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The maddest man in Siem Reap?


ME Restaurant waitress E serves up a MaD shot to restaurant owner and MaD NGO founder Phil Starling.
ME Restaurant waitress E gets ready to serve a MaD shot.
Photos by: Peter Olszewski

It’s a mad, mad world that Siem Reapite Phil Starling inhabits. The former Rhodesian tobacco farmer, businessman and European restaurateur is:

  • The founder of MaD (Making a Difference) NGO.
  • The founder of MAD (Medical Assistance Direct) project, which features a beefed up tuk tuk ambulance.
  • The founder of MaD Adventures, and the convener of the much-publicised MaD Tuk Tuk challenge from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, due to start on April Fools’ Day.
  • The inventor of the MaD Transfusion cocktail.
  • Author of the blog, All Things Phil Starling, in which he states: “Tired of keeping quiet whilst [sic] people accuse me and write shit in the press etc. Time to fight back!!!”

Now he’s fighting back with the ME (MaD Eatery) Restaurant, which has just opened at the new MaD base camp next to Angkor King Plaza on National Road 6.

This fundraising restaurant replaces the Bakong Tea House, which Starling ran in the Siem Reap hinterland and where he became embroiled in an argument with the Apsara Authority over thatched umbrellas for his tables.

He decided that he was as mad as hell, so he simply quit Bakong and moved to an area that doesn’t come under Apsara jurisprudence, sparing him Apsara’s “absurd regulations”.

ME Restaurant is, of course, no ordinary nosh house – there is no fixed price, and diners are asked to assess the value of their meals.

“Pay what it’s worth to you,” Phil exhorts. “You decide what it’s worth and donate accordingly.”

There is of course the proviso that “there are no free drinks, meals or lunches here though”.

And who’s gonna argue with Phil?

He says “donation only” restaurants have been around for four or five years and have proved “relatively successful” internationally.

As a further fillip for potential diners, and to publicise the healthcare aspects of MaD, Phil has devised new ways of delivering cocktails and alcoholic shots.

The MaD Transfusion is his signature cocktail, an amalgam of six shots of alcohol and “other secret ingredients” served via a hospital drip stand and drip tube from what looks like a bag of blood.

Plus the MAD (Medical Assistance Direct) shots – a waitress in doctor’s get-up shoots shots of alcohol into diners mouths via a large syringe.

There will be “40 very, very unusual and different cocktails” on the menu, but Phil hasn’t really got time to explain.

He’s busy organising the April Fools’ Day launch of the MaD Tuk Tuk Challenge.

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