Things to do in Phnom Penh: Sunset Cruise

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! I feel so lucky to be spending it in such a vibrant, exciting and warm place surrounded by loved ones. We’ve been doing a lot of festive activities (drinking, eating, caroling), and although we’ve got a Christmas playlist on an almost constant loop, I can’t say I’m feeling particularly Christmassy, though we’re having a lot of fun. I spent today on another Cambodian cooking course (read about the first one I went on here), a great experience which I’ll be writing up shortly!

Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

One thing I really regretted not doing last time I was in Phnom Penh was going on a sunset cruise. It’s well worth doing – the heart of Phnom Penh lies close to where the Mekong river meets the Ton Le Sap, which changes the direction of its flow once a year. While floating down the river you can see the Royal Palace, and landmarks like the Vattanac Tower on one bank – and on the other, the new, including the new Sokha hotel in Phnom Penh.

Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

We brought our own prosecco and took in the view, as well as the bats flying alongside and above the boat. As we had prearranged dinner plans, we didn’t bring our own food, but our drinks stayed chilled in the ice box that was provided. The boat was lovely – wooden, attractive and more sophisticated than some of the gaudy monstrosities that often trap tourists wanting to go on a boat tour. We only hired the boat for an hour, but with seating provided it would be a great idea for a romantic evening – especially as almost all restaurants in Phnom Penh deliver, getting some take out and taking it on a sunset cruise would be something I’d love to do in the future.

royal palace, sunset cruise, phnom penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise view, Phnom Penh Sunset Cruise, Phnom Penh

We paid $30 for an hour with Crocodile Cruise – it’s definitely worth booking ahead, as we saw several tourists jump on the first cruise they saw. We were able to have the whole boat for our group, at a really reasonable rate. I’ve got another few posts lined up before I go to Kampot and Kep on Boxing Day, followed by New Year’s eve in Phuket and possibly some of the islands too.

Hope you are all having a lovely Christmas eve!

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

I arrived in Phnom Penh on Monday. It’s the second time I’ve been here in 2014 and I am so glad to be back! After a fairly uneventful journey (the only blip being Cathay Pacific serving regular bread with the on flight gluten-free meal, which was not ideal – never trust the bread!), I’ve been spending my first week unwinding by the pool, going for walks with the family and catching up on some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

One of my favourite things about Phnom Penh is the great boutique hotel and restaurant scene. Sure, you get some of the same chains here that you do everywhere else, but there are so many options for going out – great bars, independent restaurants, shops and galleries that I can’t wait to cover this trip! The cocktails here are also incredible – and for about an eighth of London prices too. It’s safe to say that so far, I’m having a pretty incredible Christmas.

One of the first places I went for lunch here was Friends the Restaurant, #215 Street 13 in Phnom Penh. It came highly recommended by my friends, not just due to the menu – a selection of Asian and Western-inspired tapas – but because of the restaurants’ work with the local community. Friends is a TREE restaurant, providing on-the-job training and skills for marginalized street youth, giving them valuable skills to help secure their futures. I love this idea, and there are several places throughout Cambodia that have initiatives like these, which are absolutely great as you can really see the programs at work. Last time I was here, I went to Dine in the Dark, another great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and a great social initiative.

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

We sat in the outside area, guided there by a member of staff in a ‘student’ t-shirt. The students and the teachers of the program can be told apart in this way – often the students would be waiting on tables with the watchful eye of the teachers nearby.

