Anne (R) and Bo pictured at Ze Foodiebus on street 310, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Alex Crook/7Days
On street 310 there’s a bright yellow bus with an intriguing slogan painted on it: ‘Ze Foodiebus’.
For three months the bus has sat on the street, hinting at something fun and exciting. Now, after months of dreaming, it’s open for business – and what a charming one it is.
The bus belongs to Anne, 27, and Bo, 31: a couple from France. Until three months ago Anne worked with disadvantaged teens and Bo was an engineer. Life in their little town near – but not near enough – to Paris, had grown stale. So shortly after their now one-year old daughter was born they left it behind “to be happy” in Cambodia, where Bo’s family is from.
Two weeks ago they opened Ze Foodiebus: a bus which serves as a ferry for their catering company and as a signpost for the other side of the business - a boutique restaurant.
Why tell their story? As the owners and sole employees at an eatery run from their family home, Anne and Bo are as much a part of Ze Foodiebus experience as the food.
The setting is certainly intimate: two tables on their balcony flanked by plants. With a lampshade made from cassette tapes, Coco Rosie on the soundtrack and a window that shows the chef flirting with the owner in the kitchen, it’s the picture of a hipstamatic dinner date. Any moment, it seems, Zooey Deschanel should stumble into a lemongrass pot.
The ingredients for the dishes? “They’re sitting all around you,” Bo says.
Homely as the place is, it’s not serving humdrum hokey pokey eatery fare but fine French food. When he first moved to France as a boy Bo was taught to cook by the man who lived next door: a famous French chef, who grew fond of his little Cambodian neighbour who did not speak French but took quickly to cooking.
The menu, written on a little blackboard solely in French – we were the first English-speaking customers – changes every week but the thrust is modern French dishes with style.
To start, ze Oeufs Brouillés a la crème de potimarron – scrambled eggs with a butternut cream – are creamy but delightfully smooth, buttery but not overbearing, with a paprika kick. Filet Mignon is tender and complimented by a tasty sun dried tomato garnish. Fish is fresh and delicate, served in an anise sauce. For dessert, Anne brings pineapple slices drenched in a honeyed passionfruit, and a slice of chocolate cake - the good stuff, from a French delicatessen - with a cup of sweet tea.
For the final topping on a disarmingly sweet evening, she hands me a brownie for the ride – crisp with a fudgy centre, one of the city’s best: “For ze tuk-tuk.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Poppy McPherson at [email protected]