Decorated with dangling vines and plants, a cafe in the heart of the Boeung Keng Kang 1 expatriate hub has attracted people to go in for a meal or drink to accompany their hobbies including reading and playing instruments.
Famed for its indoor green space, Pleng Chan has been operating since April last year serving around 200 customers daily.
Its 300sqm area ensures the proper seating distance so that customers can easily get lost in a book without even hearing the Zen sound of wind chimes.
Som Samnang, one of the founders of the cafe, believes that bringing in a bit of nature to urban life can boost people’s mood and creativity. The traditional Khmer wooden windows that are common in rural Cambodia helps make the place unique.
“We love Khmer traditional design and this cafe is inspired by local interior design to give a homey vibe for individuals and professional people.
“The ever-changing and developing world has resulted in creativity and identity protection. With our creative mind to catch up with fast development, we cannot ignore inspiration from our ancestors,” he says.
For this reason, Pleng Chan was designed by combining the traditional and contemporary to provide a pleasant experience for different people.
“Its cosy concept makes our customers feel comfortable and fresh, as though they are in a ‘dream house’ with green plants every corner,” says Samnang.
That is the reason why the cafe is named Pleng Chan, which means “music moon”. The intention behind the name is to encourage people to “chase their dreams”.
Samnang recalls the song Sne Duong Chan, or Love the Moon, which also influenced the cafe’s name. “It doesn’t refer to the pursuit of romantic love, but also following one’s dream,” he says.
Pleng Chan serves a variety of dishes from local cuisine to regional and Western snacks. Rice, noodle soup, salads, and desserts are small-sized Cambodian dishes. The cafe also has some international favourites.
The food menu is made up mostly of food that can be commonly found in traditional Cambodian dining, with the cafe’s emphasis being on creating a familiar atmosphere. This main goal of its menu is to provide a quick and light meal like those that are prepared at home.
Among the cafe’s bestseller dishes are bay srop ($2.85-$3.85), a typical Cambodian breakfast consisting of steamed rice, fried egg strips, braised egg, and pan-fried fried pork strips.
The other local favourites are braised beef with baguette or noodle ($4.45), beef stir-fried with Kampot pepper ($5.5) and fried noodle with beef ($3.85).
For Western food, Pleng Chan serves fish and chips with sesame seed ($3.8), club sandwiches ($4.45) and a variety of salads ($3.25-$4.15).
Vegetarians can opt for vegetable tempura ($2.95) or stir-fried vegetable with oyster sauce ($3.45).
What is hard to miss is the beverage that most customers prefer to sip as they are glued to their books. A great selection of coffee and tea are available at Pleng Chan with a side of pastries and small bites as well.
On the list are international standard coffees such as Americano to green tea frappes, sparkling, smoothies, and hot tea starting from $1.95 to $3.55.
Those with a sweet tooth can try some local desserts such as caramelised sweet banana and potato ($2.95), creme caramel ($2.5), deep-fried fruit egg rolls ($2.95), pumpkin custard ($2.5), and deep-fried pancake with coffee ($3.25).
Samnang says: “In the morning, coffee is on high demand while soda, smoothies and frappe are popular to accompany lunch and afternoon snacks.
“I can say that besides good food and drinks, the most attractive thing about our cafe is the green environment that helps relax our customers. Many have said that the atmosphere here makes them feel fresh whether they come for work or relax.”
Equipped with air-conditioner, projector, smart television and whiteboard, the cafe also offers two private gathering spaces and meeting venues with a hosting capacity for between 10 and 25 people.
“We occasionally host small social and educational workshop such as health education and career preparation. All workshops are free for the public to join,” he says.
More than just selling coffee, tea and other beverages, Pleng Chan has welcomed social club activities from reading, music, painting and photography.
“Some of our customers, especially students, come to play piano and guitar,” Samnang says, adding that the pleasant and soft music does not disturb the readers who are likely to come back for more books to read.
Pleng Chan has around 3,500 books in English, French, Russian and Khmer. Most of them are history, psychology, novels, and positive thinking books.
While staff ensure that the books are arranged neatly, a challenge for them is to take care of the indoor greenery.
Samnang says: “Natural plants play an important role in our interior decoration. They’re everywhere so we have to work hard to make sure they’re healthy. The dangling vines and other plants near the ceiling need enough sunlight, a right amount of fertiliser and watering.
“Some of the plants have to be replaced every three months. It costs us more to enjoy nature in the heart of the city, but we love green space and commit to making the plants look fresh every day.”
Those who work from home and miss the food and drinks from Pleng Chan can call for home delivery through popular local apps such as Nham24.
Pleng Chan is located at 232, Street 63, Boeung Keng Kang I, Khan Boeung Keng Kang, Phnom Penh. It’s open from 10am to 7pm. Contact number 093 702 525 for more details.