As darkness falls on the capital, the sidewalk along Wat Botum Park comes to life. Food carts line the promenade, and the sounds of chatter fill the air.
At the centre of the activity is Hub, a cosy wooden stand opened three months ago that stands out among the other stalls for its modern design. Named after the Khmer word for a box, the bar consists of a hut, several wooden tables and chairs, and strung-up fairy lights. And despite the street-side digs, it serves up delicious cocktails.
“For me, I love something quiet and a place to talk,” says Sok Dara, the 29-year-old owner. “After we finish work, friends come, and we sit and talk. That’s why the lights – and everything – is warm.”
Until recently, Dara was working at La Familia, a high-end distributor of spirits and mixology supplies that also trains bartenders around town. That experience shows in the drinks which, despite being only $2, rival some of the best in town.
Dara wants locals to embrace drinking cocktails, rather than just beer, so he has arranged the menu around that concept, offering 15 drinks on the menu – including classics like the Mojito and Negroni, as well as others with a Khmer twist.
One that Dara particularly recommends is the Botum Passion, which is a blend of rum and fruit juice. Other options aimed at locals include the Orkun Bong, a gin-based drink with lime, mint, bitters and cucumber, and the Take Care OUN!, with vodka, pomegranate, lime and simple syrup.
Dara’s three staff members all live in the pagoda across the way, and until joining his staff had no work to support themselves.
“I try to help them out [by giving] them good experience – like how to make a good cocktail,” he said. “Now, I’m thinking of [expanding to] Takhmao.”
Beyond the drink menu, Dara has a partnership with a neighbouring food cart, owned by Menagol Yin. The Post tried the fried noodles ($1.50), chicken wings ($1.50), and the duck eggs ($0.50 each) – each of which was tasty and fresh.
While the food and drinks are a steal, what keeps customers returning seems, ultimately, to come down to its comfortable setting, light-hearted attitude and friendly vibes.
“I created a little bar so that people can sit around and drink and talk to the bar [staff],” he said.
Hub is located on Street 7 across from Wat Botum and is open from 5pm to late every day.