I loved the concept for this restaurant, and for this reason I hadn’t particularly set the bar high regarding the food. I was really pleasantly surprised after being presented with a simple but charming and imaginative tapas menu, with locally sourced ingredients and flavours.

pineapple and chilli margarita Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

I had a pineapple and chilli margarita with my meal, and really liked the combination (I’ll have chilli in anything given half a chance), but it’s certainly not for everyone. The drinks menu was extensive, with lots of variety, which is always a plus.

zucchini cheddar fritters Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh zucchini cheddar fritters Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

2-3 plates per person are recommended, between $4.50 – $8 per plate, with some dishes (like the 3B burger) slightly more, around $15. We went for the crispy zucchini and cheddar fritters, baby squid with Kampot pepper and rice wine, a grilled beef fillet with daikon and chive flowers served with a wasabi mirin vinaigrette and the sun-dried tomato hummus with crispy wonton wrappers.

hummus and wonton wrappers Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh beef with kampot pepper and daikon Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

The vegetarian options were my definite favourite – I loved the fritters, which were served with a chilli mayonnaise sauce, and the hummus, tomato and basil-topped wonton wrappers were lovely.

The squid and beef fillet were also tasty – I love daikon, but the whole Kampot peppercorns were a slight surprise and biting into them was not a particularly pleasant experience, despite the fact that I love the stuff.

Baby squid with kampot pepper, Friends the Restaurant, Phnom PenhFriends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

Besides the fritters, the dessert was my favourite part of the meal. I clearly hadn’t had enough pineapple or chilli with my margarita, as I went straight for the caramelised pineapple with chilli ice cream. The warm caramel and pineapple combined with the cold ice cream was a real treat for the senses. I loved the ice cream – it seemed to be warm and cool at the same time, really unusual and something I’d definitely try again.

caramelised pineapple, chilli icecream Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penhcaramelised pineapple and chilli icecream Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

At some points there seemed to be a lull in service, despite Friends the restaurant not being particularly packed, but that might be due to the fact that we missed the lunchtime rush. I really enjoyed my Friends dining experience – a nice, interesting meal for a worthy cause.

Friends the restaurant is located at : #215 Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
+855 12 802 072

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The Chai Party

Chai Party

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of going along to the home of Nisha, the blogger behind My Kitchen Antics for an Indian-inspired afternoon Chai party. Nisha’s beautiful blog features some incredible recipes so I was thrilled to be invited – especially when I was presented with the Chai Party menu!

ChaipartyMenu

Nisha, with the help of some other lovely bloggers created a menu to die for. We started the afternoon off with some kamsin kali cocktails. I’m a fan of chai tea, but I never would have thought to include it in a cocktail. The kamsin kali was lovely – the vanilla chai, combined with plum and bubbly is definitely something I’ll be recreating soon.

Chai Party

Other items on the menu were inspired by Indian spices and flavours, like the idhar udhar – a fusion focaccia, or the aam ras macarons, which were my personal favourite. The macarons were delicately flavoured with indian mango and were an absolute delight.

I was given a special plate with some gluten-free options – a plate of the chickpea and coconut salad, which were served in the ice cream cones for the others, as well as the london desi prawns, which I had top some gluten-free oatcakes. I also had some of the Hyderabad 65 – a dish of spicy, succulent chicken which was divine.

Chai Party Chai Party

The whole event really inspired me, and has made me want to go to India more than ever before. The flavours were so incredible, and I’d love to  experience more! It was also so much fun and really exciting to get to know and meet some incredible food bloggers.

The chai party also gave me the opportunity to dress up – I’d borrowed a sari, but needed the help of Gayathri to get it on properly! The afternoon was a great way to get to know some really lovely ladies, and talk about our shared passion for food, as well as play some games. I was really pleased with my prize of a beautiful teapot, as you can see below:

Chai Party Chai Party Chai Party Chai PartyDSC010012Chai Party chaiparty food Indian prawns

I’m off to Cambodia on the 15th, and I’ve been inspired by the chai party to do a bit more fusion recipe development and I really can’t wait to get started.

Chai Party

The event was an absolute success and I can’t thank Nisha and everyone enough for including me. I’ve met some really lovely and talented people!

DSC01028Check out the fabulous ladies and their wonderful food blogs below:

Kitchen Karma

My Kitchen Antics

Mummy & Me

The Veggie Indian

Ruchi

A Girl has to Eat

Sliceoffme

Food Porn Nation

Siri’s Food

DSC01024 DSC01023

The event was sponsored in part by Tea India, who provided the lovely teas. My personal favourite was the Masala Chai.

