Finding out who your friends are

Finding out who your friends are

When you are working so hard to build your dream business, you can't

afford to ignore the contributions of your friends and family,

according to the owner of My Friends restaurant

The fluorescent lights will soon be replaced to give the setting a more relaxed feel.

Your host at My Friends, Sok Lik.

My Friends, a popular restaurant on Street 113, is owned and run by Sok Lik, an affable manager in his third year of studying tourism at university.

Having worked in restaurants, he wanted to be his own boss, and just over a year ago - with a little help from his friends - he opened his restaurant.

"I wanted something a bit different," Sok Lik says.

"I didn't want a sterile, four-metre-wide shophouse-style restaurant."

Eventually he found a colonial-era house that suited his plans.

"It's old, it's simple, it has feeling and character. It has quite a large, light, open-floor area - plenty of room to try different things, different styling cues."

As for the decor on the walls, Sok Lik didn't have to look very far - in fact some of it actually came to him.

"At the beginning, I had nothing on the walls, and they did look a bit bare," he says. "Then my girlfriend bought me a couple of wicker hats to get me started and bring me some luck, so up they went."

Then, on the day he opened, he received another talisman.

"On the first day, my first customer gave me back his receipt. He said that I should keep it for good luck."

So up that went too, as did some pieces of modern art he was offered.

People like to relax when they're eating out, so that was the main thing i was working towards – a relaxing, laid-back environment.

"I wasn't sure about them at first, but I think that they fill the wall space well without attracting too much attention. My favourite piece is the drawing of the naked lady," Sok Lik says.

"It was drawn by my cousin Borey, and he wanted me to hang it in my restaurant."

A simple but effective lighting design.

My Friends' first bill and Sok Lik's lucky hat.

The colourful My Friends restaurant is in an old-style, character house on Street 113.

Setting the style

Aiming primarily for the tourist and expat market, Sok Lik says he thought carefully about the style he wanted.

"I know that people like to relax when they're eating out," Sok Lik says. "So that was the main thing that I was working towards - a relaxing, laid-back environment."

The building isn't covered in ornate mouldings nor does it have wrought-iron balconies, but it's still unmistakably colonial.

"I wanted to make the most of the colonial style, give it a kind of European, Mediterranean feel," Lik says.

He says he sought inspiration from various sources - the TV, magazines and other restaurants.

"I didn't want to copy other places, just bring elements from other places together in my own way."

The whitewashed walls, wicker furniture and intelligent use of plants fits his vision of a terrace-like feel.

"I would like to do something more with the arches," he says.

"They're such a dominant feature, they add so much depth. Some people don't like them and think I should take them down, but no way, they're wonderful."

Last year Sok Lik expanded his menu to incorporate more traditional Khmer dishes.

"I wanted to appeal to more people, more tastes, and the response has been good," he  says.

"But having good food is one thing, the place where you eat it being another, so I'm happy with my original ideas about design."

Ready to adapt

My Friends has had a good first year with Sok Lik at the helm, adapting both his food and his design ideas to the different tastes of different people.

"From day one I was determined to succeed," Sok Lik says.

"I set up on a tight budget but there are still a few things that I would like to do to improve the overall feel."

After changing his menu, Sok Lik realised that he needed more space.

The country feel is accentuated with Cambodia-inspired uplights.

Food for all tastes.

"I got rid of the bar," he says.

"It wasn't really used much and it got in the way."

More aesthetic changes are in the pipeline; firstly, some more art on the walls, perhaps after a lick of paint.

"I want some more Cambodia-inspired art on the walls," Sok Lik says.

The lighting is also going to receive a tweak.

"We've got uplights with regular bulbs, but they're not quite enough and the fluorescent tubes overpower them, it makes the place look too stark."

Sok Lik has another big change in mind. "I would like to expand," he says, "upwards!"

His long-term goal is to put on an extra couple of floors and open a guest house.

So for Sok Lik, and his restaurant, and his dreams, maybe only the sky's the limit.  As he says, "Who knows?"   


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