This is just to say: until this week, it had been more than two years since I ate a plum. It was delicious. So sweet. Not from the icebox, but the oven: warm and roasted and William Carlos Williams worthy.
There aren’t too many places in Phnom Penh where you can eat a plum. The Shop’s new outlet, in luxury apartment complex Central Mansions, is one of them. They come fleshy, cut into halves and served in a salad scattered with toasted almonds. Strips of parmesan fan out like a hand of cards over the lettuce. Mustard is drizzled over. The flavour and texture combinations delight, the sweet, soft plums punctuated by sharp hard cheese and nuts.
They know how to treat winter fruits at The Shop. The original branch, a Street 240 expat-haunt known for sandwiches, salads and excellent pastries, is responsible for another of my fruit favourites – spiced pear slathered over strips of chicken. Like the pear sandwich, the plum salad offers spiced, homey indulgence.
The Shop at Central Mansions, which had its soft opening a few weeks ago, has a similarly cosy feel to its predecessor: soft décor with a mix of green and floral seats, yellow candles and friendly, deft service. But this is an edgier, sexier Shop, in keeping with the grandeur of Central Mansions, built in the colonial style, where when you walk through the lobby you almost fall into the pool. Next door in The Shop, the lights dim for dinner service and a corner bar is lit by steel hanging lamps. While the café is open for light meals during the day, with its removed Wat Phnom setting and hotel ambiance the place feels equally suited to an intimate dinner or secretive rendezvous. There are three cocktail options and a solid wine selection. The mojito is simple but just right.
The food menu is also short, but sophisticated. As well the plum ensemble, a friend and I enjoyed the asparagus salad – buttery heads adorned with tender cubes of salmon. I was frankly salivating over seeing pulled pork burgers on the menu for $10. Piles of crispy strips were coated in a sweet barbecue glaze and smothered over half a burger bun. Hand-cut potato chips accompanied. Don’t bother with the vegetable risotto, but then, after a few bites, most risottos are unremarkable. The steak tenderloin will set you back $14 while sea bass with a vegetable broth costs $12. A dessert menu would be welcome, but, as in the original branch, a counter offers appetising pastries and biscuits including speculoos cookies as well as festive chocolate Santas.
It’s with regret that I recommend this, currently very quiet, spot – if its predecessor is anything to go by, the place will soon be swamped. But it would be churlish not to tell you to go. Just leave some plums for me.
The Shop at Central Mansions, #1B Street 102. Telephone: 077666115. Open daily, 6:30am to 10:30pm.