Chai Party

The event was a great way to experience and share new flavours, and talk about culture. Who knows, maybe 2015 is the year I host a Japanese-themed matcha tea party? Watch this space…

Burger & Lobster, Farringdon

Looking for the perfect place for a payday lunch? You really can’t beat Burger & Lobster in terms of value, and it feels really indulgent, too. I’d been to the Dean Street location previously, but I much prefer the Farringdon location – much less chaotic. At the chain’s Soho location you are more likely to face a crowd, and there’s something unsettling and off-putting about eating while the people around you are angling for your table – personally, it doesn’t make for a particularly pleasant dining experience.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

The menu is simple – you have the choice of lobster (grilled or steamed), lobster roll, or burger – all with a side salad and chips for £20. For those who can’t be forced to choose, if you have a willing companion you can split both – each get a burger, and half a lobster for around £30 which also comes with a dessert, as seen below.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

I went for the grilled whole lobster, which came with a buttery sauce, salad and fries. Deliciously succulent lobster, perfect fries and a lovely salad – it’s so simple, but it’s a recipe for success.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

Unfortunately, the dessert options for those on a gluten-free diet are non-existent – the choices are either cheesecake or chocolate brownie, so I ended up opting for another glass of prosecco.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable working or payday lunch, at excellent value. The atmosphere is pretty casual, so although the menu might seem impressive this is more a place to come with friends rather than a date. And leave your vegetarian friends at home – there’s nothing for them here!

Burger & Lobster: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

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Chez Elles, Brick Lane

Chez Elles is definitely worth a visit if you’re around Brick Lane or Spitalfields – a delicious, kitschy gem hidden among the sea of curry houses.

Chez Elles

We stopped in on our way to a concert at the All Saint’s Church in Spitalfields (the Camden Symphony Orchestra – they’re playing Handel’s Messiah next) for a quick bite. Chez Elles were able to accommodate the six of us at 6pm, but we were told the table was booked from half eight.

The decor in Chez Elles is eclectic and adorable – the birdcages, plates and framed vintage prints, along with the loveseat in the corner and French tunes are the stuff of instagram dreams. It has a really nice atmosphere, and with a lot of conversation pieces it’s the kind of place that would work well for a meal out with friends or a first date. I also thoroughly enjoyed the mismatching cutlery and plates – it added to the character of the place: life is far too short for matching sets.

Chez EllesChez Elles Menu

We went straight for the mains in order to make good time to make the show, though I was particularly tempted by the Foie Gras. The service was friendly and helpful, which is always a bonus, particularly for Brick Lane (in my experience) and when it comes to French cuisine (also from experience).

Chez Elles Steak Tartar

Always a fan of anything raw, I went for the tartare de boeuf et frites maison, or steak tartar. I also find it tends to be a ‘safe’ (gluten-free) choice, as flour tends to be rife in French cooking. It was seasoned beautifully, accompanied by a perfectly dressed salad and crisp frites. The best steak tartar I’ve had in London yet!

Chez Elles Steak Tartar

My fellow diners went for the special – lamb burger – and classic French staple moules marinieres. I only sampled the latter – and I found the sauce was creamy and rich, simple and delicious.

Chez Elles Lamb BurgerChez Elles

Chez Elles have really nailed it – a charming vibe, excellent food, great location – which is a refreshing change from the increasingly anonymous monotony of Brick Lane curry houses (though I’m open to recommendations). It was an absolute pleasure. The only vague criticism had by the table was one I hear almost every time – the usual grouching about eating off of slate trays instead of plates. Not a problem for me, although admittedly their collection of crockery is infinitely more charming.

Again, due to time we only stayed for a coffee – but like the Terminator, I’ll be back (for Creme Brulee).

Chez Elles: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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