MANY new restaurants, bars and cafes in Phnom Penh follow an international design trend leaning toward modernism and futurism.
The owners of the Chinese House lounge bar and gallery were inspired to go against this trend by an antique era in which people reclined on red silk cushions with gold tassel trim and inhaled the sweet smoke of the pink poppy in opium dens.
The Chinese House is a fusion of French architecture and Chinese design. The exterior is predominantly French and the interiors feature many French details, such as the patchwork of Art Nouveau tiles on the main floor, which serves as a gallery space. But the showcase features of the house are Chinese, beginning with an elaborate wooden arch that dominates the ground floor. A heavy wooden staircase winds up to the first floor, simultaneously maximising space and keeping demons at bay. On the landing, dark wooden floors, bright warm colors and antique furniture create a space that is most definitely of the Orient. Generous platform sofas with silk throw pillows and cushions provide lavish spaces to recline and relax, now over a cocktail rather than an opium pipe.
The overall effect is a sense of luxuriant richness from a time when Sherlock Holmes was solving mysteries and Western Europe was “discovering” the far reaches of the world.
Lounge bar and gallery
45 Sisowath Quay
MELANIE BREW/PHOTOS BY TRACEY