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MY PHNOM PENH: Joe Wrigley

Singer-songwriter Joe Wrigley, 35, is a regular on the Phnom Penh music scene
Singer-songwriter Joe Wrigley, 35, is a regular on the Phnom Penh music scene

MY PHNOM PENH: Joe Wrigley

Joe Wrigley: MusicianSinger-songwriter Joe Wrigley, 35, is a regular on the Phnom Penh music scene, gigging with four musical projects and hosting open mic nights at the Alley Cat Cafe and Paddy Rice. Before a gig at the Mansion, the busy Brit sat down with Brent Crane to share his favourite Phnom Penh hangouts

BBQ spots across the river 

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Over the river, there’s a little strip where there are some BBQ restaurants. It is a very nice spot to sit and eat squid, oysters and other fresh seafood and look at Phnom Penh from the other side of the river.

Even though it’s really developed over there, it still has a different feeling I find. I live south of Russian Market, quite far away, so it’s a long trip for me on my motorbike. It’s still worth it because you feel like you’re getting out of Phnom Penh.

FCC’s The Mansion 

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I play there quite a lot with my different groups. When you get a busy night there it’s a great venue, possibly the best venue in town in terms of the setting.

It can be a bit weird playing there to two people, but when they have a busy night, if the weather’s good, then it’s a fantastic place to play. I’ve had some memorable nights there.

There used to be a band called Grass Snake Union, loosely a bluegrass-country band, that was part of the old expat music scene: no bands, no venues, but once a month something cool would happen and everyone would go.

Sometimes I sang with them. Their very last gig was at the Mansion. It was packed. It was a bouncing night. Everyone came. 

Lone Pine Cafe

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My favourite place to go, particularly if I’m tired or hungover. It’s really good, very nicely settled. The guy there is called Will, from California.

He’s got a really good American menu. The ribs are great. The gumbo is amazing. The chili is amazing. He’s got about 20 different burgers on the menu. It’s just all really good food, not expensive.

They serve Beerlao in the big bottles, and some craft beer as well. I eat a lot of Cambodian food all day every day so going there for something like chicken sausage gumbo is just heaven. It’s fantastic.

I go there as often as I can, about once or twice a month.

Russian Market after-hours food stands

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Between about 6:30pm and 9pm, you have a little designated area where there’s a lot of food stalls. You can get a very good ban xiao, which is a minced pork pancake, really good and really cheap.

They have a very tasty ice cream vendor there with locally made ice cream with 10 different flavours at 75 cents a cup: coconut, dragonfruit, chocolate. You can feast for a few dollars.

The funny thing is, you have motos driving through the tables so you have moto fumes as you’re trying to eat your dinner.

I thought of that as a little metaphor of Phnom Penh, where you got something really great but it’s just messed up by bad traffic management.

Still, if you can deal with the motos, it’s a great place to eat great Khmer food. 

Sharky Bar

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I’ve played there a ton of times. When you’re new to Phnom Penh and researching online about the music scene, obviously Sharky’s comes up as the established expat place.

When I first played a gig there, that was a big deal for me personally. They’ve been going nearly 20 years. I keep lobbying Mike to upgrade the sound system at Sharky’s, but they do a lot with not a massive budget.

They’re kind of on their own. But Mike has a very big personality and he always manages to pull something off.

He’ll always get some interesting band in there. The place has got so much character and it’s so unpretentious and so real.

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