Ace (Adrian (L)) and Vix (Victoria (R)) Watkins are ready, willing and able to manage the venue in the temporary absence of owners. Photograph: Miranda Glasser
A young British-Canadian couple on their honeymoon will temporarily manage the Under Construction venue on Wat Bo Road.
Newlyweds Adrian and Victoria Watkins arrived in Siem Reap in December and two months later they find themselves running the popular bar and restaurant.
Having lived and worked in London for over ten years – Adrian in digital media and Victoria in fashion – the pair decided last June on a whim to give it all up and go on an extended honeymoon.
Adrian says, “We were already engaged to be married. We sat there one afternoon and Victoria said to me, ‘will you run away with me’?”
The pair married on August 11, and set off on an extended honeymoon on September 4, arriving in Temple Town in early December.
They met Under Construction owners Jacob Thrane and Carsten Andersen on their very first night in town, at Carsten’s birthday party.
Victoria was horrified to discover their new-found favourite watering-hole was about to be closed for six months while Thrane and Andersen went home to Denmark on business.
“We ended up talking to them about running the bar,” says Victoria.
Now with a valid reason to stay in Siem Reap, Adrian and Victoria set about making plans for changes at Under Construction, including a new, improved menu and some subtle amendments to the décor.
“We love the concept – Thrane and Carsten are obviously very talented designers,” says Adrian. “It’s very cool, very different. We love the fact that their whole ethos was that it should be community – tourists, expats and locals all coming together.”
Adrian and Victoria will launch a new, smaller menu featuring more western comfort food, and they have has been busy holding tasting sessions with regulars to see what works and what doesn’t. They also plan to expand the wine-list with a selection from Celliers d’Asie, and add a cheese-board with L’Oasi fromages to the dessert-menu.
“What we want to do is condense the menu slightly so that it’s ten Thai dishes, ten Khmer and something like eight Western dishes,” says Victoria.
A dab hand in the kitchen, Victoria is drawing on her mother’s recipes to bring in dishes such as cottage-pie and poutine, a traditional Canadian fare consisting of chips, gravy and cheese.
The self-confessed foodies clearly know their grub, and are keen to make the menu as high-quality as possible, while introducing dishes ‘from home’ that some expats might have a hankering for.
“We would rather have less on the menu and do it exceptionally,” says Adrian, For those with a sweet-tooth, Adrian and Victoria are creating an ice-cream martini.
“Alcohol with a spoon,” Victoria beams. “There will be three flavours: amaretto, kahlua or baileys. You’ve got chocolate sauce lining the glass and then you have a scoop of ice-cream and then you have the alcohol on top and then it’s topped with chocolate sprinkles. Dig in!”
There are also small changes to the décor. “The ambience is there, it looks a bit more romantic,” says Adrian. “People have walked in because they’ve noticed.”
Other plans include ‘Soccer Sunday’ football screenings on the projector in the garden, a small gallery at the back of the bar selling art and jewellery, and Victoria’s pet project: “I’d like to do themed, retro film nights. For example, a Marilyn Monroe night – Some Like it Hot followed by The Seven Year Itch and a themed cocktail that goes with the night that’s on special. I think that would be quite fun,” she says.
Under Construction will launch its new menu on February 12 with a cheese and wine launch night, with live saxophonist music.