A Chilled hand-towel is offered to you as soon as you walk through the front door of Hôtel de la Paix in Siem Reap, enveloping you in a lemongrass scent that is both soothing and energising.
A minimalist theme with surprising splashes of colour here and there keep the space from being too conventionally Zen, and dark wood is used to accent the sleek lines of the interior design.
Meric is an indoor/outdoor restaurant that looks out onto a sunny atrium, anchored by a tree with a gnarly trunk.
Also in the atrium is a square water feature with tiles and two fragrant frangipani trees.
The outdoor dining area includes comfortable swing sets, where patrons can be seen swaying and chatting or reading a book while sipping on a cool drink. Chillout music plays softly in the background while ceiling fans keep the hallways cool and breezy.
Meric is predominately decked out in white, with creamy caramel and chocolate brown accents featuring in the furniture and upholstery.
The tables are set far enough apart to ensure privacy, but not so far as to eradicate the room’s intimacy. Two white table-runners criss-cross on the outdoor tables, which serve as place settings for diners.
The waiters and waitresses, who are polite and articulate, bring sparkling water with a slice of lime or lemon upon request to the table, which is soon followed by a platter of bread. The contents of the platter are flavourful and starchy, but light enough to nibble on without filling up before the main event.
Perhaps the Early Delight smoothie ($3.50) and the penne with eggplant Parmesan made with fresh mozzarella and basil ($8) shouldn’t have been had together, as both are rather rich. Nevertheless, both are enjoyable.
The Early Delight is a peach-coloured concoction of mango, papaya, carrot, apple and yogurt. Its consistency is smooth, silky and not too thick. It isn’t too sweet either, and is the perfect mid-afternoon bevvy after a day of ambling through Siem Reap’s many temples.
When the penne arrives, it’s a surprise to see the eggplant lightly battered and fried, with dollops of melted mozzarella on top.
The golden colour of the fried eggplant gives the dish an aesthetic cohesion that would have been missing had the natural deep purple of the vegetable been left untouched.
Also, the soft eggplant enveloped by the crunchy exterior is a tactile surprise for the palate, its only downside being that the fried crust became soggy toward the end.
The sauce coating the penne is delicious; full of the flavours of fresh tomatoes without being too sour.
Instead, it is slightly sweet and zesty, and complements the eggplant well. However, it must be said that the penne is a touch overcooked, making it split open and fall off the fork.
The prices at Meric are not for everyone and are certainly out of reach for most student backpackers, of which there are plenty roaming about in Siem Reap.
However, if you’re out for a splurge, the atmosphere alone makes the restaurant well worth a visit.
The wide variety of dishes and beverages, both western and Khmer, is also an appealing drawcard.
Should this writer ever end up in Siem Reap again, I’d most certainly return to Meric. I might even order the penne again – though I’d ask for it al dente.