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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Desolate and dismal or an undiscovered gem? A quiet night at Roots Wine and Cafe

The cold platter, with its lump of cold mashed potato covered in chunks of carrot, was disappointing.
The cold platter, with its lump of cold mashed potato covered in chunks of carrot, was disappointing. Charlotte Pert

Desolate and dismal or an undiscovered gem? A quiet night at Roots Wine and Cafe

Before the age of social media and TripAdvisor, I often based my decisions on where to dine according to the crowd numbers.

So I got an old nagging feeling last week when I visited Roots Wine and Cafe and found the place utterly empty. For a BKK1 restaurant at 6.30pm on Saturday evening, it was disconcerting.

But a restaurant in its early stages might be forgiven for not attracting hordes of people. Roots only opened two months ago and its partner restaurant next door, the Japanese Barbeque Kazu, was packed. So we gave it a chance.

We weren’t long without company. As soon as we arrived, three wait staff plied us with menus and watched over us as we browsed. We’d barely finished our drinks order, let alone read the food menu, before they asked what we wanted to eat. Still, there was something endearing in their enthusiasm.

But small details soon began to niggle. The walls and ceiling were covered in green and brown military camouflage paint that seemed plucked from the fashion spreads of last century. There was something not quite right about my mojito, which I soon realised was down to a copious amount of soda water that neutralised the taste.

My uneasiness continued when the staff came back to us numerous times to confirm our orders. In spite of this, and the fact that there were no other tables to serve, my main course arrived before our appetiser. Thankfully it was a cold platter, so putting it to one side wasn’t too big a hassle. When it arrived, our gorgonzola tortilla pizza shared starter was a delicious cheesy indulgence, though the pot of honey that accompanied it didn’t complement the pizza.

The platter was very disappointing. There were four slices of distinctly average ham, a slither of blue cheese – delicious, but only a slither – and a rubbery square of cheddar. I munched contentedly on the cashew nuts, olives and toasted baguette, but the lump of cold mashed potato, decorated with chunks of carrot, was flavourless, and having paid $9.80, I felt shortchanged.

One companion’s steak was equally disappointing, and another’s small plate of mussels was tasty but smothered by cheese sauce.

It’s always a pleasant surprise to be proved wrong after a bad first impression, but I’m afraid that this wasn’t the case with Roots. The atmosphere was dull, the food insubstantial and overpriced and the service disorganised. I would praise, however, the chilled glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc I drank to wash down my meal. Roots Wine and Cafe, #2A, Street 302, BKK1.

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