Over the last five months, Sabrina Wong and Paul Sitai have been building a stylish and eclectic new café, restaurant and bar with a key component as its foundation – integrity.
Just opened at the end of last month, Intégrité is visually stunning, with an mix of antique and modern furniture, French-colonial cement tiles on nearly every surface and a mix of muted and bold colours. The space is both homey – with a living room feel to it downstairs – and spacious.
There is a full bar with stools and a central dining room and hang out area with a smattering of tables. Looking down on the dining room is a beautiful glassed-in lounge area, perfect for private parties, with design flourishes like gold leaf paper on one wall, cushions that mirror a striking Indonesian painting hung in the dining room and one of Wong’s clothing designs on display in the corner. A nice addition hidden away from the living room is a spacious upstairs balcony.
The décor was conceived entirely by Wong, a fashion designer with hot pink hair who was born in Malaysia but left for Australia when she was 10 years old. She met her partner, Sitai, two years ago in Brunei, where he is from and where she was operating a fashion design business. Sitai was an airplane mechanic in Brunei for 25 years, but decided that he was ready for a change of pace and location, and that he had found the perfect partner with whom to make the move.
The couple first went to Bali, where Sitai fantasised about checking out and becoming a surf bum for a while. Eventually reality set in. But a visit to Cambodia for a friend’s birthday party last year jolted his desire to relocate again.
“I said to Sabrina, ‘I think Cambodia has a similar vibe to what Bali gave us’,” he said. “It’s not Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, where it’s ‘bam, bam, bam’. We love the lifestyle here.”
So the pair came back in February and, after a few days, found a real estate agent who led them to a Khmer-style home on Street 450 within sight of Russian Market. They signed a 10-year lease and, with the landlord’s permission, began gutting the building, demolishing much of it and adding extensions. Wong’s decorating process was both off-the-cuff and meticulous.
“Unity is not the same as uniformity,” she said. “It’s trickier to make things look in tune but all different at the same time.”
That theme, of eclectic unity, is apparent throughout, with nearly every piece of furniture different but not jarringly so.
Sitai, meanwhile, is in charge of the kitchen, along with a local chef named Sothea. The menu is still a work in progress, but highlights include the Brunei Style Halal Chicken Curry ($5.50) and a Shrimp & Squid Spaghetti in White Wine ($5.50). When asked about his culinary background, Sitai responded: “I fix airplanes. What I cook is what I’ve learned from my family.”
For Wong and Sitai, the name of the restaurant is a reminder of their ethos – “doing the right thing by your values”, says Wong, who even has the word “Integrity” tattooed on her wrist.
“We both love to entertain, he loves to cook and I love to cook,” Wong explained. “This place is who I am and also who Paul is.”
Intégrité is located at #67 Street 450. It is open every day from 9am-11pm. Tel: 078 288 877.