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Rustic Lounge’s Tolic Portnoy. Victoria Mørck Madsen

Rustic owner talks new lounge

Previously known as The Latin Quarter, the French-colonial building on the corner of streets 178 and 19 has a new occupant: the Rustic Lounge. At a corner table by the bar – with jazzy funk tunes in the background – Australian co-owner Tolic Portnoy sat down with Brent Crane for a chat about the longstanding venue’s new identity

Question: What is the Rustic Lounge?

nswer: It’s a casual dining place that functions for events and food. It’s a wine bar as well. It’s a place where people come and can have good food and get quality entertainment. We’ll be having live bands playing. Between me and my partners, I think we have close to 25 years experience in bars and restaurants.

How is it different from the Latin Quarter?

We’re not really focused on the Spanish/Latin theme anymore. We’re more like a place where you can experience nice casual dining, not just Latin, even though we kept a lot of the Latin dishes on the menu because they’re popular. So you can still get the Spanish tapas and … what’s that one that everyone loved? The paella. Yeah. They love it.

What’s happening on the menu?

It’s not a huge menu like other places. We focus on quality. We do gourmet, basically everything. Burgers, pizzas – it’s not a happy pizza place. It’s quality pizza. For drinks, it ranges from cocktails right through to the top shelf. We do a lot of specials: two for one, buy one get one free. Ladies’ night every night.

What is your background in the restaurant business?

In Indonesia we had a very successful bar and restaurant called La Chill. I think it’s still top five in Lombok, number one on Trip Advisor. It was on the beach. Our office was on the sand. We had beanbags. We had chilled out music. It ended up being the busiest place for locals as opposed to who we were marketing it to – expats. And now they’re busy every night.

Why did you leave?

I’d been there for four and half years. It was a long run. I needed something new, something better. Living on the beach is great. It’s a good lifestyle, but after four and a half years I’d experienced everything I needed to experience.

How did you come to be in Cambodia?
I heard from a few friends who had been here before that this is a good culture and a good city and a good place to do business. I came and checked it out. I liked the culture. I believe that we can bring a good restaurant to this city.

The country is open on its immigration policies, it’s open to expats. There are no complications. Indonesia, for example, is a hard place to do business. If you want to compare corruption, this is still in the infant stage – this is still kindergarten compared to the school I went through. I like to work in a place I feel comfortable with. I don’t want someone to come knocking.

Where did the name come from ?
Purely because of the building. It has this whole feel to it. We kept a lot of the rustic features. This place was built between 1900 and 1910, French colonial architecture. And the gates at the front look very, very rustic.

What is your vision for the Rustic Lounge?

When I first saw this place I fell in love with the building. We just came across the guy who owned it in Kampot. I thought it had a great feeling to it for fine dining, for what we’re focused on, catering to locals and expats who can come for a nice good experience for music and for food.

The Rustic Lounge is located at the corner of streets 178 and 19. Open 3pm-late. Tel: 093 319 081.

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