Selantra restaurant has been revived by local business identity Chan Saryroth, the former general manager of the Angkor W Group, who plans on turning it into a thriving Wat Bo Rd arts hub.
Saryroth left the Angkor W Group, a collection of restaurants including Barrio, Madame Butterfly, Champey, Banana Leaf and others, at the end of last year to take several months holiday But just two weeks into her holiday she bought Selantra restaurant.
“The previous owner kept asking me if I wanted to buy it and I said, ‘No, not really.’ Finally I decided to see the place. When I visited it was really dirty and had no staff and was completely run down,” Saryroth says.
“But I was really interested in the design of the building. It really struck me. I thought it could be a nice place.”
Saryroth has revamped most of the building but says there is still work to do.
The plan is to turn the venue into a restaurant serving traditional Khmer food usually reserved for special occasions.
“I will focus just on traditional Khmer food, that’s it. Cambodians like to cook special food for special occasions. Like when we’re meeting a family we like to cook a certain food every time. It’s like with Chinese New Year – you have roasted pig all the time. So for Cambodians during Khmer New Year we have two dishes we always cook. That’s what we want to recreate,” Saryroth says.
The restaurant will also host exhibitions, becoming a centre for young artists.
“Since we lost Hotel De La Paix there’s been no real exhibition space like this. I think this could be another option to host exhibitions. I’m also looking at the music scene to see if people want to play or train here.
“I would love to have new generations of artists explore their talents here.”
Next door to the restaurant area Saryroth is building up a cocktail lounge.
“There are so many places in Siem Reap, but not that many just to relax and have a nice cocktail. Most are restaurants or hotels and they’re generally mostly for tourists,” Saryroth says.
“There’ll be nice music, cocktails, some ice cream and deserts. If people want canapés or cocktails before they start dinner they can stay in the lounge.”
Saryroth expects the grand opening to be sometime this month.