
Le Ferme De Bassac
We get our pork from La Ferme De Bassac on Street 136. It’s owned by a French guy named Thierry Pradalet. Awesome guy. He gives us preference sometimes over other restaurants because I take the head, the feet, the stomach lining – a lot of other people say: “I just want loin chops. I want ribs.” He’s got a farm 30 minutes outside of Phnom Penh where he only slaughters about four pigs a day. Everything is to EU standards, though he’s the only foreigner involved. He’s supplying to all the high-end restaurants in Phnom Penh. In the next few months we’re actually doing a “nose-to-tail dinner”, a set menu where every course is a part of the pig.
O’Russey is the best place for just about anything dry: star anise, peppers, cassia, dried squid, dried shrimp, salted fish, prahok. By the same token, if you want to get yourself a cleaver to cook with or a machete to chop down bamboo with, a coal pot to do a traditional Khmer barbecue, it’s all all Psar O’Russey. It’s the least friendly and the most awesome market. One of the things I love about Cambodians is that they’re friendly and engaging, but one of the things about O’Russey is that the people look at you like: “What the hell are you doing here?”
It’s the best market for fresh seafood. That’s where most restaurant operators go and thankfully, since I’ve been here, I’ve been able to establish good relations with some of the vendors, who make sure to give us the freshest of what they’ve got. There’s one there called Srey Neang. It genuinely has the best ocean fish and is the only place we go for prawns and crabs. I found the place through trial and error, sampling all the vendors over time, and go there all the time now.
Three Corner Coffee
We use them for all our coffee. They’re on Street 311, but their coffee is available at Lucky and most of the supermarkets now. My parents, when I go to South Africa, they ask me to bring them that coffee – because it’s f—ing good. And it’s a good cause too. They employ women who used to work in the sex trade. You’re not allowed to take any photos in their facilities because these women are from damaged backgrounds and they don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. It’s not some massive corporation trying to cut costs and increase profits. They want to put out a quality product. You see these girls and they’ve got little tweezers and they’re sorting out individual coffee beans.